Born in 1831 near Danvers, Mass., Grenville Mellen Dodge made an early name for himself as a civil engineer, surveying for the railroads as they made their way west. When the Civil War began, Dodge was a prominent member of society in Council Bluffs, Iowa, where he was married, had a family, served on the city council and continued his work in surveying. Dodge was soon drawn into the war, however, when the governor of Iowa requested that he travel to Washington, D.C., to procure arms for Iowa Union volunteers. Successfully completing this mission, Dodge was appointed colonel of the 4th Iowa Infantry in July 1861.
Performing admirably in a number of Western Theater battles, Dodge was made brigadier general following his wounding during the Battle of Pea Ridge. At that time, he was placed in command of the District of the Mississippi, where he was involved in protecting and building railroads. He was promoted to major general in June 1864 and commanded the XVI Corps during William T. Sherman's Atlanta Campaign. He would complete the war as commander of the Department of the Missouri.
Following the war, Dodge resigned from military service and, with the endorsement of Generals Grant and Sherman, became the lead engineer for the Union Pacific Railroad. Holding this position, Dodge went on to play a principle role in the engineering and construction of the Transcontinental Railroad. He would continue to play an active role in the railroad and in Iowa politics until his death in1916.