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 country.

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 campaign.

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 him.

“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 sympathizers.

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 cap.

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 tribute.

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 together.”

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.”