Steve and Boone Dodson fire .58 caliber black powder rifles
in salute of their ancestor Charles Dodson, a Civil War veteran
who was buried 100 years ago in Carbondale Cemetery.
Tyler Sawyer | Special to The Herald-Chronicle
CARBONDALE—One hundred years ago on Aug. 12, a man by the
name of Charles Dodson was buried in the Carbondale Cemetery. It
is said that on the day of his funeral, the street leading to the
cemetery was lined with horse carriages, all belonging to people
who knew the man.
Now, a century later, his family – grandson Lee Dodson, a
resident of Topeka and a World War II veteran, great-grandson Steve
Dodson, of Burlingame, and his sons Zach and Boone – have
honored his memory and the memory of veterans past and present by
a salute of arms at his gravesite and the telling of his story.
Charles Dodson may have lived more than a century before our time,
but like so many young men in history, he answered the call of his
Born in Camden, W.Va., he spent more than a year and a half fighting
during the American Civil War as a Union soldier. He was part of
the 15th West Virginian Infantry and the 10th West Virginian Infantry
and fought in many engagements including the Battle of Cloyd’s
Mountain, the Shenandoah Valley campaigns, and also the Richmond-Petersburg
Dodson, as did many soldiers in that time, sustained injuries during
the war that would not heal properly.
He not only had to fight off Rebel soldiers but also disease, hunger
and the natural elements. These hardships would not take his life
until many years later. In fact, not only did Dodson survive the
war that claimed over 600,000 American lives, but he fought in many
of the battles leading to the conclusion of the war.
The Richmond-Petersburg campaigns, better known as the Siege of
Petersburg, was a series of battles and skirmishes fought around
Petersburg, Va., from June 9, 1864 to March 25, 1865, and Charles
Dodson was there.
When Union Lt. General Ulysses S. Grant’s forces effectively
cut off Confederate supply lines, General Robert E. Lee was forced
to retreat, evacuating both Petersburg and the Confederate capital
city of Richmond, Va. Lee hoped to rendezvous with Confederate forces
in North Carolina but Grant’s forces were relentless in pursuing
“As the story goes, Charles got to see Lee surrender his army
to Grant at the Appomattox Court House on April 9, 1895, which after
a year of continuous marching and fighting must have been a blessing,”
said Steve Dodson, who teaches history at Allen Community College
and is an avid Civil War reenactor.
When he was mustered out of the military in August of 1865, Charles
Dodson had, as Steve Dodson puts it, the “dubious honor of
having to return home with a Union uniform on.”
As Charles Dodson made his way home to Camden, he had to travel
by night and hide during the day to avoid running into any Confederate
The American Civil War literally split the country in two.
“During the war, it wasn’t uncommon for brothers, cousins
or even fathers and sons to fight on opposite sides of the field,”
said Steve Dodson.
This was true for Charles Dodson who, at the Battle of Cedar Creek,
ended up fighting against a distant cousin, a Confederate brigadier
general by the name of Stephan Dodson Ramseur.
In 1894, Dodson moved to a farm in Clay County, where he stayed
until 1906, when he moved to Carbondale. He lived on a farm there
for four years until he succumbed to a combination of yellow fever
and old war wounds, dying Aug. 12, 1910.
One hundred years after Dodson’s death, only a few cars lined
the pathways of the cemetery to honor his memory, but that doesn’t
diminish the principle behind the ceremony.
When the Dodson family arrived to perform the ceremony, Steve and
Boone Dodson were dressed in full Union uniform. This included standard
undergarments, blue trousers, a vest, a blue sack coat and forage
They were also equipped with a musket, bayonet, canteen, haversack
and mucket – a mug used for anything from drinking to cooking.
Steve Dodson spoke of the battles Charles Dodson had faced, of the
hardships he’d been through and of the good he did for his
country. When his speech ended, Zach Dodson commenced with a drumming
After this, Steve and Boone fired off their muskets over the gravesite.
Steve Dodson then played a song on the harmonica that Charles Dodson
was said to have enjoyed.
Steve Dodson has been reenacting Civil War battles for over 20 years.
He’s reenacted the battles of Gettysburg, Murphy’s Borough,
Wilson’s Creek, Mine Creek and many others.
When asked why he participates in reenactments, Steve Dodson said,
“ to commemorate those who fought in the war. There is also
a lot of camaraderie, it gives myself and my sons a hobby to share
As the Dodson family was leaving the cemetery, a few parting words
were given by Lee Dodson.
“I wonder if a hundred years from now, someone will be here
to commemorate my time in World War II?” he asked. “I
genuinely appreciate all of this. It may not mean a lot to some
people, but it means a lot to this old man, and as long as people
like Steve are willing to honor old guys like us, I have no doubt
that will happen.”