Grenville Mellen Dodge
Grenville Mellen Dodge

Grenville Mellen Dodge

  • Born: April 12, 1831 – Putnamville, Essex County, Massachusetts
  • Died: January 3, 1916 (age 84) – Council Bluffs, Pottawattamie County, Iowa, USA
  • Buried: Walnut Hill Cemetery, Council Bluffs, Pottawattamie County, Iowa, USA – Plot Section 5, Lot 2

Grenville Mellen Dodge | DaveTavres.comCivil War Union Army Major General, US Congressman, Civil Railroad Engineer. During the Civil War he served in the Union Army under Major Generals Ulysses S. Grant and William Tecumseh Sherman, and post-war was the driving force behind the Union Pacific Railroad company and the effort to build the Transcontinental Railroad. Born in Danvers, Massachusetts, as a young boy he came under the tutelage of civil engineer (and future Civil War Union Army General) Frederick W. Lander, who started him in a career of land and railroad surveying. He graduated from Captain Alden Patridge’s Norwich, Vermont Military and Scientific Academy in 1851 with a degree in civil engineering, and soon after relocated to the American Midwest, taking a job as a surveyor for the Illinois Central Railroad. Throughout the decade be made railroad survey’s in Iowa and the Nebraska Territory, all with an eye for a transcontinental railroad, a popular cause among civil engineers and politicians.

Permanently relocating to Council Bluffs, Iowa, he became wealthy with real estate speculation tied in to his railroad surveying activities. In 1859 he met future President Abraham Lincoln in Council Bluffs, and his discussions with him firmly entrenched in Lincoln’s mind that a transcontinental railroad was possible and needed. Active in the local militia, when the Civil War began in April 1861 Grenville M. Dodge offered his services to preserve the Union, and was commissioned as Colonel of the 4th Iowa Volunteer Infantry on June 17, 1861. When the regiment was assigned to the Union’s Army of the Southwest, Colonel Dodge was elevated to command the 1st Brigade of the 4th Division, He led his men at the March 7 and 8, 1862 Battle of Pea Ridge, Arkansas, where he has three horses shot out from under him and was wounded when he was hit by a tree branch knocked down by a Confederate artillery shell. On March 21, 1862 he was promoted to Brigadier General, US Volunteers. He was then assigned to the Army of the Tennessee, eventually rising to command the XVI Corps. The men under his command became adept at repairing rail lines, roads and telegraph lines destroyed by Confederates, and he developed a particularly successful critical intelligence gathering apparatus among the local populace while serving under General Ulysses S. Grant during the 1863 Vicksburg Campaign. Promoted to Major General, US Volunteers on June 7, 1864, he then led his men under General William T. Sherman during the 1864 Atlanta Campaign, personally leading a division in his corps in an advance during the July 22, 1864 Battle of Atlanta and at the July 28, 1864 Battle of Ezra Church. During the Siege of the city in August 1864 he was shot in the head and severely wounded by a Confederate sharpshooter, which brought an end to his combat field service.

When he recovered his was assigned to Department command in Missouri and the Midwest, where he helped facilitate railroad construction (some using captured rebel soldiers as laborers) and engaging in brutal policies and guerrilla warfare battles with Native Americans. Offered the position of Chief Engineer of the Union Pacific Railroad in January 1866 he resigned his army commission to accept the job. He directed the surveying, grading and construction the railroad west from its starting point in Omaha, Nebraska, to its meeting with the eastward directed Central Pacific Railroad at Promontory Summit, Utah Territory, fending off attacking Native Americans, continual labor issues, weather, natural obstacles, and obstructing railroad and government officials in the process. In all he guided the Union Pacific in building over one thousand miles of railroad track in what was is considered one of the greatest engineering feats of the 19th Century.

His popularity in his hometown of Council Bluffs was such that in 1866 he was elected as a Republican to represent Iowa’s 5th Congressional District in the United States House of Representatives, defeating incumbent Congressman John A. Kasson despite doing little to no active campaigning for himself. He also spent little time performing his Congressional duties during his single term in office, being so heavily involved in the Union Pacific Railroad construction that he rarely went to Washington DC (when he was there he spent a majority of his time advocating for the railroad). When his Congressional term ended in 1869 he declined to run again. In the 1870s and 1880 he was much in demand for his railroad experience, helping to create more routes and heading a number of other Railroad companies, building even more wealth for himself. He served as a Presidential Elector in 1868 and also in 1876. During the Spanish-American War he constructed a railroad in newly captured Cuba, and headed a commission directed by Congress to investigate the United States Army’s conduct there during the conflict. His last years were spend in his hometown of Council Bluffs, Iowa, where he passed away in 1916. Dodge City, Kansas was secondarily named for him (the town grew up around an abandoned United States Army fort named for Grenville Dodge, and the town retained the already existing local name).

