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Ephraim C. Dawes papers

Identifier: Midwest-MS-Dawes

Scope and Content of the Collection

Letters mainly to family, diaries, scrapbooks, writings by Dawes and others, miscellaneous personal and military items, much of which relates to Dawes’s service in the Civil War as an officer in the 53rd Ohio Volunteer Infantry. Other material concerns Dawes’s college years and his later life as an historical scholar and writer, and businessman in the railroad and coal companies of the Midwest.

Information on the history of Dawes’s military service can be found in History of the Fifty-third Regiment Ohio Volunteer Infantry During the War of the Rebellion, by John K. Duke, Blade Printing Company, Portsmouth, Ohio, 1900.


  • Creation: 1836-1905
  • Creation: Majority of material found within 1855-1895



Materials are in English.

Conditions Governing Access

The Ephraim C. Dawes papers are open for research in the Special Collections Reading Room; 5 folders at a time maximum (Priority II).

Ownership and Literary Rights

The Ephraim C. Dawes papers are the physical property of the Newberry Library. Copyright may belong to the authors or their legal heirs or assigns. For permission to publish or reproduce any materials from this collection, contact the Roger and Julie Baskes Department of Special Collections at

Biography of Ephraim C. Dawes

Ohio businessman, Civil War soldier and military historian.

Ephraim Cutler Dawes, born near Marietta, Ohio, on May 27, 1840, was the youngest of the six children of Henry and Sarah Cutler Dawes: Henry, who died in 1860, Rufus, who fought in the Battle of Gettysburg with the Wisconsin 6th Volunteer Infantry, and his three sisters, Jane, Kate and Lucy, to whom he wrote regularly during his Civil War service. His ancestors were prominent in Ohio history, as his great-grandfather, Manasseh Cutler, was one of the organizers of the Ohio Company, and his uncle, William P. Cutler, was a Member of Congress. First a student at the State University of Wisconsin, Dawes graduated from Marietta College in 1861, and soon enlisted in the 53rd Ohio Volunteer Infantry as First Lieutenant and Adjutant. Dawes served for three years and one month, from September 26, 1861 to October 25, 1864.

The Ohio 53rd took part of some of the fiercest battles of the Civil War, a few of which were the battle of Shiloh, the siege of Corinth, Mississippi, and battles of Resaca and Atlanta. In January 1863, Dawes was promoted over the Captains of the line to be Major of his regiment. With this rank he served in the campaign under General Grant, which ended in the siege and capture of Vicksburg, Mississippi. He next took part in General Sherman’s advance against Jackson, Mississippi, and by early 1864 his regiment was with Sherman’s army in the advance against Atlanta, engaging in the battles at Resaca and Dallas, Georgia. It was during the action at Dallas that Dawes was severely wounded. The lower part of his jaw was shot off, and for months he remained disfigured, in terrible pain and unable to talk. Luckily, a Cincinnati surgeon, Dr. George C. Blackman, was able to reconstruct his jaw with a lower lip and teeth, and eventually Dawes recovered, living another thirty years.

Dawes was honorably discharged from the military in October 1854, and the following year he was brevetted Lieutenant Colonel. After his discharge, Dawes began his business career working for the Cincinnati railroad companies, and by 1867 he was engaged in extensive railroad construction and operation in Illinois, Indiana and Missouri. The economic panic of 1873 sent him into bankruptcy, but Dawes started again, dealing in railroad supplies such as pig iron and oils, and working to develop the coal fields of Southern Illinois. He was able to establish a large and growing trade in St. Louis and Chicago and became president of the St. Louis and Big Muddy Coal Company, one of the largest mining companies in Illinois.

Notwithstanding his close attention to business, Dawes always found time for research, writing, publishing and even speaking on Civil War topics. He was intensely interested in everything connected with the war, and devoted the rest of his life to obtaining all the publications of historical or illustrative value that he could find on the subject. He accumulated a large and important collection of manuscripts, books, and pamphlets, making sure his collection would reflect both Union and Confederate points of view. Dawes was a member of numerous historical and literary societies and also published and sometimes spoke on other historical subjects.

In 1866, Ephraim Dawes married Frances Bosworth and they settled in Cincinnati. They had no children. Dawes died in 1895.


6.5 Linear Feet (9 boxes and 1 oversize box)


Letters, diaries, scrapbooks and writings of Dawes and others, miscellaneous personal and military items, relating to Dawes’s service in the United States Civil War as adjutant and major in the 53rd Ohio Volunteer Infantry. Also material relating to his historical interests and his subsequent activities in the rail and coal industries in the Midwest.


Papers are organized in the following series:

Series 1: Correspondence: Dawes, Ephraim C., Outgoing, 1855-1895
Box 1
Series 2: Correspondence, Dawes, Ephraim C., Incoming, 1856-1895
Box 2
Series 3: Correspondence, Others, 1836-1905
Box 2
Series 4: Dawes Writings, 1849-1894
Boxes 2-5
Series 5: Writings of Others, 1851-1865
Box 5
Series 6: Miscellaneous, 1864-1895
Box 6
Series 7: Scrapbooks, 1847-1899
Boxes 7-9

Collection Stack Location

1 13 1, 1 16 4, Vault 35 1


Gift of Mary D. Beach, 1951.

Processed by

Virginia Hay Smith, 2007.

Inventory of the Ephraim C. Dawes papers, 1836-1905, bulk 1855-1895
Virginia Hay Smith
Language of description
Script of description

Revision Statements

  • 2011-08-17: Revisions, additions, and updates were made.

Repository Details

Part of the The Newberry Library - Modern Manuscripts and Archives Repository

60 West Walton Street
Chicago Illinois 60610 United States