Civil 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”.
Bio by: RPD2
Ruth Ann Browne Dodge