Tuesday, June 2, 2009



Grenville Mellen Dodge is a native of Massachusetts, and was born at Danvers, Essex county, on the 12th day of April, 1832. His father, Sylvanus Dodge, was, prior to 1844, a provision dealer; but subsequently, and up to the time of his removal West, was Postmaster of the town of Danvers. Grenville remained with his father till he was sixteen years of age, having prior to that time been afforded only a limited common school education; for his father's business had been such as to require much of his son's assistance. At the age of sixteen, he was sent to the Academy at Durham, New Hampshire, then to that of Newbury; Vermont, and in 1850 was entered a student of Norwich Military University, at that time under the superintendence of the late Captain Alden Patridge. Here he completed his education, which was thoroughly practical, scientific and military.

In 1851, he left Norwich, and, coming West, lived for a time in Peoria, Illinois, where he obtained a situation in an Engineer Corps on the Rock Island Railroad. His skill as an engineer, with his remarkable judgment and great ability to control men, soon discovering themselves, he was entrusted with the survey of this road to Peoria. On the completion of this survey, he came to Iowa, and was for several years in the employ of the Mississippi and Missouri River Railroad Company, during which time he projected surveys from the Mississippi River to the Missouri, and up the valley of the Platte. As a civil engineer, young Dodge was very successful.

In May, 1854, he was married to Miss Annie Brown, of Peoria, Illinois, and for a short time resided in Iowa City. In the fall of the same year, he removed to Nebraska, where, in connection with his father and brother, he remained nearly a year, taking up claims on the Elkhorn River. At that day, this section of Nebraska was the extreme limit of the frontier settlements, and of easy access to the hostile tribes of Indians, who, in the latter part of 1855, commenced their hostilities against the white settlers. In consequence of these troubles, G. M. Dodge returned to Iowa, and settled in Council Bluffs; where, engaging in the banking business, he continued to reside till the beginning of the war.

The excitement produced at Council Bluffs by the first news of the firing on Fort Sumter had hardly subsided, before General Dodge was recruiting a company for the service. Having filled his company, he reported, early in the spring of 1861, to Governor S. J. Kirkwood, who, after learning what he had done, was so much pleased with him that he clothed him with proper authority, and sent him to Washington in quest of arms and munitions of war for the State. The promptness with which he discharged the duties of his commission attracted the notice of the War Department, and he was offered a commission in the regular army; but this honor he declined, for he preferred to serve his own State. On his return from Washington, he was commissioned colonel of the 4th Iowa Infantry, his commission dating the 17th of June, 1861.

In less than two weeks after his regiment was organized, and before he had been assigned to duty, he marched against Poindexter, drove him from Northern Missouri, and returned to Council Bluffs. On the 13th of August following, he reported at St. Louis, Missouri, for duty; and was ordered to Rolla, to which place he at once proceeded. In the following October, he was made Commandant of the Post. On the first of November, 1861, he led an expedition to Huston and Salem; and met and defeated the enemy at both places. In December, he was quite severely wounded, but in what manner I am unadvised. On recovering from this wound, he was assigned by General Curtis (then organizing his army for an advance on Price) to the command of a brigade. With this command he led the advance against Springfield, on the morning of the 13th of February, 1862.

Company E, of the 4th Iowa Infantry, one of the regiments of Colonel Dodge's Brigade, being deployed as skirmishers under Lieutenant Stitt and ordered forward, never halted until it had taken possession of the city. Company H, Captain D. A. Craig, of the 17th Iowa, performed a similar feat at Jackson, Mississippi, the 14th of May, 1863. At Springfield, the entree and occupation of the city was attended with much sport. After the company had routed the enemy, who were principally stragglers, and made their captures of prisoners, horses &c., they broke for the city saloons and bakeries; and when General Curtis, accompanied by his staff and body-guard, came riding through to the public square, there he found them, feasting on beer and ginger-bread—their first spoils of war.

The object of General Curtis' campaign was not simply the capture of Springfield: it was the defeat of General Price's army; and accordingly, on the morning of the fourteenth, the Army of the South West started in pursuit of the enemy. In this pursuit, Colonel Dodge's command met and engaged the enemy at Cane Creek, Sugar Creek, and Blackburn's Mill: in the last of these engagements, the rebels were led by the notorious Gates. These encounters took place on the 14th, 17th, and 27th of February, 1862, respectively.

How Van Dorn, uniting with Price after that general's flight from Missouri, marched on General Curtis at Pea Ridge has been already given, as has also the desperate fighting that occurred on the right, between Carr's Division and the rebel forces.

At day-light on the morning of the 7th, the troops of Carr's Division were put hurriedly under arms, and marched northward. None but Carr and his brigade commanders knew the object of the movement; for it was supposed the enemy would make their attack from the south and south-west. But no time was given for breakfast, and all knew there must be danger from an unexpected quarter. Colonel Dodge, having marched his brigade a mile or more, turned eastward, along what was known as the White River road. Companies E and K, of the 4th Iowa, constituted the van-guard, they being followed by one section of the 1st Iowa Battery. Suddenly the sharp barking of musketry was heard. Dodge had come upon the enemy's cavalry, reconnoitering for the advance of their infantry; but this force was soon dispersed, and pursued through the timber and past the rough and rocky hills, beyond and around which was Cross Timber Hollows. Dodge took up his position on these hills, with the enemy beyond in the fallen timber. Colonel Vandever, with his brigade, was to the left on the Springfield road; and there the severe fighting first began. Vandever's line was soon broken, and forced back, and Dodge had no alternative but to retire. In the meantime, the enemy were moving round Dodge's right. Gaining the ground out of the fallen timber, they swung round to the south, and, the first intimation he had of their approach, they were moving in heavy masses through open country to pass his right, and cut him off. Promptly changing position "by the right flank, file left," the colonel threw his handful of troops along an old fence, with timber on his right and left, and an open field in his front; in the latter, the enemy were forming for a charge. At this alarming juncture, he had only two regiments—the 4th Iowa and 35th Illinois. The enemy outnumbered him nearly ten to one; and, in addition, they were supported by artillery. Concealing his men behind the fence, Colonel Dodge awaited their approach. After a vigorous cannonading, their infantry came sweeping across the field in magnificent style and with a hideous yell, expecting little opposition; but they were met with a deadly fire and driven back. The charge was renewed several times, and each time repulsed. Nor could they force Colonel Dodge from his position, till they began moving columns past his right and left flank. It was the fighting of the 4th Iowa and 35th Illinois, in this position, that so challenged the admiration of General Van Dorn, and other rebel officers.

