Friday, April 12, 2013

Grenville Dodge, born April 12, 1831

Grenville Mellen Dodge was born in Putnamville, Massachsetts, to Sylvanus and Julia Theresa Phillips Dodge. From the time of his birth until he was 13 years old, Dodge moved frequently while his father tried various occupations. 

Frederick Lander
In 1844, Sylvanus Dodge became postmaster of the South Danvers office and opened a bookstore. While working at a neighboring farm, the 14-year-old Grenville met the owner's son, Frederick W. Lander, and helped him survey a railroad.  Lander was impressed with Grenville and encouraged him to go to his alma mater, Norwich University in Vermont.

In 1851, Grenville graduated from Norwich University with a degree in civil engineering.  

He was 30 years old when the Civil War began.

For 10 years after graduation, Dodge was involved in surveying for railroads, including the Union Pacific. In 1852, he became the principal assistant of well-known surveyor Peter M. Dey. Together they made the first railroad survey across Iowa, from Davenport to Iowa City, for the Mississippi and Missouri Railroad. This survey reached a point near Council Bluffs, Iowa, in 1853.

On May 28, 1854, Dodge married Ruth Anne Brown. He took his bride to Nebraska Territory, where the couple tried homesteading on his Elkhorn River claim. Relentless Indian attacks on settlers caused them to move to Omaha by the fall. Their daughter Lettie was born there in 1855. Their second daughter, Eleanor, whom they called Ella, was born in 1858.

Ruth Anne Brown Dodge
In 1856, the family moved to Council Bluffs, Iowa, where Dodge opened a banking and real estate business. The main activity of Dodge's firm was selling lots and locating land warrants and engaging in land speculation. One of his speculative deals involved buying land along the route he and Dey proposed for the Mississippi and Missouri Railroad and persuading the towns of Omaha and Council Bluffs to sell bonds for it.

Before the financial panic of 1857, from which he suffered no great losses, Dodge and his partner founded the Council Bluffs Savings Bank. Dodge lobbied the Iowa Legislature to promote the railroad, which would run on his land. Dodge would go on to make a fortune speculating on real estate along other railroad routes he surveyed. Another Dodge venture in Council Bluffs was a general store.

In 1859, Dodge met Abraham Lincoln at the Pacific House Hotel in Council Bluffs, Iowa.  Dodge assured the future president that the Platte Valley would one day be the route of the Pacific Railroad.

Abraham Lincoln
Dodge joined the Union Army when the Civil War began.  He was sent by Governor Samuel Kirkwood of  Iowa to Washington, D.C., where he secured 6,000 muskets to supply Iowa volunteers. In July 1861, he was appointed Colonel of the 4th Iowa Volunteer Infantry Regiment.  He commanded the 1st Brigade, 4th Division at the Battle of Pea Ridge in Arkansas, where he was wounded.

Battle of Pea Ridge
For his services at the battle, he was appointed brigadier general of volunteers and placed in command of the District of the Mississippi, where he was involved in protecting and building railroads.

Dodge built one of the largest intelligence networks of the war—at least 100 agents, ranging at least as far as Atlanta. He used code names and numbers for most of them. To avoid paper-trails in the Army’s paymaster department, he funded many of his agents through the proceeds of captured Confederate cotton and other contraband sold at auction. When his immediate superior, General Stephen Hurlbut, insisted on seeing his lists of agents, Dodge risked relief by refusing to share them.  General Grant stood by Dodge’s decision, and in fact told Dodge he regretted not being able to give him a field command, but felt him too essential in the intelligence and railroad work he was doing. In the Vicksburg Campaign, Dodge’s reliable intelligence was absolutely vital to Grant, both in determining Pemberton’s numbers and plans, and in keeping abreast of the activities of Johnston’s and Bragg’s armies, which were desperately seeking ways to relieve Pemberton.

Thomas Clark Durant
During the war, he provided information to Thomas Clark Durant, who consequently made a fortune smuggling contraband cotton from the Confederate States.