His residence in Council Bluff is now the Grenville M. Dodge National Historic House and Museum. In 1967 historian Stanley P. Hirshon published the work “Grenville M. Dodge: Soldier, Politician, Railroad Pioneer”.

by: Russ Dodge – Find a grave

Smith & Wesson No. 2 Old Army Revolvers

General Grenville M. Dodge’s original Civil War production Smith & Wesson Model Number 2 Old Model revolvers (a.k.a. No. 2 Old Army) with factory case and accessories. The inlaid brass shield in the case lid is inscribed: “UPRR” over the monogram “GMD”. The consignor states that these pistols were the property of General Grenville M. Dodge (1831-1916). Dodge was an important general officer in the Union Army during the Civil War and the Chief Engineer for the Union Pacific Railroad in the years that followed the war. “UPRR/GMD” almost certainly stands for “Union Pacific Railroad/Grenville M. Dodge”.

Grenville Dodge was born in Danvers, Massachusetts, and studied civil engineering at Norwich College. He surveyed for what became the Union Pacific Railroad before the Civil War and moved to Council Bluffs, Iowa, in 1854. With the outbreak of the Civil War he was appointed Colonel of the 4th Iowa Volunteer Infantry. He was a key figure in the Federal victory at Pea Ridge, Arkansas, and was wounded in action. As a general officer he fought in the Vicksburg and Chattanooga campaigns. He was promoted to Major General in 1864 and commanded XVI Corps in the Army of Tennessee. Dodge was instrumental in the capture of Atlanta and was wounded during the siege. In 1865, Dodge was appointed commander of the Department of the Missouri and played a leading role in the Powder River War. Dodge resigned from the Army in 1866 and was elected to Congress from Iowa where he served for one term (1866-1868).

In 1868 he took the position of Chief Engineer of the Union Pacific Railroad. Dodge was responsible for selection of the route of the transcontinental railroad through Wyoming and Utah. He is prominently pictured in the photograph of the junction of the Union Pacific and Central Pacific railroads at Promontory Point, Utah. The revolvers have six-inch barrels, three pin frames and six shot, non-fluted cylinders. The barrel, cylinders and frames have the high polish S&W blue finish. The hammers, triggers and cylinder pins are color casehardened. The two-piece stocks are rosewood with a high polish, varnish finish. The top of the barrel ribs are roll-stamped with the legend: “SMITH.& WESSON.SPRINGFIELD, MASS.” in a single line. The cylinders are roll-stamped: “PATENTED APRIL 3.1855.JULY 5.1859. & DEC 18.1860.” in a single line.

Revolver A has the assembly number “X2” stamped on the barrel lug below the forcing cone and on the face of the cylinder. Revolver B has the assembly number “L7” stamped in the same locations. Revolver A has the serial number “11214” stamped on the butt;

Revolver B has the serial number “10631” on the butt. The mahogany case has varnish finish and inlaid brass shield on the lid. The interior is lined with blue velvet and has three compartments. The case is complete with a pewter oil bottle, four-piece, jointed steel cleaning rod with wooden handle and brass tip and an empty carton of 50 No. 2 Pistol Cartridges manufactured by S&W.

The S&W No. 2 Old Army revolver was a popular firearm that was frequently carried by Federal officers during the Civil War and widely used on the frontier following the War. General George A. Custer owned a cased pair of S&W No. 2 Old Army revolvers. Legendary gunfighter William B. (“Wild Bill”) Hickok carried a S&W No.2 Old Army Revolver when he was killed in Deadwood, Dakota Territory, in 1876. General Grenville Dodge was an important Civil War General and a key figure in the construction of the transcontinental Railroad that opened the American West. These are an extremely historic pair of factory cased S&W No. 2 Old Army revolvers.
BBL: 6.0 inch
Gauge: 32 RF
Finish: blue
Grips: rosewood
Serial Number: 11214
Condition: Very fine. Revolver A retains 70% of the original high polish blue finish. Most of the wear is concentrated on the sides of the barrel and back strap where the finish was aged to a blue-gray patina. There are traces of light pitting on the butt, the sides of the cylinder and the barrel at the muzzle. The face of the cylinder has moderate flash pitting. The case colors on the cylinder pin, trigger and hammer have faded to a mottled silver gray patina. The grips are in excellently condition and retain nearly all of the high polish varnish finish with several minor handling marks. The barrel and cylinder markings are sharp. The action is tight and functions fine. The case interior is in very fine original condition. The blue velvet lining is clean, bright and free from oil stains or tears. Wear is limited to minor compression marks from the revolver cylinders and one small chip in the edge of the case.