The services of Colonel Dodge at Pea Ridge ranked those of every other brigade commander: there were none to dispute with him this honor. He was here a second time wounded, and soon after sent to St. Louis, in charge of the surgeon of the 3d Iowa cavalry.

The important services of Colonel Dodge were now recognized by the Government; and he was, on the 31st of March, 1862, made a brigadier-general. Early in June of the same year, he was made Post Commandant of Columbus, Kentucky, and, on the 28th of the same month, was assigned to the command of the Central Division, Army of the Tennessee, with head-quarters at Trenton. On the 30th of the following October, he assumed command of the District of Corinth; and the magnificent works, erected for the defense of that place, were planned and constructed under his personal supervision. From October, 1862, till the 8th of July, 1863, when by order of General Hurlbut he assumed command of the left wing of the 16th Army Corps, General Dodge was engaged repeatedly with the enemy under Forrest, Van Dorn, Chalmers, Ruggles and Ferguson; and, in every engagement and expedition, he was successful. In addition to his other labors in the summer of 1863, he organized five regiments of colored troops, and several companies of heavy artillery, also colored troops.

In the fall of 1863, General Dodge was transferred, with his command, from Corinth to Pulaski, Tennessee. He left his old field of operations late in October, following on with the rear of Sherman's army, then en route for Chattanooga, but a history of these movements I have given elsewhere. Establishing his head-quarters at Pulaski, he began opening the Nashville and Decatur Railroad, and by Spring had the task nearly completed.

General Dodge most distinguished himself in the Atlanta campaign. The troops of his command were the same that he had commanded on garrison- and railroad-duty. Among them were three Iowa regiments—the 2d, 7th and 39th. He joined General Sherman at Chattanooga, early in May, and soon marched out to Dalton, General Johnson's boasted stronghold. Through nearly this entire campaign he held the right of Sherman's army; but the details of his services on this march will be more fully given in the sketches of the Iowa regiments of his command. For his gallant and important services in this campaign, he was made a major-general, and there are few officers who have more richly earned the rank.

The general was wounded for the third time, before Atlanta. It happened thus: the morning in question he went out to the trenches of the skirmish line, sporting a new hat, trimmed with a brilliantly polished bugle. If I am rightly informed, some important movement was on hand, in which he was to take part, and, prior to moving, he exposed his head at one of the loop-holes under the head-log, to make observations. The sun, which was shining brightly, reflected on the bugle of his hat, making a fine target for the enemy's sharp-shooters. The rebel's aim was so accurate that the ball struck near the bugle, and, going through the general's hat, passed round under the scalp. It did not prove fatal, though for several weeks it disabled him for service. This accident occurred early in August, after which he came North, and never after returned to his old command.

On recovering from his wound, he was first placed in command at Vicksburg, Mississippi; but, in a short time after, succeeded General Rosecrans in Missouri. He is still in command of that department, with head-quarters at St. Louis.

During the present war, no officer, whether of the regular or volunteer service, has made a better record than Major-General Dodge. One officer from our State has made a more brilliant one—General Corse; but that general's services are in no manner to be compared with those of General Dodge. His duties have been varied, and in many instances have involved the greatest responsibility and complexity; but he has met with uniform success in every department of his labors, and has never been relieved from a command unless it was by orders assigning him to another and more important one. His worth has been appreciated by General Grant, who, on more than one occasion, has tendered him high compliments. During operations around Vicksburg, General Dodge was in command at Corinth, one hundred and fifty miles removed from the former city; and yet General Grant stated officially, I am credibly informed, that there was no officer of Dodge's rank in his army to whom he was more indebted for his success in capturing the stronghold.

In person, General Dodge is a small man, weighing only about one hundred and thirty pounds. I never saw him but once, which was in the summer of 1862, as I was passing through Trenton, Tennessee, at that time the general's headquarters. He was standing upon the depot platform, and was in conversation with Lieutenant W. S. Burke, of the 17th Iowa. From the lieutenant I afterwards learned that this was the gallant, distinguished General Dodge, and I confess I was surprised. He is slightly stooping in the shoulders, and, at first sight, does not look like the man he is. He has a fine eye, though, which, after seeing his shoulder-straps, was the first thing that attracted my attention.

But he has the following distinguishing traits of character, for without them he could never have accomplished what he has. He has an iron will, a mind rich in expedients, and a perseverance that is active and untiring: these traits, with promptness of action, and a judgment remarkably matured for a man of his years, have conspired to make him in fact, as he is in rank, one of the best officers of our army. If Iowa has been honored by her troops in the field, she has been equally honored by her general officers; and in this respect she is indebted to no one more than to General Dodge.

SOURCE: Stuart, A. A., Iowa Colonels and Regiments, p. 109-16

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