General Grenville M. Dodge

Taken from The Daily Nonpareil's "Celebration 150," written by Mary Alice McClure

General Grenville M. Dodge was instrumental in the growth not only of our community, but our nation.  Dodge made his youthful dream of building a railroad across the country a reality, and in its wake he laid out plans for towns that brought people and other railroads to network the nation, making them all neighbors.

It has been written of Dodge by the restoration consultant for the Dodge House, "You will be aware of a way of life that is all but vanished.  You may also be aware of a seeming presence of a man of small physical statue whose enormous capacity for living made him truly larger than life."

The raw courage of a boy born into a family so poor they couldn't make ends meet, Dodge's genius and tenacity took him from poverty in Danvers, Massachusetts, to become a wealthy man in Council Bluffs.

He was a man who was a friend to presidents, statesmen, financial tycoons and leaders of states and of our nation.  A maverick who was also a manipulator, Dodge started laying track for the Eastern Railroad at age 14.  he was educated in academies and graduated at age nineteen from Norwich University in Vermont.

Dodge started West by joining the engineer corps of the Illinois Central Railroad as an axe man, doing surveying.  It was during this time in Peru, Illinois, that he met the lovely Ruth Ann Brown, who would later become his wife.  Although she played piano, enjoyed opera and poetry, Brown could ride a horse and shoot a gun as well as Dodge.

The Gold Rush in California presented the need for a railroad to transport goods and services to those who had pushed on to that territory via wagon trains.  It became Dodge's dream to build that railroad.

His next move westward was surveying the trans-Iowa route of the proposed Mississippi and Missouri Railroad, which came to be known as the Rock Island.  He landed in Council Bluffs in 1853 and recognized it as a permanent settlement ready for business exploitation, and he welcomed the excitement.  it is as though Dodge and the nation grew side by side from this point in history until his death in 1916.

Brown and Dodge were married in 1854.  He brought not only his wife, but his parents, brother and sister to this area.  Nathan, the brother, managed many of Dodge's business ventures and became one of Council Bluffs' most prominent citizens.

A daughter, Lettie, was born in 1855 to Dodge and his wife in a cabin in Council Bluffs.  Their second daughter, Eleanor, whom they called Ella, was born in 1858.

Dodge's genius found him in many areas of the money game.  Before the financial panic of 1857, from which he suffered no great losses, Dodge and his partner, John T. Baldwin, founded the Council Bluffs Savings Bank (now Firstar Bank).  Dodge lobbied the Iowa Legislature to promote the railroad, which would run on his land.

Abraham Lincoln, then an attorney for the Rock Island Railroad, came to Council Bluffs in August 1859 to deliver a campaign speech and examine a tract of land he held as security for a loan.  If he were elected president, the final choice for the route of the continental railroad would be his.

Dodge talked with Lincoln for more than two hours at a local hotel and then Lincoln was taken to a bluff now memorialized with the Lincoln Monument.

Dodge's talent as a military commander during the Civil War indicated he was a good leader.  His most unusual service was that of organizing a spy system for Gen. Grant's Northern armies.  He also reconstructed railroads destroyed in the war.   The latter command gave him military and political friendships of value to his future ventures.

General Dodge suffered a sever head wound while in Atlanta in August 1864.   He was brought to Council Bluffs to recover.  After some months, he was reassigned to clear the plains of Indians who were murdering settlers.  He established headquarters at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas in 1865 and his family joined him.   Another daughter, Anne, was born in Kansas in March 1866.

Dodge resigned his commission in 1866 and was elected to Congress from Iowa's 5th District.  He learned the art of lobbying and for the rest of his life did so on behalf of veterans and the railroads.  Finding politics not to his liking, Dodge did not seek another term.

The Union Pacific Railroad was under way before Dodge became its chief engineer.   He devoted four years of his life to building his "greatest accomplishment," as he referred to the railroad.

By 1870, Dodge was one of the richest men in Iowa.  The war settled, his railroad built and finances stable, he decided to settle permanently in Council Bluffs, near his family.  At age 39, he moved the family into the lavish home he had built for them at 605 Third Street.

