William Coffee -  My   5th-G-Grandfather – David Arthur

William Coffee (1740-1799), son of Peter Coffee, Sr., served in the War of the Revolution. His enlistment in the Continental Army was from February 6, 1777 until he was mustered out in Bedford Co. Virginia in 1780 (National Archives Records, Doc. C19).  

Also, it has been reported by earlier historical researchers that William Coffee joined Capt. David Campbell's militia company from Rockingham - Augusta County. The militia unit records are notoriously incomplete. In December 1780, Capt. David Campbell raised a company of militia from Augusta - Rockingham County Virginia and along with another company of Virginia Militia, Capt. Campbell's militia company was reassigned and took up a line of march towards Cowpens with Brig. Gen. Daniel Morgan's Congressional Forces.

 The American forces then proceeded to meet British Col. Banastre Tarleton at the Battle of Cowpens in South Carolina. The Virginia militia companies were assigned as skirmishers with instructions to withdraw to the rear after firing three volleys at the approach of Tarleton’s cavalry. When the British cavalry and infantry were drawn into the salient, the Virginia State troops and the militia troops halted and returned fire and the Continental troops commenced firing from the sides, and Col. Tarleton barely escaped capture. After the Battle of Cowpens, the two Virginia militia companies from Rockingham - Augusta County were assigned to guard loyalist prisoners on the road back to Virginia. The two companies were discharged at Salisbury in Botetourt County Virginia.

William Coffee first enlisted in the Continental Army - Lt. Col. James Hendricks' 6th Virginia Regiment of Foot at Amherst County Virginia. William Coffee enlisted on Feb. 6, 1777 and was assigned to Capt. Samuel Jordan Cabell's 7th Rifle Company and was given the rank of sergeant. Capt. Samuel Jordan Cabell's 7th Rifle Company was combined with Capt. William Patterson's 3rd Rifle Company in Buckingham County Virginia in April. The 7th and 3rd Rifle Company and the 6th Virginia Regiment of Foot marched to Saratoga, New York, and in September 1777 was combined with Col. Daniel Morgan's Battalion of Foot at Bemis Heights, known as the second Battle of Saratoga on October 10.

In the first battle of Saratoga, generally referred to as the Battle of Freeman's Farm, the British lost two men for every one American casualty. At the second battle of Saratoga, otherwise known as Bemis Heights, British losses were four to one, thanks to the Virginia riflemen in Dan Morgan's battalion. At the second battle of Saratoga, the rebel's victory was overwhelming. After protracted negotiations, British General Burgoyne officially surrendered on October 17, 1777 and returned to England in disgrace and was never given another command. Britain's loss at Saratoga proved disastrous, in that it signaled to the European powers that the rebels were capable of defeating the English on their own. More than any other single event, the Battle of Saratoga would prove decisive in determining the eventual outcome of the war.

William Coffee was a Virginia skirmisher or sharpshooter in Capt. Samuel Jordan Cabell's 7th Company, 6th Virginia Regiment of Foot, Col. Daniel Morgan, commanding.  Probably, William took his limit at the second engagement of Saratoga at Bemis Heights.  Skirmishers were the forward line of troops that withdrew as the enemy advanced, shooting from cover and using trees to steady their personal, rifled Pennsylvania muskets. The rifled muskets were extremely accurate up to at least 300 yards, compared to the smooth bore Brown Bess muskets the British used, the skirmishers had a far superior rifle.

 The Virginia sharpshooters used a light weight silk patch (wadding) to gain an additional 40 yards and accuracy with their rifled muskets. There were no lugs for attachment of bayonets on the Pennsylvania rifled muskets and that also enhanced their accuracy.

Text Box:  Sergeant, 6th Virginia Regiment
Continental Line




Depiction of Uniform   

   Not a depiction of

     William Coffee














One of the first regiments raised by Virginia in February and March, 1777, within a month an order had been given for the men to appear as uniform as possible in the matter of clothing. It was recommended that the 6th were to provide themselves with hunting shirts, short and fringed for officers; short and plain for men.  Sergeants were to have the cuffs of their garments fashioned with white.  Hats were to be a small round hat with a narrow brim turned up on the left side.  The hunting shirt is believed to have been made from gray cloth trimmed with a red collar; gaiter trousers in a variety of colors, or made from buckskin were worn.





National Archives Records





















DOWNLOAD this page in msword.doc