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The Elusive Col. John Dodge
The following letter was sent to us by Jay Shinkle after we asked him if he would be willing to send us any info he had on the elusive Col. John Dodge. (See The Dodge Family Journal, April 1998)

In The Illinois Country 1673-1818, Clarence Alvord:p. 352: John Dodge "...was born in Connecticut, had become a trader at Sandusky before the outbreak of the Revolution, and, because he showed his attachment to the cause of the colonies, he had been arrested by the British and carried to Detroit and later to Quebec, whence he escaped in 1779. Washington recommended him to Governor Jefferson of Virginia as a man who would be useful in the west. The latter sent him out to he Illinois as an Indian agent.

(Thomas) Bentley and (John) Dodge formed a partnership and bought up claims of the inhabitants against Virginia for trifling sums. It was suspected that they used public finds for these purchases, and their financial operations in securing supplies for the troops likewise aroused suspicion. ... The means they used to procure provisions for the troops reduced to abject poverty many of the French of the region." At this point Alvord seems to have lost track of John, but he became an agent cum quartermaster at the short lived establishment of Fort Jefferson/Clarksville on the Mississippi. His brother Israel and the Hunter family were also there. However, the tenor of historian's attitude toward John Dodge is shared by several others.

In Issues at Fort Jefferson, 1780-1781, , Carstens, Kenneth C. in Selected Papers From the 1987 and 1988 George Rogers Clark Trans-Appalachian Frontier History Conferences:

p. 61: References to Dodge as "Captain" Dodge seem unfounded and without substance . . . It is possible that because agents and quartermasters were paid the same rate as an adjutant - six shillings per day, which is the same rate of pay as a captain, - that Dodge may have simply extended the rationale of "rate of pay" to one of "rank;" although but a theory, it is in keeping with Dodge's personality as described . . . "

p. 62 It is difficult to determine if Dodge . . . took (his oath) of appointment to heart. There are numerous accusations questioning Dodge's character, loyalty and honesty, as made by the people of Kaskaskia..., Americans at Fort Jefferson, and even the British!"

Although, his character has been impugned he did leave behind, in this case, a valuable quartermaster ledger. After the demise of Fort Jefferson in

the spring of 1781, John apparently went back to Kaskaskia. Once there he continued to promote his interests to the point of establishing himself as somewhat of a warlord operating out of the remains of Fort Kaskaskia. Fort Kaskaskia was/is situated atop the bluff across the Kaskaskia river from the town. This fort was never completed by the French habitants and what existed of it was burned in an effort to deprive the British after the

French and Indian war. Because of pent up hostilities toward him and, finally, the establishment of an effective American governmental presence, John moved across the Mississippi in 1786 and joined Israel, probably in the salt making business at the Saline. He was also involved in George Morgan's dream of establishing a town at what became New Madrid, MO. The family of Israel Dodge's ex-/estranged wife, the Hunters, later became established in this area. John didn't stop his trouble making. From across the river he, Michel Pelltier and a band of Piankashaws crossed to Kaskaskia in an effort to steal slaves, which was just barely rebuffed. I am still trying to piece together what John did on the Spanish side of the River until the time of his death.

John Dodge wrote a book about his captivity in Canada: Narrative of Mr. John Dodge during his captivity at Detroit, 1780; reprint 1909, Torch Press, Cedar Rapids. I haven't read this.

Jay Shinkle (jaysjr@leadbelt.com)


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