G.A.R. ribbons like the one pictured here were undoubtedly donned on February 8, 1899 when Rawlins’ remains were finally transferred to Arlington National Cemetery.

Conversation Piece: Military Honors

By Melissa A. Winn
MAY 2019 • AMERICA'S CIVIL WAR MAGAZINE

(Melissa A. Winn Collection)

John A. Rawlins served as Ulysses S. Grant’s chief of staff throughout the war and Grant referred to him as his most “indispensable” officer. Despite Rawlins’ selfless devotion to the Union cause, his name today is relatively obscure. But it was not always so. One of the Grand Army of the Republic’s first posts adopted Rawlins’ name in tribute when it organized in Washington, D.C., on October 12, 1866. Nearly 30 years later, in 1896, the group endeavored to transfer the remains of its namesake from Congressional Cemetery to a more befitting plot in Arlington National Cemetery. G.A.R. ribbons like the one pictured here were worn by post members at special events, and were undoubtedly donned on February 8, 1899, when Rawlins’ remains were finally transferred to Arlington in a flag-draped casket with military escort and a full funeral ceremony. “The fame of Rawlins has not gone trumpet-tongued all over the earth,” said his eulogist that day. “…But with his contemporaries and comrades there dwelt a full appreciation of what he did and what he was. Among their survivors his memory is cherished with a gratitude that is imperishable.”

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