Grand Army of the Republic
William Wade Dudley
Department Commander 1881

Soldier and lawyer, was born at Weathersfield Bow, Windsor County Vermont, August 27, 1842. The first of his ancestors in this country was John Dudley, a puritan, who was also one of the early settlers of Connecticut. His father, the Reverend John Dudley, was a graduate of Yale Theological Seminary, was a clergyman in the Congregational and Presbyterian churches for twenty-three years, and latter a successful educator at New Haven, Connecticut. He married Abigail Wade on September 08, 1834 at Ipswich, Essex, Massachusetts. She was a graduate of the Ipswich Female Seminary of Ipswich, Massachusetts and granddaughter of the noted Colonel Nathaniel Wade ( 1750 - 1826) of Revolutionary War fame, one of the minuteman during the Lexington Alarm and Bunker Hill, who, at age twenty-four, rose from Captain in the 3rd Essex Regiment & 12th Continental Line to the office of lieutenant-colonel and aide-de-camp to General George Washington, and was placed in command of West Point, New York after the treason of General Benedict Arnold. 

Young Dudley obtained a classical education at Phillips Academy, Danville, Vermont, and at Russell's Collegiate & Commercial Institute in New Haven, Connecticut, acquiring in the later institution a mixed classical and military education, which provided him with a thorough knowledge of military tactics.

In 1860 he came with his father’s family to Richmond, Wayne county Indiana and engaged in the grain and milling business. When the war began he was captain of the Richmond City Greys, and under his leadership almost the entire company enlisted. At the time he was not yet nineteen years old, but his military training at school qualified him to be captain. His company became Company B of the Nineteenth Indiana Regiment, of which Solomon Meredith, of Wayne County was colonel. The 19th Indiana Company B has been called O. P. Morton’s “Pet” Regiment due to its being from Wayne County Indiana, Solomon Meredith having nominated Governor Lane and Lieutenant Governor O. P. Morton at the Republican State convention of 1860. The regiment left Indianapolis August 05, 1861, and joined the Army of the Potomac at Washington on August 9th, about two weeks before Captain Dudleys twentieth birthday.

This regiment was placed with the 2nd, 6th and 7th Wisconsin, near Washington, D.C., and was First engaged in battle September 11 and 21, 1861, at Lewisville, Virginia. During the remainder of his service Captain Dudley participated in every round of duty, drill, picket or skirmish, with his regiment. In 1862 he led his company at Rappahannock Station, Sulphur Springs near Warrenton Gainesville, second Bull Run and South Mountain. At Antietam, September 16, 1862, ten days before his twenty-first birthday, he was slightly wounded, but remained with his regiment and commanded it after the lieutenant-colonel was mortally wounded, the colonel having been disabled at South Mountain. He did valiant service at Fredericksburg in December 1862 and when Colonel Meredith was made Brigadier General, Captain Dudley was recommended for colonel, but Colonel Meridith, preferred Captain Williams as Lieutenant Colonel, so Captain Dudley deferred to that choice and became Major of the Regiment. On May 01, 1863 at Fitzhugh Crossing and Chancellorsville the following three days he commanded a detachment of infantry and cavalry down the Peninsula in June winning the commendations of his corps commander, General Reynolds. At Gettysburg his regiment was placed in an exposed position at McPherson's Woods, and on the first day of that battle lost seventy two percent of the men engaged. Colonel Dudley was wounded in the right leg, causing amputation. For "gallant in action," in this engagement he was brevetted Brigadier General. He remained in service, in the V.R.C. until March 1865, while serving as clerk in the pension office at Washington. He was then promoted to Captain U. S. Army, by President Lincoln, doing duty as inspector and judge advocate, until June 30 1866 when he finally resigned to engage in business at Richmond Indiana.

From 1866 to 1874 he was Clerk of the Court of Wayne County Indiana, being elected twice to the same position as his former commander Solomon Meredith, and later was admitted to the bar at Richmond on January 17 1875. From September 1876 he was President of the short lived, Richmond Savings Bank, located at 33 North 8th Street, Richmond, Wayne County, Indiana, which failed and paid all deposits before it’s closing. On February 11, 1879 President Garfield appointed him United States Marshall for Indiana and in 1881 Commissioner of Pensions in Washington D.C.. In this position General Dudley showed even in a higher degree the qualities he exhibited as a soldier and U. S. marshal: firmness, force of character, and administrative and executive abilities of the highest order, combined with energy, promptness and decision.  At his suggestion and request congress trebled the pension office force and greatly liberalized the pension laws. But while disposing of an immense amount of official business daily, he always lent a sympathizing ear to maimed soldiers, and to all others in distress. He resigned from the position of commissioner of pensions November 10, 1884, after making a brilliant record in that office.

