His parents were Edward and Catherine Coughlan.
As a young man, Cornelius enlisted in the British military forces.
When he was 28 years old he was involved in action during the Indian mutiny.
On the 8th of June 1857, he was stationed in Delhi when he, along with three other men, volunteered to venture out under heavy fire rescue a wounded man from enemy occupied territory.
A few weeks later on the 18th of July, he rallied the men, after their commanding officers had been killed, to stave off an attack at the Siege of Delhi.
These two notable acts of bravery led to Coughlan being awarded the prestigious Victoria Cross.
After completing his years of service in India, Coughlan returned to Ireland where he was stationed with the Connaught Rangers.
He died in Westport, County Mayo on the 14th of February 1915.
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