Charles Robert Coster (c. 1837 – December 23, 1888)[1] was an American soldier and public official, who is best known for commanding a brigade at the Battle of Gettysburg.

Early life

Coster was born in New York City.[1] He was the son of John H. Coster and Sarah Adeline (née Boardman) Coster,[2] He was also a first cousin of New York clubman, Harry Coster.[3] His father, better known as a playboy before a businessman, was one of twelve children that married into many prominent families.[4]

His grandfather, John Gerard Coster,[5] came from Haarlem in the Netherlands to the United States shortly after the Revolutionary War and founded the family fortune through the mercantile firm, "Henry A. & John G. Coster".[6]

Military career

On April 17, 1861, just five days after the firing on Fort Sumter, he enlisted as a private in the 7th New York Militia, one of the first regiments to come to the defense of Washington, D.C. at the outbreak of the Civil War.[7] He later enlisted in 1861 at age 24 as a first lieutenant in 12th U.S. Infantry.[8] He served in Brig. Gen. George Sykes's division of V Corps in the Seven Days Battles, being commended by his superiors for his conduct at the Battle of Gaines' Mill on June 27, 1862.

On October 8, 1862, Coster was named colonel of the recently organized 134th New York Volunteer Infantry.[9] By December 31, 1862, the regiment belonged to Col. Orland Smith's 2nd Brigade of Maj. Gen. Adolph von Steinwehr's 2nd Division, XI Corps, Army of the Potomac. Coster's regiment participated in the Battle of Chancellorsville under Brig. Gen. Francis C. Barlow, who had been appointed brigade commander in place of Smith. During May 1863, Coster's regiment joined the 1st Brigade, 2nd Division, under Col. Adolphus Buschbeck. When Buschbeck went on leave on June 10, Coster became brigade commander. In that role he patrolled near Boonsboro, Maryland before marching to Gettysburg, Pennsylvania.[10]


Maj. Gen. Oliver Otis Howard kept von Steinwehr's division in reserve on the first day of the Battle of Gettysburg, July 1, 1863, positioning it on Cemetery Hill.[11] When the Union right flank north of town began to collapse, Howard permitted von Steinwehr to send Coster's brigade to cover its retreat. These Union troops took a position just north of the town, where they were deployed in a brickyard. The brigade was attacked by superior forces from the Confederate division of Maj. Gen. Jubal Early. Coster's brigade lost most of its 597 casualties in that action. The remainder of the brigade spent the next two days supporting batteries on Cemetery Hill. Howard commended Coster and other senior commanders by name for their courage and devotion to duty in his report on Gettysburg.[12]

After Gettysburg

Later in 1863, Coster resigned his regimental command. On May 18, 1864, he was appointed a provost marshal for the State of New York to serve the Board of Enrollment. Coster resigned that position on April 30, 1865. Thereafter he lived in New York City. On February 28, 1882, he became a federal Pension Agent for the city, resigning effective December 1, 1885. He was also a member of the Grand Army of the Republic.[13]

Personal life

In 1864,[14] Coster was married to Marie Bay James (1841–1904),[15] Marie was the daughter of Augustus J. James of Albany, and the niece of theologian Henry James Sr.,[16] which made Marie a first cousin of author Henry James, psychologist William James, and diarist Alice James.[17] Together, Marie and Charles were the parents of four children, including:

Coster died in New York City on December 23, 1888.[19] He was buried on December 26, 1888.[20]


Coster Avenue, part of the Gettysburg Battlefield but within the town itself, has a brigade marker and three regimental monuments. A mural painting on the wall of a neighboring building commemorates the Confederate attack and Coster's defense.[21]


