Civil War Wiki
Richard Coulter, Sr.
Personal Information
Born: October 1, 1827(1827-10-01)
Place of Birth: {{{place of birth}}}
Died: October 14, 1908 (aged 81)
Place of Death: {{{place of death}}}
Nickname: {{{nickname}}}
Birth Name: {{{birth name}}}
Other Information
Allegiance: United States of America
Participation(s): {{{participations}}}
Branch: Union Army
Service Years: {{{service years}}}
Rank: Brevet Major General
Service number : {{{servicenumber}}}
Battles: American Civil War
Relations: {{{relations}}}
Other work: {{{otherwork}}}

Richard Coulter, Sr. (October 1, 1827 – October 14, 1908) was an American Civil War general in the Union Army, a businessman, and banker.

Early life and career[]

Richard Coulter, Sr. was born in Greensburg, Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania, a son of Eli Coulter Jr. (1791–1830) and Rebecca Alexander. Eli Coulter was a prominent business man and managed a steam mill in Greensburg. Richard attended Jefferson College in Washington, Pennsylvania. After leaving college in 1845 at the age of 19, he worked in the law office of his uncle, Richard Coulter (1788–1852) in Greensburg where he remained until the beginning of the Mexican-American War.

Coulter enrolled in the Westmoreland Guards, a local militia company that was mustered into the United States Army as Company E of the Second Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry Regiment. It was one of only two regiments sent from Pennsylvania to serve in Mexico.[1] Coulter saw action under General Winfield Scott in the Siege of Vera Cruz and the subsequent battles of Cerro Gordo, Contreras, Churubusco, and Chapultepec, and the capture and occupation of Mexico City in 1847. He served directly under future Civil War general John W. Geary, a man he had little respect for due to his vanity.[2]

After the Mexican War, the regiment returned to Pennsylvania in June 1848. Coulter then resumed his study of law and was admitted to the bar in 1849. His uncle had become a Pennsylvania Supreme Court judge in 1846, and Coulter took over his uncle's law practice in Greensburg. He practiced law until the beginning of the Civil War in 1861. Throughout the 1850s, he remained active in the local militia.

Civil War[]

With the outbreak of the war and the subsequent calls to arms by President Abraham Lincoln and then by the Governor of Pennsylvania, Andrew Curtin, Coulter raised a company of soldiers and was elected as their first captain. The company soon was made part of the 11th Pennsylvania Volunteers, in which Coulter was promoted to lieutenant colonel. When the regiment was reorganized as a three-year regiment, Coulter became the regimental commander until the end of the war in 1865. Coulter's regiment fought at Second Bull Run, Antietam, and Gettysburg. With the wounding of Brig. Gen. Gabriel R. Paul on Oak Ridge at Gettysburg, Coulter assumed command of his brigade for the rest of the battle.

In 1864 during the Overland Campaign, Coulter assumed command of a brigade following the Battle of the Wilderness. At the subsequent Battle of Spotsylvania Court House, he was wounded and had to relinquish command.

Near the end of the war in March 1865, Coulter was brevetted as brigadier general, then as major general.

Postbellum career[]


Pennsylvania Monument at the Gettysburg National Military Park

After the Civil War, Coulter returned to Greensburg, where he became active in business. He joined with several other local financiers to invest in various industries, businesses, and residential areas in and around Greensburg. Coulter began a partnership with George Franklin Huff, a local businessman and financier who later became a state senator and a U.S. congressman. Coulter and Huff collaborated on several of the largest and most significant companies in Westmoreland County in the 1880s, including the Keystone Coal and Coke Company, the Greensburg-Hempfield Electric Street Railway, and the First National Bank of Greensburg (now the First Commonwealth Bank). Coulter served at the bank's president until his death in 1908. His son, Richard Coulter Jr. (1870–1955) took over as president and held that position for more than 40 years.

Greensburg was located on a large vein of bituminous coal about 30 miles east of Pittsburgh. Coal and coke were needed for steel mills that were built in and near Pittsburgh in the 1860s and 1870s. Coulter and Huff prospered with the rising steel industry by developing and mining the coalfields in Westmoreland County.

General Coulter married Emmy Welty (1841–1929) and had six children—Richard Coulter Jr., Rebecca, Henry, Alexander, William, and Margaret.


Coulter is memorialized on the Pennsylvania State Monument at Gettysburg National Military Park.

See also[]

32x28px United States Army portal
32x28px American Civil War portal


  • Boucher, John N., Old and New Westmoreland, American Historical Society, 1918.
  • Hahn, Ed, "Three Richard Coulters", Westmoreland Chronicle, newsletter of the Westmoreland County Historical Society, Fall 2007, page 10.
  • Sopko, Jennifer, "From Major General to Major Stockholder", Westmoreland History, published by the Westmoreland County Historical Society, Summer 2007, page 12.
  • Van Atta, Robert, A Bicentennial History of the City of Greensburg, PA, Chas M. Henry Printing Co., 1999.


Further reading[]

  • Coulter, Richard, "The Westmoreland Guards in the War with Mexico, 1846-1848." Western Pennsylvania Historical Magazine Number 24 (1941), 101-126.
  • Peskin, Allan, ed. Volunteers: the Mexican War journal of Private Richard Coulter and Sergeant Thomas Barclay, Company E, Second Pennsylvania Infantry. Kent, Ohio: Kent State University Press, 1991.