The Journal of Charles Rawn
"Towards the Seat of War" - July 16 to October 17, 1861

Edited by Angela L. Eifert Key

Three months and a day after the fall of Ft. Sumter, Charles Rawn took a trip South. His account of that journey is the subject of my master’s thesis. He went "to or towards the seat of war" with two friends, Edwin Pollack and a man he refers to only as Etter. The ambiguous title of his journal may be attributed to the fact that at this time, no one knew where any impending battles of this war would take place. Regardless, his intent was to meet his son Charles, visit Washington, and obtain information on the war situation.

Rawn and his friends left Harrisburg, presumably by carriage, on July 16, 1861. Rarely does Rawn express emotion in his journals, but there is a tone of excitement as he writes on his first day, "I sat down immediately and wrote letter of trip and incidents this far to my wife at Harrisburg." He was anxious to tell her about his adventure thus far. Any letters he received from his wife were picked up at the "National." The National Hotel was his original reservation for lodging, but he found better accommodations once he arrived in Washington.1

Rawn’s first stop was Martinsburg, Virginia. He and his party visited Hagerstown and Charlestown before spending a day in Harper’s Ferry to tour the arsenal and engine house made famous by John Brown’s valiant abolitionist effort. This may have been a pilgrimage for Rawn, who was a staunch opponent of slavery. By July 20, Rawn had arrived in Washington and stayed in a boarding house owned by the Fitzgeralds. From his hotel, he would take an omnibus to the war department and capitol where he spent his days listening to meetings of Congress. He would also stand in the street and socialize with politicians, judges, and generals. He frequently bought a newspaper, the New York Herald, or The Sun, for which he paid two cents.2 Additionally, he would treat himself to a lemonade almost daily, which must have been a relief from the "very hot" days he described.3

On July 21, 1861, the Battle of Bull Run at Manassas, just outside of Washington, took place. Rawn wrote of the "agitation" there in his entry of that day. His entry of July 22 provides a more detailed description of this first major battle. Though his exact position during the battle is uncertain, Rawn gave a graphic account of the dead and wounded he observed. His tone was somber, yet anxious, as he says, "dead, wounded and dying being brought continually…wild and unforgettable in a degree the slaughter on both sides has been immense—in the thousands. There was desperate fighting—desperate fright in some quarters and desperate getting out of the way in all many directions and in all imaginable disorder."

The next day Rawn talked to General Mansfield, who predicted, with Bull Run as an indicator, that the Union army would soon be defeated by the rebels. After their conversation, General Mansfield issued Rawn a pass into Virginia where his son Chas was serving in the Union army under General Patterson. Rawn traveled by steamboat to Alexandria and found Chas, who was sick with a cold and toothache. In another rare and heartfelt moment, Rawn disclosed his paternal feelings of concern when he wrote, "I did not wish myself that Chas should enter the army at all, nor did I feel entirely free to dissuade him from it."

Rawn has two encounters with President Abraham Lincoln and his wife, Mary Todd. On both occasions, Rawn describes their physical appearance. The First Lady is "nice…pleasant-faced." President Lincoln looks younger than Rawn has expected, with a "large mouth and nose, black whiskers and goatee…lantern jaws, high cheek bones, smallish deep sunken eyes." Rawn continues to express his high esteem for the President: "he looked animated and agreeable and laughed with a perfectly demonstrative gesture…I am much pleased with his looks and manners." Rawn is impressed with his "benevolent firmness…honesty, vigour [sic] of thought, firmness, and determined purpose." Rawn recalls a humorous comment made by his acquaintance Mr. Shaw: upon seeing the tall President along side his short First Lady, they saw "the long and short of human life." The inclusion of such humor in his journal is out of the ordinary.

The Lincolns attended Dr. Gurby’s Presbyterian Church, as did Rawn. By the Sunday service on July 28, Rawn was joined by his son John Calvin. He and Calvin spent their days at the war department and the Smithsonian Institution.4 Rawn paid for everything he and his son did. This extra expense of his son forces him to write a Dauphin Deposit bank check to Simon Cameron for $25.00. Cameron then cashed the check and gave the cash to Rawn.

On July 30, Rawn celebrated his 59th birthday.5 There is no mention in the journal of any kind of party or special treatment, although he did receive a letter from his wife on this day. Before he and Calvin returned to Harrisburg, Rawn had his clothing laundered and settled his account with the Fitzgeralds. Father and son stopped by the unfinished Washington Monument before arriving at the train depot.6 The ride home, via an overnight stay in Baltimore, was "most wearisome slow and continually stopping."

