The Coffey Family

Coffey family crest

(Crest No. 247. Plate 59.)

THE Caffey or Coffey family is descended from Milesius, King of Spain, through the line of Heremon, eighth son of that monarch. The founder of the family was Earca, son of Olliol Molt, King of Ireland, A. D. 463. The ancient name was Cathmhoghas, and signifies “Leader in Battle.” The sept held possessions in the County of Mayo.

Another clan of the name of Coffee, sometimes calling themselves Cowhig, is descended from Ith, uncle of Milesius, and was formerly seated in the territories at present known as Barriroe, east and west, in the County of Cork, where the former splendor of the clan is attested by the ruins of their feudal castles which still exist. Dr. Smith, in his “History of Cork,” says: “Almost on every headland of this barony were castles erected by the Irish, seven of which belong to the sept O’Cowhig, as Dundeedy, Dunowen, Dunore, Duneen, Duncowhig, Dunworley, and Dungoohy.” The O’Cowhigs, or Coffees, seem to have been in early times more powerful than their kinsmen, the O’Driscolls or O’Flynns. They lay nearest to the English freebooters, were the earliest robbed, and by their persistent hostility narrowly escaped annihilation.

The progenitor from which they took their name was called Coltach Finn, son of Dungalach, the twelfth in descent from King Lugaidh Mac-Con. The word Cobthach signifies “Victor.” The O’Coffeys were also a clan of note in Westmeath. The O’Coffeys of Galway were a branch of the O’Kellys, Princes of Hy Maine, and possessed a large district in the barony of Clonmacnoon, in that county. They had their principal residence at a place called Tuam Cathraigh.

Charles Coffey, a dramatic author, born about the close of the seventeenth century, wrote many successful pieces, and was quite popular in his day.

In the history of the United States the name is also notably represented. General Coffee was one of those brave officers that General Andrew Jackson had trained in his Indian wars, and who rendered such effective service under his command at the decisive battle of New Orleans. In the engagement of the 23d of December, preceding the final victory of the 8th of January, General Coffee was ordered to turn the enemy’s right, while Jackson with the remainder of the force attacked his strongest position on the left near the river. Of the former’s conduct Jackson, in his account of the battle to President Monroe, says: “The best compliment I can pay to General Coffee and his brigade is to say they have behaved as they have always done while under my command.”