What does the expression “a gone coon” mean and Where did it originate?

Legend has it that the expression “a gone coon”, which is applied to a person or thing in a hopeless situation, originated in the Revolutionary War.

An American spy, it is said, seeking information on the number of British forces that were to be attacked, dressed himself in raccoon furs and, by night, stealthily climbed a tree overlooking the British camp.

He hoped that the protective coloration of the fur would shield him from discovery. To his dismay, however, he had scarcely taken his position when a British soldier, on a nocturnal raccoon hunt, approached the tree ind spotted what he supposed to be an unusually large specimen of this tasty animal.

The Briton took careful aim and was just about to fire, when the American called out, “Don’t shoot! I’ll come down. I know I’m a gone coon.” It so terrified the Briton to hear a raccoon talk, the legend goes, that he dropped his gun and ran away in panic.

But Captain Frederick Marryat, British author, who wrote a notably fair Diary in America, in I 8 39, had not heard this alleged earlier version. When he asked what the origin of the expression was, he (93
was told that it was attributed to a certain Captain Martin Scott of Vermont, an army officer with a prodigious reputation as a sharpshooter. According to the story that was told:

His fame was so considerable that even the animals were aware of it. He went out one morning with his rifle, and spying a raccoon upon the upper branches of a high tree, brought his gun up to his shoulder; when the raccoon perceiving it, raised his paw for a parley.

“I beg your pardon, mister,” said the raccoon, very politely; “but may I ask if your name is Scott?”, “Yes,” replied the captain, “Captain Martin Scott?” continued the raccoon, “Yes,” replied the captain, “Captain Martin Scott?” still continued the animal, “Yes,” replied the captain, “Captain Martin Scott”, “Oh! then,” says the animal, “I may just as well come down, for I’m a gone coon.”