Quartermaster Sergeant J. Osborn Coburn of the 6th Michigan Cavalry was taken prisoner in October 1863 in Charles Town. The feelings of fatigue, hunger, and worry he wrote of in his diary that October only foreshadowed the suffering that would break his body but not his will on Belle Isle. Despair set in for many, but Coburn seemed to maintain hope until the end of his life. How did he do this? He was cheered by thoughts of home and comforted by “trust in a kind Providence.” He remained committed to his noble cause and to his country, writing that “patriotism and resolution” would lift his spirits and that “I shall not die here.”
He remained hopeful that he would soon be exchanged, yet by Thanksgiving acknowledged that “suffering is trying to the soul” and would lament in two separate entries “My God is there no help.” Weakness from hunger and disease in the New Year led him to question his beliefs in Providence and the Union. Still, he did not completely abandon hope or faith. He was transferred from Belle Isle to a Confederate Hospital in early February and died there on March 8, 1864.
Although his body succumbed to disease, he wrote on February 21st that his “faith and courage are good.” Faith, family, courage, and hope.
Quartermaster Sergeant J. Osborn Coburn is buried in the Richmond National Cemetery.