John Coakley (1805-1874)

When he died he was one of the oldest merchants in Fredericksburg selling books as early as 1830, queensware, leather and dry goods.

He was a member of the Vestry in 1839 to 1865 (resigning that year) and then  1869-1874 until his death. He was senior warden in 1865

He was involved in many community activities. He was also VP of the Fredericksburg Bible Society. He was also involved in the Mary Washington Monument Committee and served as a bank director in 1855 as well as member of an insurance company in the same year and superintendent of the Fredericksburg Aqueduct Company at the time of the Civil War. 

During the Civil War in 1852 he was one of 19 arrested by the Federals in August and confined in Old Capital Prison until September. Included in that list was Thomas Knox, Thomas Barton, John F. Scott of St. George’s. They were arrested in retaliation for the Confederate imprisonment of seven federals for disloyalty and were confined in prison in Richmond.  6 of the 19 were members of St. George’s which had the most members of any Church from those arrested:  1. Thomas Knox   2.  John Coakley  3. Dr. James Cooke  4.  John F. Scott  5. Montgomery Slaughter  6. Thomas B. Barton. Two others John Berrey and George H. C. Rowe kept diaries which are valuable.  They were sent to Old Capitol Prison in Washington by boat.  This prison was neither an Andersonville nor a minimum security facility. Sanitary conditions were no worse than other prisons of the time but the prisoners were bothered by lice and bed-bugs and bad smelling food. Generally the relations were courteous and some of the rules bent such as being able for the 19 to meet together . The diaries note lots of wine drunk and many practical jokes played on each other that allowed them to keep their spirits high.  As Rowe notes, he saw John Coakley once “wore a handkerchief pinned around his waist, in short sleeves and slippers, the very picture of a quarrelsome old maid” They even met up with famed spy Belle Boyd. 

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