Pennsylvania's Emergency Men

Pennsylvania's Emergency Men

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Meet a Militiaman: Charles Coatesworth Pinckney Rawn

Over the course of this blog, I hope to highlight individual soldiers of the Pennsylvania Emergency Militia.  Being able to attach faces to the names and events of this monumental time period is a powerful way to put one's self directly into the moment, by staring into the faces of those who actually lived it.  As images are uncovered over the course of my research, I will share them here, along with any information about that soldier and the unit he belonged to.  At this time, I am predicting that I will find more images related to men who served during the 1863 Emergency, since they were in service for a month or so, as compared to the majority of the 1862 soldiers, who served for a period of roughly two weeks.  Also, many of the regiments raised in '63 were populated by soldiers who had just returned home from nine months service, and had ample time to be photographed in uniform.  Who knows though, I may be proved wrong.  I can only hope not.

Our first 'Emergency Man', is Charles Coatesworth Pinckney Rawn.

courtesy of the Historical Society of Dauphin County
A resident of Harrisburg, Rawn was considered "one of the leading criminal lawyers of the Dauphin County Bar".  Don't let the gray haired beard fool you.  Before you assume that the above image is a post-war likeness of Rawn, let me tell you that at the time of his enlistment in the Emergency troops (September 11, 1862), Rawn was 61 years old.  What's even more surprising is that Rawn served in the "First City Troops"; Captain Eby Byers' Company of Independent Cavalry.  Spending days on end in the saddle is not the type of service that one would expect someone of Rawn's "vintage" to sign up for.  In fact, many of the 66 troopers on the muster roll of Byers' Company were in their 40s and 50s; Byers himself was 54.  However, Rawn made it a habit to walk, or ride on horseback, through the streets of Harrisburg for an hour each day, staying fit as well as becoming used to the saddle.  Byers' troopers are a great example of the proud and hardy stock of Pennsylvanians who stepped up (or perhaps trotted) to Gov. Curtin's call for state defense.  Many would normally be considered not suitable for federal service, but with an enemy invasion imminent, every man was called upon.

An interesting note about Byers' Company is that upon being mustered out of state service on September 24, 1862, every man in the Troop was paid a due for supplying their own horses.

I had the pleasure several years ago, while in grad school, to become "acquainted" with Charles Rawn.  For a period of roughly 35 years (1830s - 1865), Rawn kept a daily journal.  The majority of this 29 volume journal is in the collection of the Dauphin County Historical Society in Harrisburg.  One of the research projects I worked on was the transcription of a portion of the Rawn journals, which can be read here.  Rawn is a truly fascinating figure in history.  Aside from serving in an Emergency Militia unit, before the war, Rawn led the city's militia outfit,  the "Harrisburg Greys".  He was an ardent abolitionist, and many times defended runaway slaves in court.  He also seemed to know, or have "run ins" with some of the biggest names of the early 19th Century, from Daniel Webster to Simon Cameron to Abraham Lincoln.  In late July, 1861, Rawn traveled to Washington, and northern Virginia, and had a front row seat to the confusion and aftermath of the Battle of Bull Run.

Because I cannot pass up the opportunity to make a couple of Battle of Antietam connections, I must note that while in Washington, Rawn met and discussed the coming war with Gen. Joseph Mansfield.  On the morning of September 17, 1862, Mansfield would be killed while leading the XII Corps through the East Woods and beyond, becoming one of six generals killed during the Battle of Antietam.  Also, while on his Washington trip, Rawn visited his son, Charles Jr., who was an officer in the 7th U.S. Infantry.  Rawn's son would serve with the 7th throughout the Civil War, later fighting Indians on the frontier alongside John Gibbon, who, at Antietam, lead the famed "Iron Brigade" (the Western one) along the Hagerstown Pike and through the bloody Cornfield.  Both Rawn Jr. and Gibbon would witness the grizzly aftermath of the Battle of Little Bighorn in 1876.

Charles Rawn (Sr.), as to be expected, kept track of the events during his two weeks in the Emergency Militia.  His journal entry during this time period will be highlighted at a later time.  I highly recommend reading through his journals, and get a fascinating look through history.

(to "meet" other militiamen, click here)

Barton, Michael. "Introducing Charles Rawn, his Journals, and their Editors," accessed 25 June 2011; available from; Internet.

Bates, Samuel P. History of Pennsylvania volunteers, 1861-5 : prepared in compliance with acts of the legislature. Harrisburg: B. Singerly, State Printer, 1869.

Griffin, Dustin, compiler. "Biographical Profile of Charles Coatesworth Rawn, Jr. (1837-1887). in the possession of Dr. Michael Barton, Pennsylvania State University, Harrisburg, PA.
The Rawn Collection, MG 062, The Historical Society of Dauphin County, Harrisburg, PA.

Unattached Cavalry Units Pennsylvania Volunteer Militia, RG 19, Series# 19.11, Carton 134, folder 1, Muster-Out Rolls, Pennsylvania State Archives, Harrisburg, PA.

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