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Dodge, Augustus Caesar
(January 2, 1812–November 20, 1883)

–Democratic politician, military leader, U.S. senator, minister to Spain—was born the son of Henry Dodge in St. Genevieve, Missouri, of the then Louisiana Territory. At the age of 15 his family moved from St. Genevieve to Galena, Illinois, after his father took command of a military unit that was directed to build block houses in an attempt to protect settlers from neighboring Winnebago tribes. Henry Dodge's commission along the upper Mississippi placed the Dodge family on the western frontier in the 1820s and 1830s. The spring of 1831 brought the first engagements with Black Hawk, the Sauk leader who was seeking to regain tribal lands along the Mississippi River at Rock Island. The senior Dodge enlisted the help of Augustus Caesar (A. C.) Dodge as a lieutenant, serving as an aide to his father. By the conclusion of the Black Hawk War, Henry Dodge had earned recognition as “Captain of Aggressive Civilization” and “Hero of the Black Hawk War.”

    A. C. Dodge spent his youth alongside French, German, and Irish immigrants as a miner in the lead mines of the upper Mississippi River valley in an effort to help pay off family debts incurred by his father while in St. Genevieve. On March 19, 1837, A. C. Dodge married Clara Ann Hertich. The marriage was the culmination of a childhood romance that began before the Dodge family moved from St. Genevieve. Meanwhile, Galena’s status as a social and political center of the region led Dodge to turn his attention to politics. In 1838 he moved to Burlington, Iowa, to accept an appointment as the Register of the U.S. Land Office for the newly formed Iowa Territory. On November 19, 1838, Dodge recorded the first land sales in Burlington as pioneers eagerly sought to secure titles to the lands in the Black Hawk Purchase.

    In 1839 Dodge accepted an appointment as brigadier general of the Second Brigade in the First Division of the Iowa Territorial Militia. The following year citizens of Burlington elected him as alderman. In the same year the Democratic Party nominated him as the Iowa Territory's delegate to Congress. He secured the party's nomination and won the election over Whig Party candidate Alfred Rich and outcast Democrat James Churchman. Dodge subsequently served two additional terms as congressional delegate, directing and securing funding for mail routes and post offices, petitioning for improvement of the Des Moines River and militia needs, securing the settlement of the Iowa-Missouri boundary dispute and Indian land disputes, and guiding the process of admitting Iowa to statehood.

    In 1848 Dodge was elected, along with his old friend George W. Jones, to represent the new state of Iowa in the U.S. Senate. There he joined his father, who represented Wisconsin, marking the first time in American history that a father and son had served concurrent terms in the U.S. Senate. A. C. Dodge arrived in the nation's capital as tension over the sectional crisis was building. Henry Clay, "the Great Compromiser," introduced to the Senate the Compromise of 1850 that limited the expansion of slavery in the expanding West and Southwest but also offered the slaveholding states strengthened federal support by way of the Fugitive Slave Act. Dodge saw the Compromise of 1850 as the best way to keep an expanding nation united and balanced. As a member of the Democratic Party, Dodge followed the party's lead in voting for state sovereignty. Dodge also followed party stalwart Stephen A. Douglas, voting for the doctrine of popular sovereignty. Although Lewis Cass is credited with creating the doctrine, Douglas became its champion. In response to federal limitations on slavery in the territories, Cass and Douglas contended that citizens of the territories had just as much right to self-government as citizens of the states. By 1855, however, Free-Soilers had gained political control of Iowa, and Dodge lost his Senate seat to James Harlan.

    In the wake of his election defeat, Dodge accepted President Pierce's offer of the office of minister to Spain and served in that capacity until 1859, when Dodge returned to Iowa and hesitantly accepted the Democratic Party's nomination for governor, but he was soundly defeated by Republican Samuel J. Kirkwood. The following year the Democratic Party united to nominate Dodge for his old Senate seat, but he again lost to his old Republican rival James Harlan. For the next 23 years Dodge toured the state and country giving speeches and supporting the Democratic Party. He died on November 20, 1883, in the town where he had begun his political career 45 years earlier.
Sources A full biography is Louis Pelzer, Augustus Caesar Dodge (1908). See also Benjamin Gue, Biographies and Portraits of the Progressive Men of Iowa (1899); and Benjamin Gue, History of Iowa (1903).
Contributor: Rick L. Woten