Bluff area is rich in military and Civil War history and much action
occurred here during those years. The following narrative attempts to tell
that story supplemented with local pictures.
In August 1859 Abraham Lincoln, then an attorney for the Rock Island
Railroad, visited Council Bluffs, Iowa to
view a piece of land he held as
collateral on a loan. He met with Grenville Dodge, a railroad surveyor and
successful businessman, on the porch of the Pacific House Hotel (site now
a parking lot) to discuss the best route for a transcontinental railroad.
They then went a short distance to a bluff, now marked by a monument (Photos
#1 & #2
taken 2/2009) and looked west across the Missouri River Valley and
concluded that the flat Platte River Valley route west would be the best
choice. Subsequently, by congressional action in 1863, Council Bluffs was
selected as the eastern terminus of the Union Pacific Railroad. However,
since Council Bluffs and Omaha were not connected by a bridge across the
Missouri, Omaha actually became the starting point for the railroad and
has been the headquarters for the Union Pacific Railroad ever since.
General Dodge had a sterling military career that utilized his engineering
skills and aggressiveness. He joined the Union Army in 1861 and his first
task was to secure 6,000 muskets for the Iowa volunteers. That success led
to more promotions and greater responsibilities. He was credited with
achieving a Union victory at the Battle of Pea Ridge in Arkansas in March
1862 while suffering a serious wound. For that service he was appointed
Brigadier General of volunteers and placed in command of the District of
Mississippi building and protecting railroads. Along the way Dodge created a
highly effective intelligence gathering network which proved vital to
General Grant's operations.
In June 1864 as Major General he commanded the XVI Corps during Sherman's
Atlanta Campaign. He led the corps at the Battle of Ezra Church and
received a major head wound in Atlanta in August 1864. He returned to
Council Bluffs to recover and after several months was given command of
the Department of the Missouri in 1865 whose task it was to quash the
Indian raids on the plains. While escaping from a war party in the Black
Hills of South Dakota in September 1865 he accidentally discovered a pass
that the railroad could go through.
He resigned from the military in 1866, was elected to Congress from Iowa
and served one term. Much time was spent in Washington lobbying on behalf
of the Union Pacific. In that year Dodge became Chief Engineer of the
Union Pacific Railroad and played a dominant role in completing the
transcontinental railroad. In appreciation for bringing the railroad to
Dodge City, Kansas, the town bears his name.
Dodge retired in 1870 to Council Bluffs at the age of 39 and pursued his
many business interests. His family consisted of wife Ruth Ann, and
daughters Lettie, Eleanor (Ella) and Anne. They moved into the
lavish 14 room Victorian home he had built in 1869. That home (Photo
#3 taken 9/2008) is listed as a National Historic Landmark. The
home contains some of the original family furnishings and is open to the
General Dodge died in Council Bluffs in January 1916, Ruth Ann in
September 1916. Their mausoleum in Walnut Hill Cemetery is shown in
Photos #4 and
#5 taken 9/2008.
When Grenville Dodge arrived in Council Bluffs in 1853 he brought with
him, his sister, his brother and his parents. He married Ruth Ann in 1854.
All are buried in Walnut Hill Cemetery. His brother, Nathan P. Dodge,
managed many of Grenville's business interests including real estate. His
firm, N. P. Dodge Real Estate, is in its 156th year of serving the area's