William Sherman with staff during Atlanta Campaign
He was appointed major general in June 1864 and commanded the XVI Corps during William Sherman's Atlanta campaign.  At the Battle of Atlanta, the XVI Corps was held in reserve, but it happened to be placed in a position which directly intercepted John Hood's flank attack. During the fighting Dodge rode to the front and personally led Thomas Sweeny's division into battle.

Thomas Sweeny
This action outraged Sweeny so much that he got in a fistfight with Dodge and fellow division commander John Fuller. Sweeny received a court-martial for this action while Dodge continued to lead the corps at the Battle of Ezra Church in Georgia.

Battle of Ezra Church
On August 19, 1864, during the siege of Atlanta, Dodge received a wound that was so serious the New York newspapers reported him dead. While Dodge was looking through an eyehole in the Union breastworks, a Confederate sharpshooter spotted him and shot him in the head. But the injury was not as serious as first thought; he was given a thirty-day leave, and was brought to Council Bluffs to recover.

Dodge in Union Uniform
Upon his recovery, he took command of the Department of the Missouri. Dodge established his headquarters at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, in 1865, and his family joined him. Another daughter, Anne, was born in Kansas in March 1866.

As the Civil War was coming to a close, the Department of the Missouri was expanded to include the departments of Kansas, Nebraska and Utah.  During the summer of 1865, Sioux, Cheyenne and Arapapho Indians raided the Bozeman Trail and overland mail routes.  Dodge ordered a punitive campaign to quell these raids.  Dodge's subordinates committed atrocities that would ensure harsh reprisals. The expedition eventually escalated into Red Cloud's War.

While escaping from a war-party in Wyoming, Dodge realized he had found a pass for the Union Pacific Railroad, west of the Platte River. 

In May 1866, he resigned from the military and, with the endorsement of Generals Grant and Sherman, became the Union Pacific's chief engineer and a leading figure in the construction of the Transcontinental Railroad.

Grenville Dodge and Exploration Party
In 1866, Dodge defeated incumbent Republican John Kasson in the nominating convention to represent Iowa's 5th congressional district in Congress. In the general election, he won, defeating former Union general James Tuttle.  His election brought problems since he was also away much of the time building the railroad. His time in Washington was often spent lobbying on behalf of the Union Pacific.  He served in the House from March 4, 1867 to March 3, 1869.

Dodge's job on the railroad was to plan the route and devise solutions to any obstacles encountered. Dodge had been hired by Herbert M. "Hub" Hoxie, a former Lincoln appointee and winner of the contract to build the first 250 miles of the Union Pacific Railroad. Hoxie assigned the contract to investor Thomas Clark "Doc" Durant, who was later prosecuted for attempts to manipulate the route to suit his land-holdings. This brought him into vicious conflict with Dodge and Hoxie. Eventually Durant imposed a consulting engineer named Silas Seymour to spy and interfere with Dodge's decisions.

Dodge found Durant to be an impediment. The Doctor's pilfering was siphoning money from construction and delaying Dodge's progress. Durant in turn complained about Dodge's slowness. He made erratic decisions about the route, undermining Dodge's studied proposals, and sent underlings to enforce them. It was not unusual for the engineer to return from a survey or from Washington to find the road being graded in a manner contradictory to his instructions. 

Durant's "General Order No. 1" of 1868 superseded Dodge's authority by ceding it to the consulting engineer in his absence, and it rescinded Dodge's ability to overturn Durant's manipulations upon discovery. It was a blatant attempt to force acquiescence or resignation, and the engineer exploded at the man "who has not an honest drop of Blood in his veins, who is connected with the Co. for the sole purpose of bleeding it and who the Co. say they cannot discharge for fear he will Black Mail it." At times, the manipulation bordered on mania: in 1869, when Dodge was in Washington lobbying fiercely to keep the Union Pacific afloat, Durant threatened to suspend him for his absence.

On May 10, 1869, Dodge and Samuel Montague, the Central Pacific's chief engineer, set the final spike of the Transcontinental Railroad at Promontory Point, Utah.  