Lettie married Robert E. Montgomery in 1874.  He worked with Dodge in land sales to finance railroads.  They divorced in 1908.

Ella was married in 1880 to Frank E. Pusey, who came from a prominent local family.  Anne never married.

Upon Dodge's death in 1916, he left a trust to be activated twenty-one years after the death of his grandchildren.  It was to be used for charities.  In 1987 it was disclosed at $1 million.  More than $400,000 has since been distributed and the fund is currently valued at $1,600,000 [as of June 1996].

While Dodge was off fighting the war and helping build a nation with towns and railroads to link tose towns, Nathan was working to build up the metro area through finance and real estate.  The fourth and fifth generations of Nathan's family are still carrying on that tradition.

Council Bluffs is graced with reminders of Grenville Dodge's family - the Dodge House museum and Ruth Anne Dodge Memorial, The Black Angel.  Many know the story of Ruth Anne's dream that prompted daughters Ella and Anne to commission Daniel Chester French to sculpt the angel.


Grenville M. Dodge

by Bradley & Randolph, San Francisco

No mention of the Civil War in the State of Iowa could possibly be made without the mention of General Grenville M. Dodge whose influence and knowledge provided an acute insight to numerous issues.  Much has been written regarding his acclaim and ability as a courageous leader of the Iowa forces.

In our effort to introduce this subject, we resorted to the 1907 publication of the History of Pottawattamie County by Field and Reed.

In 1854, General Dodge became a resident of Council Bluffs, where he became engaged in manifold interests, including banking, real estate and freighting.   At about this same time, he took the initial step in his military career in organizing the Council  Bluffs guards, the nucleus of his future great command, and was made its captain.  He continued in his professional and business interests at Council Bluffs until the outbreak of the Civil War.

At the outbreak of hostilities he hastened to tender his services to the state government with his command, which he had previously organized.  Being located on the frontier, the company was not accepted, but Mr. Dodge was sent by Governor Kirkwood to  Washington, in the spring of 1861, to arrange for the equipment of the Iowa troops.  Because of his success in this area, he earned immediate respect and was offered a commission as captain in the regular army.  He declined this, but upon recommendation of the War Department, Governor Kirkwood commissioned him colonel and authorized him to raise a regiment.

Within an incredibly short time, he had organized the Fourth Iowa Infantry at Council Bluffs and he also recruited a company of artillery known as the Dodge Battery, which became the Second Iowa Battery.  Within two weeks time, Colonel Dodge was leading his command against the rebels in northern Missouri.

During his excursion into northwestern Missouri he was successful in putting to flight the guerrillas that infested the northwestern part of that state.   He also checked the rebel colonel, Poindexter, in his northward movement and forced him to retreat to southern Missouri.  With his command, Colonel Dodge was first assigned to Rolla, Missouri, where he was placed in command of the post; in the southwest campaign, he commanded the First Brigade, Fourth Division of that army.

His regiment was the first that entered the city of Springfield, Missouri and at the battle of Pea Ridge his brigade saved Curtis' army from disaster, although he was wounded and had three horses killed, while the fourth was wounded under him.  He was under fire for three days and remained at his post until the battle was brought to a close.  He lost one-third of his entire command, every field officer being either killed or wounded, for he would not retreat.  His calmness in the face of danger, his understanding of the situation and his indomitable courage constituted the strong elements in the achievement of the great victory.

His service immediately won recognition in promotion to the rank of brigadier general and when he had recovered from his wounds he was assigned to duty at Columbus, Kentucky, in command of the Central Division, Army of the Tennessee, where his previous experience as a railroad builder was brought into requisition in the reconstruction of the Mobile and Ohio Railroad, which had been destroyed by the rebels and was much needed in carrying supplies to the army.

In November 1862, General Grant appointed General Dodge to command of the Second Division, Army of the Tennessee.  He built all the railroads; destroyed those that could be of use to the enemy; intercepted and defeated all raiding parties and quite effectually put a stop to guerrilla warfare.