Upon conclusion of his 16-day trip, Rawn stopped writing in this journal. For some reason, however, he wrote six more entries from September 13 to October 17 (1861?) in the back of the journal. He wrote in pencil, which has since faded significantly. The text is extremely difficult to decipher, and the transcribed text found in this paper is minimally coherent.

In summary, Rawn’s journal is fairly emotional compared to other journals in his collection. There are moments of horror and fright, pride and patriotism, happiness and humor, as well as curiosity and surprise. The main purpose of his trip was accomplished—he visited Chas, mingled with Congressmen and generals to understand the war situation, and had a pleasant visit in Washington with John Calvin.


1 - Throughout this trip, Rawn wrote his wife six letters. She sent him five letters. Rawn routinely checked the National Hotel, his original plan for lodging, for any correspondence.

2 - Rawn mentioned buying a newspaper on July 20, 24, 25, and 30.

3 - U.S. Department of Commerce and Weather Bureau, Climatic Guide for Baltimore, Maryland Washington D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1956) 7. The average temperature in Baltimore, Maryland, for July 1861 was 74.8 degrees Fahrenheit.

4 - The Smithsonian Institution was founded by the United States Government in 1846 with funds from James Smithson. March 2002.

5 - Rawn was born on July 30, 1802.

6 - U.S. National Park Service, Washington Monument. (U.S. Department of the Interior, pamphlet.) The cornerstone to the Washington Monument was laid in 1848, and construction continued until 1853, when funding ran out. With the Grant administration, funding and construction resumed, and the project was completed in 1884.

The Journal

Transcriptions for this section of the journal begin July 16, 1861 and end August 2, 1861. There are also six entries dated between September 13, 1861 and October 17, 1861. Click on a date to begin reading.

Summary of Expenses, July 16 – August 2, 1861

Rawn’s 16-day trip South cost him a total of $69.99. This included several modes of travel, lodging, and miscellaneous items throughout his journey. Other than his first night at camp, dining with General Cameron, and a dinner in Baltimore, Rawn did not mention his meals. Perhaps his lodging at Fitzgerald’s boarding house included meals. When his son John Calvin met him in Washington, Rawn paid for his lodging and travel as well. The following is a list, arranged categorically, of Rawn’s expenses. Each category is subtotaled, and the total expense of his trip is calculated at the end of this section.

Carriage rides
From Harrisburg to Martinsburg $1.25
Fine [?] from Harrisburg to Martinsburg$0.25
Hire carriage man for two days$5.75
($17.25 for all three men)
Henry Geyer $1.00
Fare to Riley House$2.55
Parking fee at Riley House$1.25
Subtotal $30.80
Food and Drinks
First night’s meal at camp [?]$2.00
Lemonades (7 x $.05 each)$0.35
Ground nuts and pears in Baltimore $5.20
Supper and lemonade in Baltimore$0.75
Subtotal $8.30
Omnibus Fare
To the capitol (20-7)$0.06
Round trip to capitol (22-2)$0.12
To the capitol (23-3)$0.06
Travel on 27-5$0.25
Round trip to war department (28-6)$0.12
From Presidential mansion to General Cameron’s$0.06
Round trip for Calvin and Rawn to capitol (27-7)$0.24
War department (30-3)$0.06
Baltimore: from Camden to Calvert depot$0.50
Omnibus to General Cameron’s for Calvin and Rawn$0.12
Subtotal $1.59
Other Travel
Steamboat fare to/from Alexandria, Virginia (27-5)$0.15
Railroad fare for Calvin and Rawn from Washington
To Baltimore$4.45
Railroad fare for Calvin and Rawn from Baltimore
To Harrisburg$5.20
Subtotal $9.80
Carrying trunk rental$0.05
Boy carrying valise$0.16
Lodging at the National Hotel$3.50
Lodging at Fitzgerald’s Boarding House ($1.00/day) $13.08
(included $.50 per day for John Calvin)
Washerwoman (three pieces)$0.25
Subtotal $17.04
Small bottle$0.25
"Press" and "Herald"$0.05
Postage stamps$0.10
Tobacco [?]$0.10
New paper and envelopes$0.06
Postage stamps$0.09
John Calvin’s own use$0.05
"Sun" Newspaper$0.02
Subtotal $2.46
Carriage Rides$30.80
Food and Drinks$8.30
Other Travel$9.80
Total spent on trip $69.99