Dodge at right center shaking hands with Samuel Montague
at the Golden Spike Ceremony, Promontory Point, Utah, May 10, 1869
Shortly afterwards, Dodge resigned his position.  He built a handsome home in Council Bluffs  at the cost of $35,000, a lavish sum for that day. The fourteen-room, three-story mansion stood on a high terrace overlooking the Missouri Valley, and had parquet floors and a number of modern conveniences quite unusual for the period. General Dodge was deeply involved in the planning and building of his home, making several modifications, such as central heating and hot and cold running water. 

Grenville M. Dodge House
Dodge retired for a while to Council Bluffs; he was a family man who had kept frequent correspondence with his wife, Ruth Anne, throughout construction.

Dodge was one of the richest men in Iowa. Dodge loved to make money, "irrespective of whether it were ethical or permanent," concluded his biographer, Stanley P. Hirshson. He speculated in land along the railroad routes that he proposed and won government contracts to supply Indian agencies – even though he had the highest bid and substituted items in the contracts. Between 1860 and 1870, his wealth increased from $12,000 to $350,000.

Dodge had purchased 100 shares of Credit Mobilier stock in his wife's name. It turned a handsome profit -- 341 percent in just 18 months -- but when the Credit Mobilier scandal erupted in 1872, Dodge would claim that his wife bought the shares from "her own resources." A congressional committee wanted to know more; federal agents were sent out, but they could not find Dodge.  Peter Dey told Congress that Dodge was "a man of wonderful resources, and can live in Texas all winter, out of doors, if he wants to, where none of your marshals can go, and if he don't want to come he will not come." 

Despite his wealth, the federal government granted him a pension in 1873, because his war wounds disabled him so he could not "obtain subsistence from manual labor." The pension was made retroactive to his discharge from the army. 

For the next few decades, Dodged lived in New York City to manage the growing number of businesses he had developed.  Dodge consulted on the building of the trans-Siberian railway in Russia during the late 1870s and frequently lobbied for railroad interests in Washington D.C.  During the 1880s and 1890s, he served as president or chief engineer of dozens of railroad companies. 

Toward the end of his life, Dodge began writing his memoirs. He hired an assistant to compile information and interview people who knew him. The research resulted in the Dodge Records, 23 volumes on Dodge's life. As noted by his biographer, Hirshson,  Dodge often rewrote history to suit himself, and "conveniently passed over his connections with politics, lobbying, and various scandals."

He was asked by President McKinley to chair the “Dodge Commission” charged with investigating accusations of Army misconduct following the Spanish-American War.

Dodge retired in Council Bluffs in 1907. 

In 1914, he was bedridden with cancer, and returned briefly to New York for radium treatment.

Dodge died at Council Bluffs on January 3, 1916, at the age of 84.

He was buried in Walnut Hill Cemetery in Council Bluffs. 

Dodge Mausoleum
Dodge left a trust to be activated twenty-one years after the death of his grandchildren, to be used for charities.  The Dodge Trust still provides charitable services to Council Bluffs.

Ruth Anne Dodge died on September 5, 1916, at her home in New York. Her body was brought back to Council Bluffs where she was buried at the family mausoleum in Walnut Hill Cemetery.

Ruth Anne Dodge
The sculpture of an angel at the Ruth Anne Dodge Memorial is the translation of a dream experienced by Ruth Anne Dodge on the three nights preceding her death. The form is a winged angel standing in the prow of a boat, one arm outstretched and the other holding a vessel from which flows a stream of water. 

"Black Angel", Ruth Anne Dodge Memorial
According to legend, Mrs. Dodge related to family members that she had a vision of being on a rocky shore and, through a mist, seeing a boat approach. In the prow was a beautiful young woman whom Mrs. Dodge thought to be an angel. The woman carried a small bowl under one arm and extended the other arm toward Mrs. Dodge in an invitation to partake of the water flowing from the vessel. The angel spoke twice, saying: "Drink, I bring you both a promise and a blessing."

This story prompted Ruth Anne's daughters, Anne Dodge and Eleanor Dodge Pusey, to commission a solid bronze statue, in memory of their mother. It was created in 1917 by Daniel Chester French, who was responsible for the statue of Abraham Lincoln at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C. 

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