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John A. Rawlins (1869) - Secretary of War

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John Aaron Rawlins was born in 1831 in Guilford, Illinois. After working on the family farm, he moved to Galena, Illinois, where he studied the law, was admitted to the bar in 1855, and began a successful law practice.

During the Civil War, Rawlins joined the Union army and served throughout the conflict as the assistant-adjutant general heading General Ulysses S. Grant’s staff . Rawlins contracted tuberculosis, however, and by the time Grant was elected President in 1868, Rawlins was dying from the disease. Despite Rawlins’s condition -- indeed because of it -- Grant named Rawlins secretary of war, a post the dying man accepted but was unable to assume. General William Tecumseh Sherman served as acting secretary of war in all but name during much of Rawlins’s term. John Aaron Rawlins died in 1869.

Citation Information

Consulting Editor

Joan Waugh

Professor Waugh is a professor of history at the University of California, Los Angeles. Her writings include:

U.S. Grant: American Hero, American Myth (University of North Carolina Press, 2009)

Wars within a War: Controversy and Conflict over the American Civil War (editor with Gary W. Gallagher, University of North Carolina Press, 2009)

The Memory of the Civil War in American Culture (editor with Alice Fahs, University of North Carolina Press, 2004)

Unsentimental Reformer: The Life of Josephine Shaw Lowell (Harvard University Press, 1998)