History with HLOM: Rand’s story goes beyond his Civil War medals. First Volunteer: Batavia’s Civil War hero pursued journalism and medical careers
Skip to Main Content

History with HLOM: Rand’s story goes beyond his Civil War medals. First Volunteer: Batavia’s Civil War hero pursued journalism and medical careers

Jan 30, 2021

Charles Rand might be one of the more well-known figures from Batavia’s past. If you have heard the name, it is most likely connected with the prestigious awards he received for his service during the Civil War. Rand is hailed as the “First Volunteer of the Civil War” and was awarded the Medal of Honor. However, there is more to his story than just these medals, as venerated as they are. Rand was much more than just a soldier and went on to accomplish many other feats. Charles Franklin Rand was born on Jan. 19, 1839 in Batavia. His family home stood at 4 Liberty St., now a parking lot.

His father died when Rand was just 4 years old, leaving his mother as his only family. At the age of 16, he jumped into his first profession, journalism. This took him far beyond the boundaries of Batavia and Genesee County. Rand traveled to New Orleans and worked at one of the city’s newspapers, the Picayune. In late 1860, he returned to Batavia as tensions grew between North and South. On April 15, 1861, Rand was attending a journalism conference at the Eagle Tavern in Batavia, the day that President Abraham Lincoln called for 75,000 volunteers. Major Henry Glowacki read the telegram from Lincoln to the crowd.

There are many legends surrounding how Rand became the “First Volunteer,” but nevertheless, Charles Franklin Rand was at the top of list that was sent back to Washington.Rand reached Washington in May and was placed in Company K of the 12th Division New York State Volunteers. His unit was one of those that fought at the opening battle of the war, Bull Run. During a skirmish at Blackburn’s Ford, his company ordered a retreat, but Rand stayed and fought with another company. While this was seen as a heroic action, Rand claimed that it was due to his fear of getting his back full of lead.

It was this action that would eventually lead to him being awarded the Medal of Honor. Rand’s time on the battlefield would end, but not his time in the war, on June 27, 1862, at the Battle of Gaines Mill, when he was wounded in his right shoulder. The injury cost him part of his right shoulder and arm. He was captured while recovering by Stonewall Jackson’s forces and taken to Richmond. Two weeks later he would be released during an exchange of prisoners.

After finishing his recovery in Batavia, he wished to return to the front, however, no officer would allow it due to his injuries. Eventually, Rand wrote to the president, and was given a position in the War Department and was promoted to lieutenant and eventually captain. During the Reconstruction period, Charles Rand continued his service as a supervising governor in Gilmer, Texas, from 1867 to 1868. He would resign from the Army the following year.

Charles Rand would then transition into the final period of his life as he left military service. In 1873 he graduated from Georgetown medical school and began his own practice.

He stayed in Washington until 1879 and then returned to Batavia to open a new practice in his hometown. After the death of his mother in 1882, Rand left Batavia for good and returned to Washington D.C., where he continued his practice until 1904.

Throughout this time, it was petitioned that he should be awarded a Medal of Honor for his bravery at Blackburn’s Ford. He was awarded the medal in 1897 and a new medal in 1904 as the style was changed, which is on display at the Holland Land Office Museum. Charles Franklin Rand died on Oct. 14, 1908, and was laid to rest in Arlington National Cemetery, Section 1, Grave 1.

Charles Rand

By Ryan Duffy, Director of the Holland Land Office Museum, The Daily News

Get your FREE Genesee County

Vacation Planner

Stay Connected

Sign up for our FREE email Newsletter