The Fight For Tennessee: July 1863 to January 1864

Battle of Chickamauga

Where was John Rawlins?

We seldom hear his name these days, but Colonel—later Brigadier-General—John Rawlins (1831–1869) played an important role in the many successes of Ulysses S. Grant. The two men knew each other in Galena, Illinois, prior to the beginning of the war, and Grant made Rawlins his chief of staff as early as the autumn of 1861. By the time Vicksburg fell, Rawlins was nearly indispensable, not on a professional but rather a personal level.

Rawlins’ father had been a serious alcoholic, and Rawlins detested liquor so much that he declared he would let a friend take poison before allowing him to take alcohol. Rawlins acted as Grant’s conscience on several occasions during the war, threatening to quit the post of chief of staff unless Grant kept away from the bottle. Grant could easily have found a successor to Rawlins—he was highly skilled in the drafting of orders himself—but he would not have found another person to act as his watchdog and guide. Some historians believe that Rawlins later overstated his own importance, but even if this is true, he filled a nearly unique role.

General John Rawlins was Grant’s chief of staff, but even more importantly, according to some historians and Rawlins himself, were his efforts in keeping the leader of the Union forces away from alcohol as much as possible.


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