About this time, President Lincoln called him to Washington to consult with him about the location of the eastern terminus of the Union Pacific Railroad, the result of which it was located at  Council Bluffs, Iowa.

At the opening of the Atlanta campaign, he joined General Sherman in command of the Sixteenth Army Corps and again distinguished himself.  While standing in a trench before Atlanta, he was severely wounded in the head and in 1864 was sent north to recover.

On the restoration of his health, he was assigned in November to the command of the Department and Army of the Missouri.  The western country was overrun with guerrillas and the army was in bad condition.  General Dodge proceeded at once to restore order, to introduce discipline and demand obedience and also quelled the general Indian outbreak which then threatened along the entire frontier and opened the overland mail routes to Denver, Salt Lake and California, which had been closed three months by the Indians, at the same time making a vigorous war on the guerrillas.

General Jefferson Thompson's command, with eight thousand officers and men, surrendered to him in Arkansas.

At the close of the war, General Dodge's command was made to include all the Indian country west of the Missouri River and north of Indian Territory, and for a year thereafter, he was in command of the Indian campaigns reaching from the Arkansas to the Yellowstone Rivers.  Many Indian battles were fought by his troops, which finally brought about a temporary peace with all the plains tribes.

Feeling that his country no longer needed his aid, General Dodge tendered his resignation, which was reluctantly accepted, May 30, 1866.  He had been placed by General Grant at the haed of the list of major-generals of volunteers whose services he desired to retain with the rank in the Regular.


The General Dodge House
A registered national historic landmark

General Dodge's handsome Victorian home was built it 1869.  It is located at 605 Third Street at a cost of $35,000, a lot of money for that time.  The fourteen room, three-story mansion stands on a high terrace overlooking the Missouri River valley and displays such architectural features as parquet floors, cherry, walnut and butternut woodwork and a number of then-modern conveniences.  In 1963, the Council Bluffs Park Board and the Historical Society of Pottawattamie County acquired the property and in October of the same year, the U. S. Department of the Interior designated the house a National Historic Landmark.  It is currently operated as a museum.  The General Dodge House is open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday and 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday.  It is closed Mondays, Thanksgiving, Christmas and the month of January.   There is a nominal admission fee charged.  For more information, please call:   1-712-322-2406.


The Ruth Anne Dodge Memorial

General Dodge's daughters, Anne Dodge and Eleanor Dodge Pusey, commissioned and contributed Council Bluffs' most valuable work of art in memory of their mother, Ruth Anne Dodge.

Affectionately called the Black Angel, the statue in solid bronze was created by the noted American sculptor Daniel Chester French.  He is known nationally for his statue of the Minute Man in Concord, Massachusetts and the seated Lincoln in the Memorial in Washington, DC.  The Black Angel was commissioned in 1917, completed in 1919 and dedicated in 1920.

The Ruth Anne Dodge Memorial is located at the head of Lafayette Avenue and North Second Street at the edge of Fairview Cemetery.  It is of heroic size, representing 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.

The sculpture is said to be the translation of a dream experienced by Mrs. Dodge on the three nights preceeding her death in 1916.  According to the 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.

Then, according to accounts later published by Mrs. Dodge's daughter, Anne, the angel spoke twice, saying: "Drink, I bring you both a promise and a blessing."

Anne wrote that the vision came three times to her mother and on the third visit, Mrs. Dodge took the drink as offered and felt "transformed into a new and glorious spiritual being."  Mrs. Dodge died soon after the third vision.

Over the years, time and vandalism caused the statue to fall into a state of disrepair.  Restoration of the monument and surroundings was begun in June 1984.  The cleaning of the corroded surfaces has returned its original luster and the water flows again.  The stone aggregate basin was rebuilt and the original steps reset.  The addition of lighting, landscaping, walkways and wrought iron fencing complete the historic landmark.

The National Park Service has placed the Black Angel on the Register of National Historic Places.  It is to visitors year-round.


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