B) Described in “A”.
BBL: 6.0 inch
Gauge: 32 S&W
Finish: Blue
Grips: rosewood
Serial Number: 10631
Condition: Very fine. The revolver retains 75% plus of the original blue finish. The balance of the revolver has a pleasing blue-gray patina. The cylinder has some scattered flash pitting on the face and leading edge. The hammer, trigger and cylinder pin have 30-40% of the original case colors. The markings on the barrel and cylinder are sharp. The rosewood grips are in excellent condition with nearly all of the original varnish and minimal handling wear. The action is tight and functions perfectly. The case is in fine condition. The exterior retains most of the original varnish and has superficial handling marks. This is an outstanding factory cased set of S&W No. 2 Old Army Revolvers; the combination of rarity, condition and historic association with a significant Civil War General and important figure in the history of the American West is a unique combination.

Smith & Wesson No. 2 Old Army Revolvers

Thompson: Grenville M. Dodge: A name to remember

Grenville M. Dodge was that rare logistical genius. Though not well known in local history, as a Union Army officer he helped marshal thousands of laborers to rebuild bridges, scale chasms and reopen critical railroad and telegraph lines to support the Union Army before and after the Chattanooga Campaign during the fall of 1863.

In addition to fighting and engineering successfully in the Civil War, he conferred with President Abraham Lincoln on westward expansion, and later oversaw much of the building of the Transcontinental Railroad.

Born in Danvers, Mass., in 1831, Dodge early on displayed a temper but learned to channel it in a positive manner. At age 14, he was introduced to Fredrick Lander, a gifted young surveyor. Taken under his wing, Dodge proved quite proficient at surveying and made that his life’s work. He graduated from Norwich University in Vermont with a degree in civil engineering in 1851. A contemplative young man, Grenville saw the potential of a railroad reaching to the west coast.

Moving westward in the mid-1850s, Dodge began working with another gifted surveyor, Peter Dey, in locating the best rail route across the state of Iowa. Native Americans called Dodge “Level Eye” because of his ability to peer across a valley or mountainside and plot the best course for a rail line. His aptitude as an engineer grew exponentially. Other doors began to open.

Dodge became involved in an overland freighting company and co-founder of a banking firm. He established a rapport with a rising political star, Abraham Lincoln. Both saw the need for rails to transport people and material to the west.

When the Civil War erupted in April 1861, Dodge became a captain in the Union army. Iowa’s governor sent him eastward to obtain muskets and supplies for Iowa volunteers. His reputation grew as a man who got things done thoroughly and efficiently.

Best known for his engineering and management skills, he also created a highly effective intelligence gathering network during operations in the South by using female spies, runaway slaves, local unionists and tapped telegraph lines. This network supported Gen. Ulysses Grant’s initiatives and was a precursor to the modern Intelligence Corps of the U.S. Army.

As the focus on the war moved toward the Western Theater in the fall of 1863, President Lincoln saw Chattanooga as a key city because of its strategic location on both rail and river. With Gen. William Rosecrans and his Union Army under siege and in desperate need of food and reinforcements, Lincoln sent Grant to Chattanooga. Rail lines from Memphis and Nashville had to be repaired so supplies and soldiers could move in and around this key town.

The area around Chattanooga had numerous river and stream crossings. Vast chasms had to be bridged. Telegraph lines and more than 180 bridges destroyed by Gen. Braxton Bragg’s Confederate forces needed rebuilding.

Dodge, who had been promoted to brigadier general, was assigned this logistical nightmare. One group of soldiers forged tools, while others cut wood, cleared lines and dynamited debris. His efforts contributed to Grant’s success in the Chattanooga Campaign.

In 1864, Dodge took command of the XVI Corps during Gen. William T. Sherman’s Atlanta campaign and was promoted again, to major general. Peering through a peephole in a Union fortification, he sustained a head wound from a Rebel sharpshooter. Dodge was transported to Chattanooga, where a successful convalescence enabled him to regain his health. He never forgot the care he received here.

In the spring of 1865, Dodge was assigned to oversee the Indian campaign on the plains and also protect the overland stage and freight routes to California.

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

His experience in construction gained during the Civil War proved invaluable. East- and west-bound lines met on May 10, 1869, at Promontory Point, Utah, in the Golden Spike Ceremony. He was elected to one term in the U.S. House of Representatives, where he supported the Union Pacific as well as internal improvements to the West.

He later served as president or chief engineer for a number of railroad companies. Grenville died in 1916 at age 82, having served his country well.

by Jim Thompson