Monday, November 19, 2012

Ephraim S. Dodd- A Terry Texas Ranger

It was during this winter that one of the saddest events in all our career happened: the hanging of E.S. Dodd by the enemy. He was a member of company D. He was of a good family and well educated. For many years he kept a diary, setting down at night the happenings of the day. He was taken prisoner with this diary in his pocket. On that evidence alone he was condemned and executed as a spy.” [1]

So writes L. B. Giles in his reminiscences, “Terry's Texas Rangers”.
Members of the 8th Regiment (Terry's) Texas Cavalry

Not much is known about Ephraim Shelby Dodd. The introduction to his diary states that he was originally from Kentucky. At the outbreak of the war he was living in Texas at the home of an uncle at Austin. It also says his occupation was as a school teacher. [2] The US Census of 1850 lists him as the son of Travis and Nancy Dodd of Garrard County, Kentucky, and he was then 11 years old. [3]* He was an only child. He does not appear in the 1860 census, apparently a step ahead or behind the canvassers. He enlisted in Company D, Eighth Regiment (Terry's) Texas cavalry on April 6, 1862, at Corinth, Mississippi for the duration of the war. [4]
Fortunately the diary written by Dodd does exist and is available. His words can in fact be construed as treacherous. Names of people Dodd came in contact with are mentioned, with rare exception, which does not seem to be the work of a competent spy. He was a cavalry scout accused of being a spy. The time encompassed by the diary is from December 4, 1862 to January 1, 1864. It does contain a few suspicious entries, such as the first one which reads:

Thursday, December 4th, 1862- I went out from M. to Mr. ___ five miles from town. I went from there to Gen'l Morgan's Headquarters, leaving the Knox county filly at Mr. ___ and riding Walkers horse. I took supper at Lewis Black's, Morgans Headquarters. The Gen'l was in town but came in just after supper.
Supper at Morgan's headquarters would be enough to arouse the suspicions of even the rawest recruit. Add to that the blanking out of names in the entry. This may be because the name was illegible to the transcriber, or perhaps Dodd did it intentionally. There are other instances where the names of certain people are left blank but they are few. Another entry reads:
Friday, 15th, [May, 1863] To-night stopped to see two Lincolnites; got six-shooter from one; single barrel from the other; stopped at Squire Henry's; got some cherry bounce; played off Yankee on him; got all the information we wanted and went on to Wickwires...” [5]
Are these the only entries that would lead the Federals to condemn Dodd as a spy? No, but the diary is rather mundane. Typical of other diaries, he writes about the weather, the local people, especially the ladies, and day to day life. There are no particularly exciting things to mention and a couple of entries simply say “Nothing worthy of note today.” What else would lead to the charge of espionage? Coupled with other factors, the Yankees may have had good cause for their conclusion.
Entitled to pay for horse. Absent without leave.

It appears that he was quite often away from his regiment, especially from mid May 1863 until the time of his capture. “Piruting” as he called it. This is probably a misspelling of pirating, and it is always used to describe activities that are beyond simple foraging. He was listed as a deserter for one excursion he took in Allen County, Kentucky. The duration of that trip was May 9th to 31st! The regiment was on detached duty at Granville,(Jackson County) Tennessee at this time and Dodd makes no mention that he was under orders to scout for that length of time. In fairness, he and his small band of troopers did encounter a few Yankees along the way, and they hid from them. However, this can be construed as the party was gathering information on troop strength and disposition. Also during this trip, another mention of Morgan's men is set down in his diary:
Wednesday, 13th, (May '63) I met some of Morgan's men; Harper with them. I joined them and went 'cross railroad at Mitchellville,(Tennessee) over to Wickwires, 8 miles from the railroad. Stopped at Mr. Simpson's and got breakfast. Miss Sue Offutt and Miss Jimmy Wickwire there. After breakfast went to the woods and staid all day.” [6]
The railroad is the Louisville and Nashville, and the combination of Morgan and railroads did not set well with the Federals. Dodd would refer to Morgan in his diary on several occasions. It was on this trip that Dodd met the “Lincolnites”, and first passed himself off as a Yankee soldier.
Read in the context of time and place, Dodd's entries for November and December 1863 are the most damning. At that time Dodd and his friends were operating in Sevier and Blunt (Blount) counties of Tennessee and some of their activities take them to Louisville. (Blount county, now part of Knoxville Metropolitan area). Entries for December 6 and 7 mention a particular desire to reach the Planters Hotel there but they were deterred by a large force of Union soldiers near the town. The Yankees would move on shortly and Dodd went on to the hotel the evening of the 7th. For what purpose, other than supper, he does not mention, but he makes reference to the large enemy force, and the fact that they had walked to “within three hundred yards of their campfires.” And this excerpt of the entry for December 10, 1863:
Thursday-10, We start for Longstreet for or via Sevier. Gave it out and started for the vicinity of Bess' Mill.
Longstreet was still menacing Knoxville, although much of the fighting around that city was over by the time Dodd was captured. Dodd's Federal captors could assume, understandably, that Dodd had been gathering information and was to deliver his findings to that general. His entries calling out troop movements in late November and early December surely did not help his case.
Dodd also mentions on several occasions that he left his clothes with someone, or that he had picked them up. It is possible he was leaving them to be mended. Or perhaps he was changing from his uniform to civilian attire. Was it something else?