  1. ^ a b Historical Data Systems Civil War Database
  2. ^ Goldthwaite, Charlotte (1895). Boardman Genealogy, 1525–1895 : the English home and ancestry of Samuel Boreman, Wethersfield, Conn., Thomas Boreman, Ipswich, Mass. [S.l.] : W.F.J. Boardman. p. 332. Retrieved January 13, 2019.
  3. ^ Schroeder, John Frederick (1849). Memoir of the life and character of Mrs. Mary Anna Boardman: with a historical account of her forefathers, and biographical and genealogical notices of many of her kindred and relatives. Printed for private distribution. p. 431. Retrieved January 13, 2019.
  4. ^ Miller, Tom (November 21, 2016). "The Lost Coster Mansion – Nos. 539–541 Broadway". Daytonian in Manhattan. Retrieved January 13, 2019.
  5. ^ Townsend, Annette (1932). The Auchmuty family of Scotland and America. New York: The Grafton Press. pp. 257–260. Retrieved January 6, 2019.
  6. ^ Greene, Richard Henry; Stiles, Henry Reed; Dwight, Melatiah Everett; Morrison, George Austin; Mott, Hopper Striker; Totten, John Reynolds; Pitman, Harold Minot; Forest, Louis Effingham De; Ditmas, Charles Andrew; Mann, Conklin; Maynard, Arthur S. (1919). The New York Genealogical and Biographical Record. New York Genealogical and Biographical Society. p. 305. Retrieved January 6, 2019.
  7. ^ Conklin, George W. (1999). Under the Crescent and Star: The 134th New York Volunteer Infantry in the Civil War, p. 31. Axworthy Publishing. ISBN 0-9674985-0-3.
  8. ^ Conklin, George W., "Under the Crescent and Star: The 134th New York Volunteer Infantry in the Civil War", Port Reading, New Jersey: Axworthy Publishing, 1999, ISBN 0-9674985-0-3.
  9. ^ "134th NY Infantry Regiment during the Civil War". NY Military Museum and Veterans Research Center. Retrieved October 25, 2008.
  10. ^ U.S. War Department, The War of the Rebellion: a Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies, U.S. Government Printing Office, 1880–1901.
  11. ^ Pfanz, Harry W., Gettysburg—the First Day, Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2001, ISBN 0-8078-2624-3.
  12. ^ O.R., series I, vol. 27, pt. 1, p. 706.
  13. ^ Dyer, Frederick H., A Compendium of the War of Rebellion: Compiled and Arranged From Official Records of the Federal and Confederate Armies, Reports of the Adjutant Generals of the Several States, The Army Registers and Other Reliable Documents and Sources, Des Moines, Iowa: Dyer Publishing, 1908 (reprinted by Morningside Books, 1978), ISBN 978-0-89029-046-0.
  14. ^ "NYC Marriage & Death Notices 1857–1868". New York Society Library. Retrieved January 13, 2019.
  15. ^ "MRS. COSTER'S ODD DEATH. Body Found in Foot of Water in Larchmont Reservoir" (PDF). The New York Times. October 1, 1904. Retrieved January 13, 2019.
  16. ^ James, William; James, Henry (1997). William and Henry James: Selected Letters. University of Virginia Press. p. 542. ISBN 9780813916941. Retrieved January 13, 2019.
  17. ^ James, Henry (2016). Henry James: Autobiographies (LOA #274) Brother / The Middle Years / Other Writings: A Small Boy and Others / Notes of a Son and Brother / The Middle Years / Other Writings. Library of America. p. 1311. ISBN 9781598534726. Retrieved January 13, 2019.
  18. ^ "WHAT IS DOING IN SOCIETY" (PDF). The New York Times. August 31, 1900. Retrieved January 13, 2019.
  19. ^ "OBITUARY | CHARLES ROBERT COSTER" (PDF). The New York Times. December 25, 1888. Retrieved January 13, 2019.
  20. ^ "Funeral of Col. Charles R. Coster". New York Times. December 27, 1888. p. 8. Retrieved October 25, 2008.
  21. ^ "Coster Avenue Mural". Photo Album. Gettysburg, PA: 2003. Archived from the original on October 3, 2008. Retrieved October 25, 2008.