List of Names Mentioned

  • Adams, Theo.
  • Adams, T. J. - Harrisburg
  • Awl, General
  • Bailey, Honorable Joseph - Perry County, Pennsylvania
  • Barnhart, M.
  • Bartuk, Mr.
  • Bendington, Reverend Mr.
  • Bennet
  • Boggs, Dr.
  • Brooke, James - Delaware
  • Brown, John - Abolitionist who held arsenal at Harper’s Ferry, Virginia
  • Burd, Lieutenant
  • Cameron, General
  • Cameron, Honorable Simon - Prominent Harrisburg citizen
  • Carey, Judge
  • Casey, Jos., Esquire
  • Ceverly, Colonel
  • Cowen, Colonel
  • Cowen - Pastor from New York
  • Cuner, E. J. W.
  • Davis, Lieutenant Frank [or Hank]
  • Davis, Newton
  • Digham, Sullan - Ohio
  • Dix, Miss [Dorothy] - Visited the sick and wounded at hospitals
  • Doubleday, Captain
  • Elliott, W. L. - Newville, Cumberland County, Pennsylvania
  • Ellsworth
  • Etter
  • Eyster, Captain
  • Fitzgerald, William - Inn keeper in Washington
  • Fitzgerald, Mrs. - Inn keeper and wife of William
  • Fox, Richard
  • Geiger, [Mrs. George?] - Harrisburg
  • Geyer, Ernie William - Carriage driver
  • Geyer, Henry - Carriage driver
  • Gurbey, Dr. - Pastor of Presbyterian Church in Washington
  • Hanes, Mrs.
  • Harris Adm. - Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
  • Harris, G. W., Esquire
  • Hilfer, C.
  • Hilfrat, J. P. N.
  • Tennessee, Johnson
  • Ohio, Krempron
  • Lathan, Mr. - Senator from California
  • Lincoln, President Abraham
  • Lincoln, Mrs. Mary Todd ["Mrs. L."]
  • Lunderband, Reverend Dr.
  • Mahon, Frank
  • Mallister, Richard
  • Mansfield, General - Issued Rawn a pass to go into Virginia
  • McCallan, Geo. W. - Harrisburg, Pennsylvania
  • McClanahan, Mr.
  • McClennand, Illinois
  • McCormick, Captain Henry
  • Merrill, Miss or Mrs. [Rawn was unsure of her marital status]
  • Millieur, General
  • Milo, Theo Evenawalt
  • Morley, Mr. - Former tenant
  • Mumma, Saul - Dauphin County, Pennsylvania
  • Mucbrenner, M. W.
  • Murray, Judge William
  • Owen, Dr.
  • Painter [?], Colonel - Westmoreland
  • Patterson, General - Commander of 25,000 men
  • Peacock, B. G. [not sure if this person is a relation of James Peacock]
  • Pollack, Edwin
  • Ralph, M. S.
  • Rawn, Charles - Son of Charles C. Rawn
  • Rawn, Frances - Wife of Charles C. Rawn
  • Rering [?], General
  • Riley
  • Ross, Hannah - Sister of Reverend Ross
  • Ross, Reverend B.
  • Rowe, General
  • Rutherford, John P.
  • Rydic [?], Captain J. M.
  • Scott, Mr.
  • Shaw, Mr. John W. - Civil engineer from Virginia
  • Shuck, Frank
  • Simon, W. R. - Newville, Cumberland County, Pennsylvania
  • Snyder, Eugene
  • Spalding, J. K.
  • Sprukley, Thomas - Hagerstown
  • Stramell [?], Henry
  • String, Judge
  • Strunk, William and wife
  • Tyler, William - Pautauket, Massachusetts
  • Wallace, Thomas - Old friend/roommate of Charles Rawn, 77-years old, "Tommy." This may be the Thomas Wallace from whom Rawn bought a stove and also to whom Rawn paid board in January of 1832. Rawn and Wallace hunted pigeons together.
  • Wickliffe, Charles Anderson - Former governor of Kentucky (1839-1840), Whig, lawyer
  • Wiestling, Mr.
  • Willard
  • Wilmot, Judge
  • Winebrenner, John A.
  • Wright, H. B. - Luzerne, Pennsylvania
  • Yohe, Colonel - Easton, Pennsylvania

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