Monday,7 (December, 1863) I passed as a Yankee with Mrs. Henry.” [7] and:

Friday, 11 Started this evening for Sevier (Sevierville). Got as far as Little River at Mr. McLane's and turn back. Two Yanks rode right through us.” [8]
Was he in a habit of wearing the blue when he went on a scout? Another excerpt of the entry dated December 10th, 1863 reads:

Went to see Mr. Jo Gray, a Lieutenant in the Yankee Army. He was not at home; took two horses and a negro.” [9]
Although he makes no mention of stealing clothes, it is possible that the lieutenant had a spare uniform or two, and Dodd outfitted himself. He was not alone though, he had perhaps a half dozen men with him. The low light or darkness of the evening may be the reason they went unnoticed regardless of how they were dressed.
However, C.C. Jeffries lends credence to the Yankee uniform theory as he writes in his book, Terry's Rangers:

But while he was a bold scout,as to being an out and out spy,that was something else. Evidently he did not consider himself a spy, for while he was partially clothed in a Federal uniform, he had on his hat a “Terry Texas Ranger” button. And he must not have thought that the diary would prove incriminating, if he was caught, else he would not have written in it as he did.” [10]
Sadly, Mr. Jeffries does not cite a source for this nugget.
We do have one piece of evidence from historical record that might be directly linked to the Dodd case. It is General Orders Number 7, Department of the Ohio. It reads as follows:
Hdqrs., Department of the Ohio,
Knoxville, Tenn., January 8, 1864
Our outposts and pickets posted in isolated places, having in many instances been overpowered and captured by the enemy's troops, disguised as Federal soldiers, the commanding general is obliged to issue the following order for the protection of his command, and to prevent a continuance of this violation of the rules of warfare:
Corps commanders are hereby directed to cause to be shot dead all the Rebel officers and soldiers (wearing the uniform of the US Army)captured within our lines.
By command of Major General Foster. (John G. Foster) [11]
Henry Curtis, Jr.
Assistant Adjutant General
This order was enclosed with a letter dated January 17, 1864, from Foster to Confederate Lieutenant General James Longstreet. The letter discussed earlier correspondences between the two generals, as well as informing Longstreet of Dodd's conviction and execution. The letter also had appended to it another enclosure, which held the specifics of the charges and trial of Dodd. (General Orders Number 3, Department of the Ohio, January 5, 1864. Unfortunately this enclosure was not included in the Official Record.)
Whether or not General Orders Number 7 actually stems from the Dodd case is strictly conjecture but it was issued on the day of his execution. Perhaps Dodd provided a ready example to show grounds for implementing this order. It does lead one to believe that he was indeed captured in a Federal uniform.

Ephraim Shelby Dodd was captured near Maryville, Tennessee by Union Home Guards on December 17, 1863. The next day he was taken to Knoxville. He would remain there until his trial on or about January 5, 1864, and execution on the 8th. ** He is buried there on the grounds of Bleak House. (Now Confederate Memorial Hall, Chapter 89, United Daughters of the Confederacy) His diary and the likliehood of his wearing a Federal uniform would, together, be his undoing.

It is interesting to note that January 8, 1864 witnessed another hanging. Another young man had also been convicted of spying for the Confederacy and sentenced to death. David O. Dodd, also of Texas, was hanged in Little Rock, Arkansas. He would be remembered as The Boy Martyr of the Confederacy.
I should say that I found some other things about E.S. Dodd but did not include them here. Things pertaining to his hanging mostly. They seemed to be sensationalized third or fourth hand accounts written well after the fact. I did not want to propogate myths and in my humble opinion that is what they were.

The Picket

1- Giles, L.B. (1911), Terry's Texas Rangers, Austin, Texas, Von Boekman- Jones Co. Printers.
2- Dodd, Ephraim Shelby, Diary of Ephraim Shelby Dodd, 1862-1864, Austin: press of E.L. Steck, 1914. Introductory
3- United States Census, 1850, Ephraim S Dodd in the Household of Travis Dodd, Garrard county, Garrard, Kentucky, United States; citing dwelling 902, family 953,
NARA microfilm publication M432, roll 201. Retrieved from 11-17 -2012
4- Compiled Service Records of Confederate Soldiers who served in Organizations from the state of Texas, National Archives Microfilm Publications Number 323, Roll 50, Pages 335-340. 1960 Retrieved from
5-Dodd, page 16
6- Ibid
7- Ibid, page 29
8- Ibid, page 30
9- Ibid
10- Jeffries, C. C., Terry's Rangers, First Ed., Vantage Press, 1962, page 88. from
11- War of the Rebellion: Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies, (O.R.) Series 3, Volume 4, page 54. From Cornell University, Making of America,
Muster card from 4, above, page 337
Terry's Rangers circa 1863 from University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, crediting Fort Bend Museum, Richmond Texas
At Find A Grave Wayne Sampson, photographer

*The author of the diary's introduction tells us that E.S. Dodd was not yet out of his teens when the war started. After looking through several different genealogical sites, the only person listed as Ephraim S. Dodd was listed in the 1850 US Census and was then 11 years old. Dodd would be approaching or already be 22 years old in 1861. The common misspellings such as Dodde, Dodds, and Dode all had no results for Ephraim Shelby. Likewise the initials E., E. S., and S. produced little other than females or men who lived far beyond the war.
** One of the cards in the Compiled Service records erroneously states Dodd was sent to Camp Chase Ohio. It is dated January 8, 1864, the date of his execution. His last entry, January 1, 1864, says that he was among a group of prisoners set to depart Knoxville on January 2 for Strawberry Plains. One could surmise that they were bound for Camp Chase. A letter sent from the Office of The Provost Marshall General- East Tennessee states otherwise. Dodd was in fact hanged at Knoxville.

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