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Military Family: 1865

Military Family: 1865

1865. "City Point, Virginia. Brig. Gen. John A. Rawlins, wife and child at Grant's headquarters." Wet plate glass negative, photographer unknown. View full size.


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I do believe that is Grant himself around the corner puffing a cigar. He did tend to sit with legs crossed.Those cigars ended up killing him.

General Rawlins

The General was not a combat soldier but served as the principal trusted adviser to Grant. He was present when Lincoln appointed Grant command of the Army of the Potomac.

Ubiquitous Boot Scraper

That boot scraper was the first thing I noticed! I can't help but think about the living conditions in what looks like a rough hut for a brig gen and his family. And yet, there is a boot scraper! Amazing. I wonder if just the officers got them and was that one of the distinctions between their quarters and the quarters of the enlisted men -- to maintain some bit of genteel civility by scraping one's boots?

What's that thing

What's that thing that looks bolted on to the right of the porch, by the chair?

[A boot scraper. - Dave]

Rank has its privileges

If this is the General's quarters, can you imagine the enlisted men's?

Hirsute legal eagle

He may not look like much, but Rawlins rose to the rank of brevet major general and bragidier general in the regular army by the end, or just after, the Civil War. His dates were 1831 to 1869.

He was an attorney in civilian life, served US Grant as an adjutant general, and became Grant's first Secretary of War.

Photos of men of this era often carry with them the effect that the gentlemen pictured are elderly. Here, in 1865, Rawlins is 33 or 34 years old.

US Grant was born in 1822. He was in his early 40s when he assumed the command of the Army of the Potomac.

To my eye, Robert E. Lee, who looks in his photos to have been in his 60s or 70s during the Civil War, was born in in 1807. He was really just in his 50s when he was commanding the Army of Northern Virginia. Lee was an age peer of President Lincoln (1809-1865), who was only 56 when he was assassinated. But Lincoln always appeared much older, in my view.

Must be the beards.

Press your pants?

When was the crease in pant legs introduced? This senior officer, a brigadier general, does not sport one in the mid 1860s, as did most men in dress pants. To our modern eye the men look unkempt.


It should be noted that General Rawlins was U.S. Grant's closest associate during the Civil War and served as Secretary of War during Grant's presidency but only for a few months, dying of "consumption" in 1869. Rawlins, Wyoming, is named after him.

Hey, Mom, Dad

Where's the rest of him?


JOHN AARON RAWLINS was born in Galena, Illinois, on 13 February 1831; attended local schools followed by eighteen months at Rock River Seminary at Mount Morris, Illinois; studied law in the office of Isaac P. Stevens of Galena and was admitted to the bar in 1854; practiced law in partnership with Stevens and later with one of his own pupils, David Sheean; married his first wife, Emily Smith, 1856; was city attorney in 1857; was nominated a presidential elector on the Douglas ticket, 1860; helped organize the 45th Illinois Infantry and was designated a major in the regiment; was requested by Colonel Ulysses S. Grant of the 21st Illinois Infantry to accept a commission as lieutenant and assignment as Grant’s aide-de-camp; was appointed captain and assistant adjutant general of volunteers on Grant’s staff, 1861; lost his wife to tuberculosis; served as Grant’s principal adviser; was promoted to major in May 1862, lieutenant colonel in November 1862, and brigadier general of volunteers, August 1863; married Mary Hurlbut, 1863; was designated chief of staff of the Army, 1865; was brevetted major general of volunteers in February 1865 and of the regular army in April 1865; contracted tuberculosis; attempted to restore his health by accompanying Grenville Dodge on a survey of the proposed route of the Union Pacific Railroad to Salt Lake City; served as Secretary of War, 13 March 1869–6 September 1869; died in office in Washington, D.C., on 6 September 1869.

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