Want to find out if your family has a connection to the Civil War?  Please join our upcoming workshop, Finding Your Civil War Ancestors on October 1, 2013 at 6pm.  The speaker is Eydie Wright Keim, President of the Licking County Genealogical Society.  Free to attend, donations welcomed.

The American Civil War celebrates its 150th anniversary this summer.  Over three million men served in the war, both Union and Confederate.  Because of this, millions of Americans today can trace their lineage back to those who fought.  The same holds true for the founder of the Dawes Arboretum, Beman Gates Dawes.  His father, Rufus R. Dawes served in the Civil War.

Rufus Dawes was twenty-two when President Abraham Lincoln called for seventy five thousand men to put down the Southern rebellion.  Like many young men at the time, Rufus heededRufus Dawes blog this call and raised a company of one hundred men.  “Nothing beyond the opportunity to go was asked.”  Rufus served with the famous Iron Brigade.  He became known as an almost “indestructible” man who was “was coolness and bravery personified.”  Through his bravery, and seeming invulnerability, Rufus rose from the rank of captain at the beginning of the war to Lieutenant Colonel and commander of the Sixth Wisconsin Volunteers at the time of the Battle of Gettysburg.

On the morning of July 1, 1863, Rufus Dawes led his Sixth Wisconsin Volunteers on what he called, “one of the most glorious charges of the war.”  Dawes received an order from General Abner Doubleday to high tail it to the right of the lines and stop a Rebel advance that was overwhelming the union line.  His men seemingly drove them back to an unfinished railroad cut and sensing retreat, charged forward, not knowing that the Rebels were now in the relative cover and safety of the cut.  The Sixth Wisconsin lost over one hundred fifty men on that charge, about one man for every yard of advance.

When at last they reached the railroad cut, the fighting devolved to hand to hand combat.  Seeing that they were at the cut, Rufus took the opportunity and commanded the enemy soldiers, “Throw down your muskets, down with your muskets.”  A dozen union troops flanked Lt. Colonel Dawes and took aim at the rebels.  Confederate Major John A. Blair surrendered his sword and the men of the Second Mississippi to Dawes.  Rufus later recounted the control his men had that day, “the coolness, self-possession, and discipline which held back our men from pouring in a general volley saved a hundred lives of the enemy, and as my mind goes back to the fearful excitement of the moment, I marvel at it.”

Rufus Dawes served with honor through ten more fierce battles until his three year enlistment was up.  He returned home to Marietta, Ohio to raise a family with his wife Mary Gates Dawes.  A love of trees and the outdoors is something that goes far back in the Dawes family history.  This was not lost on Rufus and Mary who instilled a love of nature to their six children, most notably Beman, their third son who would later found the Dawes Arboretum with his wife, Bertie.

by Tim Pawlak, History Intern