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Collection Title: Dawes (Rufus R.) Letters

Collection Number: M30

Dates: 1893

Volume: 4 Items

Provenance: Donated by Mr. M.D. Brett on July 14, 1960.

Copyright: This collection may be protected from unauthorized copying by the Copyright Law of the United States (Title 17, United States Code).

Biographical/Historical Sketch:

Rufus R. Dawes was born in 1839 in Marietta, Ohio, the second son of Henry and Sarah Cutler Dawes. Henry Dawes was originally from Maine, but settled in Ohio sometime between 1825 and 1830, where he set up business as a merchant.

Rufus Dawes attended school in Mauston (Juneau County), Wisconsin, (no information on the institution is available) and graduated in 1860. When the American Civil War broke out in 1861, Dawes was 22 years old and immediately began organizing a volunteer unit from Mauston. Dawes was elected captain of the company on July 6, 1861. Ten days later, the unit joined the 6th Wisconsin Volunteer Infantry Regiment, attached to the First Corps of the Union Army. The regiment left Wisconsin and arrived in Washington D.C. on July 28, 1861. For the first year of the war, Dawes remained in Washington and saw no major action.

In June 1862, Dawes received a promotion to Major, and within the month, had participated in the Second Battle of Bull Run (Second Manassas to the Confederacy). Further engagements included Antietam, Fredericksburg, Chancellorsville, Gettysburg, the Battle of the Wilderness, and the sieges of Petersburg and Richmond. Following the Battle of Antietam, the regiment became a part of the famous Iron Brigade, comprised of the 19th Indiana and the 2nd, 6th, and 7th Wisconsin regiments. The Iron Brigade, also called the Black Hats because of their headgear, was the only all western brigade in the Union Army, and suffered a greater proportional loss than any other brigade.

In March 1863, Dawes received a further promotion to the rank of Lieutenant Colonel. At Gettysburg, five months later, Major General John Alan Blair of Tupelo, Mississippi, surrendered the 230 men of the 2nd Mississippi Regiment to Dawes. In July 1864, Dawes was offered the full rank of Colonel, but could not accept because horrendous casualty figures required him to stay with his regiment.

Dawes was mustered out of the army on August 10, 1864, following encounters at Spotsylvania and Cold Harbor. He returned home to Marietta, Ohio, and settled there with his new wife, M.B. Gates Dawes, whom he married on January 18, 1864. Little information is available concerning the postwar career of Rufus Dawes, but on March 13, 1865, he was awarded the rank of Brevet Brigadier General. Also, in 1890, he published an account of his Civil War career entitled Service with the 6th Wisconsin Volunteers. While researching for the book, Dawes corresponded with Major General John Blair of Tupelo, Mississippi, and the two became good friends. Rufus Dawes died in 1899.

Scope and Content:

This collection consists of three letters addressed to Rufus R. Dawes, and one newspaper clipping. The four items are dated between July and October 1893.

The first item is a photocopy of a newspaper clipping containing a letter from Dawes that appeared in the Southern Sentinel of Ripley, Mississippi, on July 27, 1893. In the letter, Dawes asks for information from the surviving members of the Second Mississippi Regiment, who surrendered to Dawes on the first day of the Battle of Gettysburg. In particular, Dawes wishes to know what became of the regimental color bearer whom Dawes found wounded on the field that day. Also included are minor details on the Battle of Antietam.

The second item is a photocopy of a letter received by Dawes, dated September 12, 1893. The letter was written by D.J. Hill, a former member of the 2nd Mississippi Regiment. Hill replied to the letter that appeared in the Southern Sentinel, and included the original newspaper clipping in his reply to Dawes. Hill informed Dawes that Christopher Columbus Davis, the wounded color bearer, survived the war, but unfortunately committed suicide a few years later. Hill suggested that grief over the loss of his four brothers during the war, coupled with the defeat of the Confederacy were responsible for Davis' suicide. Hill then recounted a story from the Battle of Gettysburg in which Hill evaded capture and aided a badly wounded Union soldier.

The final two letters were written to Dawes by John Alan Blair, the commander of the 2nd Mississippi Regiment. In the first letter, dated October 23, 1893, Blair primarily discussed family matters and business, asking Dawes about the health of his family and promising to send a photograph that Dawes had apparently requested. The final letter from Blair dated October 31, 1893, offered details concerning the Battle of Gettysburg, in particular the activities of the men of the 2nd Mississippi Regiment prior to their surrender to Dawes on July 1, 1863. Blair also provided minor details on the Battle of Sharpsburg (the Battle of Antietam to the Union).

This collection is of note to anyone interested in the regimental histories of the Union Army of the Potomac during the American Civil War, in particular the history of the Iron Brigade. The collection also offers a few details concerning the Battle of Gettysburg.


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