Grenville M. Dodge

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Grenville Mellen Dodge
Major General Dodge sometime after his June 1864 promotion to Maj.Gen
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Iowa's 5th district
In office
March 4, 1867 – March 3, 1869
Preceded by John A. Kasson
Succeeded by Francis W. Palmer
Personal details
Born (1831-04-12)April 12, 1831
Danvers, Massachusetts
Died January 3, 1916(1916-01-03) (aged 84)
Council Bluffs, Iowa
Military service
Allegiance United States of America
Service/branch Union Army
Years of service 1861 - 1866
Rank Union army maj gen rank insignia.jpg Major General
Commands XVI Corps
Department of the Missouri
Battles/wars American Civil War

Grenville Mellen Dodge[1] (April 12, 1831 – January 3, 1916) was a Union army officer on the frontier and during the Civil War, a U.S. Congressman, businessman, and railroad executive who helped direct the construction of the Transcontinental Railroad.

Early life and career[edit]

Dodge was born in Putnamville, near Danvers in Massachusetts, 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. 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 to become "one the ablest surveyors of the exploration of the West," according to Charles Edgar Ames in Pioneering the Union Pacific. Lander was impressed with Dodge and encouraged him to go to his alma mater, Norwich University (in Vermont). Dodge prepared for college by attending Durham Academy in New Hampshire.

In 1851, he graduated from Norwich University with a degree in civil engineering, then moved to Iowa, where he settled in the Missouri River city of Council Bluffs. For the next decade, he was involved in surveying for railroads, including the Union Pacific. He married Ruth Anne Browne on May 29, 1854. He was also a partner in the Baldwin & Dodge banking firm, and in 1860 served on the Council Bluffs City Council.

Civil War[edit]

Dodge joined the Union Army in the Civil War. At the beginning of the war, Dodge was sent by the Governor 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, where he was wounded. 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.

He was appointed major general in June 1864 and commanded the XVI Corps during William T. 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 B. Hood's flank attack. During the fighting Dodge rode to the front and personally led Thomas W. Sweeny's division into battle.

This action outraged Sweeny so much that he got in a fistfight with Dodge and fellow division commander John W. Fuller. Sweeny received a court-martial for this action while Dodge continued to lead the corps at the Battle of Ezra Church. During the ensuing siege of Atlanta, while looking through an eyehole in the Union breastworks a Confederate sharpshooter spotted him and shot him in the head. After, he was to complete the war as commander of the Department of the Missouri.

Also during the war, he provided information to Thomas Clark Durant who consequently made a fortune[1] smuggling contraband cotton from the Confederate States.

After the war, Dodge joined the Military Order of the Loyal Legion of the United States and was assigned insignia number 484.

Indian campaigns[edit]

As the Civil War was coming to a close, Dodge's Department of the Missouri was expanded to include the departments of Kansas, Nebraska and Utah. During the summer of 1865, Sioux, Cheyenne and Arapaho Indians had been raiding the Bozeman Trail and overland mail routes. Dodge ordered a punitive campaign to quell these raids, which came to be known as the Powder River Expedition. Field command of the expedition was given to Brig. Gen. Patrick Edward Connor, who commanded the District of Utah. Connor's men inflicted a decisive defeat on the Arapaho Indians at the Battle of the Tongue River, but the expedition in general was inconclusive and eventually escalated into Red Cloud's War.


Dodge at right center shaking hands with Samuel S. Montague at the Golden Spike Ceremony. Photograph by Andrew J. Russell

During the 1865 campaign in the Laramie Mountains in Wyoming (known then as the Black Hills), while escaping from a war-party, 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 thus a leading figure in the construction of the Transcontinental Railroad.

Dodge's job 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 C. 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.

Seeing that Durant was making a fortune, Dodge bought shares in Durant's company, Crédit Mobilier, which was the main contractor on the project. He made a substantial profit, but when the scandal of Durant's dealings emerged, Dodge removed himself to Texas to avoid testifying in the inquiry.[citation needed]

Politics and later life[edit]

Dodge's house in Council Bluffs, Iowa

In 1866, Dodge defeated incumbent Republican John A. 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 M. Tuttle. His election brought problems since he was also away much of the time building the railroad. His time in Washington (during the Fortieth United States Congress), was often spent lobbying on behalf of the Union Pacific, although he supported internal improvements to the West. He served in the House from March 4, 1867 to March 3, 1869.[citation needed] In April he would complete negotiations with Collis Huntington, on behalf of Union Pacific Railroad regarding the completion of the First Transcontinental Railroad.[2]

He was a delegate to the Republican National Convention in Chicago in 1868 and again at the 1876 convention in Cincinnati. After his term in office expired, he returned to railroad engineering. During the 1880s and 1890s, he served as president or chief engineer of dozens of railroad companies. Dodge went to New York City to manage the growing number of businesses he had developed.

Dodge was appointed to head a commission investigating the conduct of the Army during the War with Spain. The commission traveled to several cities in Dodge's personal railroad car. The report was published as a Senate document titled "Report of the Commission appointed by the President to investigate the Conduct of the War Department during the war with Spain."

Dodge returned home to Iowa and died in Council Bluffs in 1916. He is buried there in Walnut Hill Cemetery. His home, the Grenville M. Dodge House, is a National Historic Landmark.

Fort Dodge in Kansas, an important army base during the settlement of the western frontier, was named in his honor, as is Dodge City.[3][4] Although Dodge Street in Omaha, Nebraska, the location of Union Pacific Headquarters, is often reputed to have been named after him, the street was actually named for influential (and unrelated) Iowa Senator Augustus C. Dodge.[citation needed] The Interstate 480 bridge over the Missouri River is named the Grenville Dodge Memorial Bridge in his honor. Camp Dodge—the Iowa Army National Guard Center in Johnston, Iowa—is named after him. Dodge Hall at his alma mater, Norwich University, is also named after him.

See also[edit]


  • ^ Variations of his name include Greenville and Grenville Mullen. Grenville Mellen is the name used on his grave site in Iowa.


  1. ^ American Experience | Transcontinental Railroad | People & Events at
  2. ^ "Ceremony at "Wedding of the Rails," May 10, 1869 at Promontory Point, Utah". World Digital Library. 1869-05-10. Retrieved 2013-07-20. 
  3. ^ Wright, Robert M. Dodge City, The Cowboy Capital, 1913.
  4. ^ Schmidt, Heinie, Fort Dodge State Soldiers' Home, High Plains Journal, January 15, 1948.

Further reading[edit]

  • Granger, J. T. A Brief Biographical Sketch of the Life of Major-General Grenville M. Dodge. New York: Arno Press, 1981. OCLC 6708425
  • Hirshson, Stanley P. Grenville M. Dodge: Soldier, Politician, Railroad Pioneer. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1967. OCLC 232995

External links[edit]

United States House of Representatives
Preceded by
John A. Kasson
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Iowa's 5th congressional district

March 4, 1867 – March 3, 1869
Succeeded by
Francis W. Palmer