Albert Coats is one of those folks who remains largely a mystery other than his wartime service. Born in Ohio, he enlisted in the 1st U.S. Cavalry on December 8, 1856. He served in Company C as a private, corporal and sergeant.
Although appointed as a second lieutenant in the 6th U.S. Cavalry on October 26, 1861, Coats wasn’t notified until November 7th. He joined his new regiment at camp East of the Capitol, Washington on November 20th, and was assigned to Company E. His commander was Captain David McM. Gregg, and his first lieutenant was Benjamin T. Hutchins. Lieutenant Coats served with his company through the winter and the movement to the Peninsula. He was with his company at Ship Point, Virginia in March 1862 when promotions suddenly greatly affected the leadership of the regiment.
Lieutenant Colonel William H. Emory, the de facto regimental commander since the unit’s creation, was promoted to brigadier general of volunteers on March 27th. Assigned command of a new formation, First Brigade, Cavalry Reserve, Emory needed to form a staff. He began his appointments the following day. Among the first of them was to make Lieutenant Joseph Audenried, the regimental adjutant, his assistant adjutant general. Major Williams assumed command of the regiment, and Second Lieutenant Coats was selected to replace Audenried for more information on Joseph Audenried, check the entry at Behind Antietam on the Web here).
After two months as the adjutant, Coats had a brief reprieve in June 1862. He returned to command Company E for a month while Lieutenant Hutchins was absent sick. Captain Gregg had moved on to command of the 8th Pennsylvania cavalry in the interim. He was reassigned as the regimental adjutant on July 21, 1862, a position he held until the following summer. As the adjutant, Coats was the recruitment officer sent to Knoxville, Maryland in October and November 1862 to recruit additional troops from volunteer units. Judging from the numbers, he was apparently very successful. He was promoted to first lieutenant in the 6th Cavalry on December 23, 1862.
On May 17, 1863, First Lieutenant Coats was transferred to Company D. He served on detached service with his company and Company K at Cavalry Corps headquarters during the majority of the Gettysburg campaign. After a brief stint commanding the regiment after the disasters at Fairfield and Funkstown, First Lieutenant Coats commanded Company D for most of the remainder of the war.
Coats was appointed lieutenant colonel of the 6th U.S. Colored Cavalry on January 15, 1865. The regiment’s colonel, James F. Wade, was a fellow 6th U.S. Cavalry lieutenant. Coats finished the war this, his third unit of the war.
Lieutenant Coats was brevetted captain, major and lieutenant colonel on March 13, 1865 for gallant and meritorious service during the war. He resigned from volunteer service on January 15, 1866, and from regular service ten days later. At that point he fades off into obscurity, and I’ve been unable to find any additional information.
Carter, W. W., From Yorktown to Santiago with the 6th U.S. Cavalry (Baltimore, the Lord Baltimore Press, 1900).
Heitman, Francis B. Historical Register and Dictionary of the United States Army (Washington: Government Printing Office, 1903), page 292.
Henry, Guy V. Military Record of Army and Civilian Appointments in the United States Army, Volume II (New York: D. Van Nostrand Publishing, 1873), pg 254.
Muster Rolls, 6th U.S. Cavalry, NARA, M744