Charles Henry Blinn was born in Burlington, Vt. on January 27, 1843 to Chauncey and Edatha/Editha (Harrington) Blinn. He was educated in Vermont and was preparing to enter the University of Vermont when he entered the army. In September 21, 1861, Blinn enlisted in the 1st Vt. Cavalry. He was attached to Sheridan’s Cavalry Corps, and participated in a number of battles, including Gettysburg, Chancellorsville, Spotsylvania, Cold Harbor, Wilderness, Winchester, and Cedar Creek. His regiment captured forty-two cannon at Cedar Creek, the largest number taken by any regiment during the war. Blinn was wounded and taken prisoner at Middletown, Va. on May 24, 1862, in a cavalry charge led by General Banks, and was held at Lynchburg and Belle Island, Va. from May 25 to September 17. After three years and four months of service, he was honorably discharged at Burlington in November 18, 1864.
After the war, Blinn was chief clerk for two years at the Welden House in St. Albans, Vt. He moved to California in 1868, and for six years was employed with the Wells-Fargo Express Co. In 1875, he became an editorial writer of the “Alta California.” In 1878, he was appointed chief permit clerk in the San Francisco Custom House, a position he held until his death on May 11, 1926. On December 15, 1870, Blinn married Nellie Holbrook of Salem, NH. Nellie (d. 1909) was a suffragist and public speaker, and took the stump for Hayes, Garfield, Blaine, and Harrison. The couple had one son, Holbrook (1872-1928), who pursued a career in acting and performed on Broadway as well as in silent films. In October 8, 1910, Blinn married Vivian Bailey (d. 1944), a grammar school teacher, with whom he had one daughter, Eleanor.
Topics in Blinn’s diaries include the experiences of Union soldiers in camp, on the battlefield, and as prisoners of war in Confederate prisons; the experiences of Southerners in Union-occupied towns, illness and medical practices in the military, and the Battle of Gettysburg.