How seductive historical research can be. You start out looking for one thing and end up down a rabbit hole that takes you along a path to some other delightful connection.

Rufus Dawes

Rufus Dawes

I’ve just encountered that while researching the Civil War record of Eliza Scidmore’s older half-brother, Edward P. Brooks.

Soon after the shelling of Fort Sumter and President Lincoln’s call for 75,000 Union volunteers in April 1861, Edward Brooks joined the 6th Wisconsin  Volunteer Infantry Regiment. The men left Madison in July and spent the first six months on guard duty in Washington. They camped for a while at Arlington Heights, site of today’s Arlington Cemetery.

The 6th Wisconsin regiment became part of the famed “Iron Brigade” distinguished for bravery in battle. (And for their unusual black hats, different from the standard blue kepis of the Union Army.) Rufus Dawes commanded the regiment in a string of important battles. Edward Brooks was his adjutant. During a furlough late in the war Dawes went to Marietta, Ohio, to marry his sweetheart.

Marietta is my hometown.

Irwin Hall at Marietta College, which was founded in 1797.

After the war, Dawes made his home in Marietta, where he served as a trustee of Marietta College — my alma mater — for 28 years.

His six children included four sons, all highly successful. Among them was Charles Gates Dawes, a graduate of Marietta College who became the vice president under Calvin Coolidge and ambassador to the United Kingdom under Herbert Hoover.

In 1890 Rufus Dawes published a fascinating account of his Civil War career, Service With the 6th Wisconsin Volunteers. It’s given me information about Edward Brooks’s service during the war, including details about his capture and imprisonment in Virginia.

Ah, history. One big web of connections.

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