Honor Role - American Civil War: 1861-1865

Click on one of the items below for a summary of the war or a short biography about one of our Coulthart ancestors/descendants who served during this conflict.

Summary of the American Civil War

The Civil War is sometimes called the War Between the States or the War of the Rebellion or the War for Southern Independence. The chief and immediate cause of the war was slavery and the election of Abraham Lincoln in 1860. Lincoln was a leading advocate for the abolition of slavery which threatened the economy of the southern states. By the time he took office on March 4, 1861, seven southern states had already seceded from the union. The war began on April 12, 1861 when the south opened fire on Fort Sumter in Charleston Harbor, South Carolina and lasted until May 26, 1865 when the last Confederate army surrendered. The war took more than 600,000 lives including President Lincoln's, destroyed property valued at $5 billion and brought freedom to 4 million black slaves. The statistics below show the impact of the war in combatant lives.




% Killed













Of the 618,222 deaths during the war, 67 percent were from disease. What follows are the stories of several ancestors who served in this conflict.

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Robert L. Coltart
B Company, 12th Infantry Regiment - Pennsylvania

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Robert L. Coltart
I Company, 4th Cavalry Regiment, - Pennsylvania

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David W. Coulthard
2nd LA Regiment - Minnesota

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Henry G. Coulthard
C Company, 1st Cavalry Regiment - Michigan

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William French Coulthart (1833-1916)
Private, Union Army
11th Minnesota Infantry, Company C

William was born in 1833 near North Lunenburg, Ontario. He was the son of William Coulthart (1800-1880) and Jean French, immigrants from Cummertrees and Lockerbie, Scotland. His family eventually moved north to a farm near Cannamore, Ontario where William spent several of his teenage years. He married Anna Maria Fetterley in 1852. The young couple settled on a farm on Concession 10, Lot 24 near Morewood, Ontario where their first five children were born: Jane (1853-1929), David (1855-1917), Phoebe (1857-1910), Samuel (1859-after 1929) and Henrietta (1862-1919). In 1864 the family moved to a farm in section 21 in JoDaviees Township near Blue Earth City, Minnesota where they homesteaded on 160 acres.

On August 20th, 1864 at age 31, William enlisted for one year in Company C of the Eleventh Minnesota Infantry Volunteers. Three days earlier the township had passed a resolution to offer a $500 bounty to any man enlisting. Money must have been one reason why William and his brother-in-law volunteered. On his enlistment papers, William is described as 5 feet 9 inches tall, with brown hair, blue eyes and a light complexion. The 11th Regiment was organized in August and September 1864 and the men were sent to Ft. Snelling near Minneapolis where they were trained. On September 20th the Regiment, now over 1,000 strong, marched to St. Paul and boarded steamboats for the trip south to La Crosse, Wisconsin. From there they were loaded into boxcars for the journey to Chicago where they were detained for a week while it was feared they would be diverted to fight in the Northwest Indian Expedition in the Dakotas.

Orders were finally received to proceed to their final destination, Gallatin, Tennessee where they were assigned to guard the Louisville and Nashville railroad in the north central part of the state, near Nashville, from Edgefield Junction to the Kentucky border. By October 12th the companies were all in position and things settled down into a regular routine of guard, picket and patrol. Company C was assigned to Richland. For a month or more prior to the Battle of Nashville, the section of the railroad guarded by the 11th Regiment was worked to its full capacity as troop and supply trains passed continuously on their way to Nashville. On December 15-16, 1864, the sound of the cannons could be heard in the distance as far north as Gallatin. After the Battle of Nashville, the men of the 11th were treated to their first sight of regular rebel troops, as train load after train load of prisoners were sent North for safekeeping. During the winter of 1864/65 William contracted dysentery and was assigned light duty as the company cook!

The 11th was relieved in late June 1865 and on the 26th they started their journey home. At Chicago, the entire regiment rolled themselves up in their blankets and slept in the side path on Michigan Avenue to the great admiration of hundreds of people who came to have a look at the war-worn veterans. They reached St. Paul on July 5th and were mustered out of service on the 11th. William returned to his farm in Minnesota. Within seven years he was forced to move and sell the property as he was unable to tend to it due to injuries received during the war. The family moved to Waseca, Minnesota where William became a drayman and street commissioner. William and Anna had five additional children while living in Minnesota: William (1867-1891) John (1869-after 1938), Sidney (1871-1872), Thomas (1879-1881) and a baby that died in infancy. William passed away in 1916 at age 83.

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William Nathaniel Hunter (1846-1915)
Private, Union Army
7th Minnesota Infantry, Company A

William was born on December 10, 1846 near Morewood, Ontario, Canada. He was the son of William Hunter and Jane Coulthart (1812-1892). In 1863 when William was seventeen, his family left Ontario and moved to a farm in Sciota Township, Dakota County near Northfield, Minnesota. He enlisted for three years on March 25, 1864 in St. Paul Minnesota and joined Company A of the 7th Minnesota Infantry. On his enlistment papers he was described as 5 feet 7 inches tall with brown hair, blue eyes and a fair complexion. At the time of his enlistment he indicated he was 21 years old and from the town of Florence in Goodhue County where several of his Hunter cousins evidently lived. Often individuals would enlist in places other than their hometowns, especially if a bounty was being offered.

The 7th Regiment was first organized in 1862 during the Dakota Indian uprising that took place that year. The regiment had spent its first two years involved in various actions against the Indians in Minnesota and the Dakotas. In October 1863 they moved to St. Louis and remained there until April 1864 at which time William apparently joined them as replacement. Shortly after his arrival, the 7th moved to Paducah, Kentucky were they remained for a few months. For the next thirteen months they were engaged in expeditions against or in action with the enemy in Tennessee, Mississippi, Arkansas, Missouri, Louisiana and Alabama. They fought in the Battle of Nashville on December 15-16, 1864 and the campaign against Mobile, Alabama from March 17-April 12, 1865. William was muster out on August 16, 1865 and returned to Minnesota.

He married his cousin Jane "Jennie" Harkness on December 10, 1873 in Wisconsin Rapids, Wisconsin where her family was living at the time. The newlyweds settled on a farm in Sciota Township, Minnesota near William's parents. William and Jennie had six children: Barbara (1875), Margaret (1878), William (1880), Jessie (1882), Walter (1884) and James (1886). William remained on the family farm until his death on August 31, 1915 at age 68. He was buried at Oaklawn Cemetery in Northfield, Minnesota.

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  • The American Heritage New History of the Civil War by Bruce Catton
  • Genealogical information on William Nathanial Hunter from the Hunter family genealogy
  • Genealogical information on William Coulthart from "Our Coulthart Ancestors" by Terry Meinke
  • History of the 7th Minnesota Infantry Volunteers at
  • Microsoft Encarta Encylopedia
  • Minnesota in the Civil and Indian Wars, 1861-1865. Narrative of the Eleventh Regiment, pages 488-496.
  • National Archives - Washington, DC. Military and Pension records for William Coulthart and William Nathanial Hunter.
  • - Civil War database for information on other Coulthart's who served in the Civil War.
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Page last updated 07/26/2000. © Copyright 1999. Terry Meinke. All rights reserved.

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