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Friends that were foes, too

Civil War generals in Oak Grove Cemetery

November 30, 2012
By Evan Bevins - The Marietta Times (ebevins@mariettatimes.com) , The Marietta Times

Coming off a heated election season, one of the many accomplishments in the storied lives of Rufus Dawes and Adoniram J. Warner may seem particularly hard to believe.

The two Civil War generals, both of whom are buried in Marietta's Oak Grove Cemetery, remained friends even as they faced each other in a pair of elections for the U.S. House of Representatives.

"It was a very civil political opposition," local historian Scott Britton said. "These guys had a lot of respect for each other because they knew what they had gone through in their service."

Article Photos

EVAN BEVINS The Marietta Times
In Oak Grove Cemetery Thursday, Marietta resident Barb Moberg looks at the grave monument for her great-great-grandfather, Rufus Dawes, a Civil War general who faced fellow Gen. Adoniram J. Warner in two Congressional elections in 1880 and 1882.

Although they both lived in Marietta after the war, Dawes and Warner didn't meet until the eve of the Battle of Antietam near Sharpsburg, Md., in 1862.

Dawes was a major with the 6th Wisconsin Volunteer Infantry, having joined a company there while working for his father's lumber business. Warner was a lieutenant colonel with the 10th Pennsylvania Reserve Infantry.

Dawes assumed command of his unit when his commander was wounded during the battle. Despite being in some of the most intense fighting in the cornfield at Antietam, Dawes came through the battle with nothing more serious than a bullet having grazed his calf, said Dan Hinton, commander of the local Gen. Benjamin D. Fearing Camp No. 2 of the Sons of Union Veterans.

Fact Box

The men

at a glance

Adoniram J. Warner vs. Rufus R. Dawes for the 15th Ohio Congressional District seat

1880

Rufus R. Dawes (Republican) - 16,283

Adoniram J. Warner (Democrat)- 15,781

William Penrose (Prohibition) - 240

J.W. Martin (Greenback) - 212

1882

Warner (D) - 13,739

Dawes (R) - 13,048

William Reese (G) - 341

Smith Branson (P) - 112

Source: www.ourcampaigns.com

Meanwhile, Warner was shot as he directed his troops into a nearby cornfield. Although the bullet shattered his pelvis, an injury causing effects he felt for the rest of his life, it wasn't his last military action. Britton said he returned to duty less than a year later, just prior to the Battle of Gettysburg, where he and Dawes once again fought on the same battlefield.

To get there, he left the hospital in Washington, D.C., and rode on horseback to Pennsylvania.

"I can't even imagine the excruciating pain for him," Britton said. "He was going back to defend his home state no matter what."

Although Dawes went through the war without serious injury, he suffered effects that "weren't as visible," Hinton said. He recalled a letter Dawes wrote to his wife while serving in Congress, describing how he went to Arlington National Cemetery to visit the graves of each of the men who'd died under his command.

"He was proud of his service, but he had some survivor's guilt," Hinton said.

Dawes was born in Morgan County, but his family moved to Marietta at an early age and he settled there after the war. Warner was assigned to court martial duty at different points in the United States, including Indiana where he served as a pallbearer when President Abraham Lincoln's body was transported through the area en route to his final resting place at Springfield, Ill. Later he was assigned to Cambridge, Ohio, and eventually settled farther south at Marietta, Britton said.

Warner, a Democrat, was elected to Congress as a representative of Ohio's 13th Congressional District. Redistricting apparently moved him to the 15th District in 1880 where he faced Dawes, the Republican nominee.

The campaign was described as "fiercely partisan (but) personally friendly" in "Portrait of an American: Charles G. Dawes," a biography of Rufus Dawes' son, who served as vice president of the United States under President Calvin Coolidge.

The men differed on various political issues, including on what the U.S. currency system should be based. Dawes favored the gold standard, while Warner was a "bimetallist," supporting the use of gold and silver.

Apparently there was some limit to the friendliness, although young Charles Dawes stepped over that line the night before the election. According to the biography, written by Bascom N. Timmons, Warner's campaign organized a parade and the procession was led by a band that included the future vice president, playing the flute.

"He explained, when he returned home that night, that it was purely a professional appearance for which he had been paid," the biography says. "But to others of the family, it was heresy, compounded by the fact that the remuneration he had received had not even been in sound money; the pay had been a silver dollar!"

Nevertheless, Dawes unseated the incumbent Warner by 502 votes, according to www.ourcampaigns.com, a website community centered around discussion of politics. Two years later, in the rematch, Warner was the victor by 691 votes.

The region recently saw another Congressional rematch, with Democrat Charlie Wilson trying to regain the 6th District seat he'd held for two terms from Republican Bill Johnson. There were great partisan differences there too, and a debate at Marietta College seemed particularly heated, with supporters of both men offering cheers for their candidate and jeers for the opponent.

Britton noted that while many people think the political tone in recent years is at an all-time low, campaigns like those between Warner and Dawes were neither the exception nor the rule in the 19th century. He pointed to the 1856 incident in which South Carolina Congressman Preston Brooks savagely beat Massachusetts Sen. Charles Sumner on the floor of the Senate with a cane.

"Politics has changed, but it's not quite as bad as people think," Britton said.

 
 

 

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