In 1884 he engaged in business with Bateman & Co., and in 1887 became a member of the law firm of Britton & Gray in Washington, D. C., leaving that firm to accept the position of treasurer of the Republican National Committee. From early manhood he was interested in local and national polities. He served on the county and state committees in the Republican Party in Indiana, and during the presidential campaigns of 1880 and 1884 took a prominent part in their political management. While treasurer of the Republican National committee in the campaign of 1888 he took an active interest in the work of the convention which nominated General Harrison, his personal friend, for the presidency, and gave his time and best efforts to secure the latter's election. It was in this campaign that Colonel Dudley’s name became connected with the so-called “block-of-five” letter. The campaign was closely contested one and on the last day of October the Indianapolis Sentinel printed with sensational headlines what was purported to be a confidential letter from Colonel Dudley to local Republican managers giving instructions of what to do to insure success. Among other things it said: “Divide the floaters into blocks of five, and put a trusted man with necessary funds in charge of those five, and make him responsible that none get away and that all vote our ticket.” The letter was printed on what was purported to be a Republican National Committee letterhead and was signed “W. W. Dudley” The date line and superscription were torn off so there was nothing to show to whom the letter had been sent, if sent at all. As soon as it was published, Colonel Dudley wired from New York, declaring it a forgery.

Colonel John C. New, who was the Indiana member of the committee, pronounced the letterhead also a forgery. The publication of the alleged letter caused some excitement and intensified political feelings, which was already high. It was so high that on election day, five days later, a Democratic United States Marshall caused the arrest of several prominent Indianapolis men for alleged violations of the election laws of which no proof was ever made or attempted. Colonel Dudley reiterated his declaration that the letter was a forgery. Political opponents demanded an investigation and the matter came before the federal grand jury. United States Judge Woods charged the jury that unless there was evidence that an actual crime had been committed the mere sending of such a letter was not an indictable offence, and no indictment was found. This ended the matter as far as any legal investigation was concerned. In all of the important offices held by Colonel Dudley his personal integrity was never questioned, but he was an enthusiastic partisan.

One who was closely associated with Colonel Dudley in the political campaigns of 1884 and 1888 said: “he worked with me in the campaign of 1884 and it was his organization that gave us Ohio in October. I have lived in the same room with him throughout his campaign (1888) and have seen him under every stress of beguiling coercion and political temptation, and I want to say, measuring the force and meaning of my words, that in my life I have never know a man having that mingling of strength and tenderness which makes the noblest men, who was nobler in every grace of manhood than Colonel Dudley.

General Dudley's last years were spent in Washington, D. C., where he conducted an active law practice, first as a member of the law firm of Britton & Gray and subsequently in partnership with L. T. Micbener under the firm name of Dudley & Michener. 

General Dudley was an enthusiastic Mason, becoming a member first at Centerville, Wayne County, Indiana in 1870 and later was a member of the Webb Lodge of Richmond. He also was an Odd Fellow of all degrees. He was a member of Washington D.C. Commandery of the Loyal Legion of the United States, with insignia number 02286. He was a prominent member of the Union League and represented Wayne County at the 1866 and 1871 Pittsburgh national conventions. He was member of the George H. Thomas Post No.17, Grand Army of the Republic, Indianapolis, Indiana and served as the Department of Indiana commander in 1881. 

He was married October 18, 1864, to Theresa Fiske, only daughter of Reverend George F. Fiske, who was first rector of St. Paul’s Church of Richmond, Indiana. She died in 1897, leaving five children: John W., George F., William Northrop, Charles Tarbell, and Theresa Dudley. He was married again, March 8, 1899, to Mrs. Nannie (Robinson) Finch, daughter of John Robinson of Maryland. Two other children did not survive to adulthood.

General Dudley died in Washington, D. C., December 15, 1909. He is buried close to where he once slept during the first winter encampment of the Iron Brigade at Arlington National Cemetery, Arlington, Arlington County Virginia in Section 1, Grave 800.


See Also:

Arlington National Cemetery - William Wade Dudley

Dan Tate’s Blog, The History of Wayne County Indiana - Colonel William Wade Dudley

William Wade Dudley (1842 - 1909) - Find A Grave Memorial


Indianapolis Star 12-6-1909, p4-c4

Indianapolis News 12-15-1909, p1-c2, p2-c4

Indianapolis News 3-17-1910, p6-c2

White's conspectus of American biography; a tabulated record of American history and biography. Compiled by the editorial staff of the National cyclopedia of American biography. 2d edition, New York, J. T. White, 1937.

W.W.Dudley, Pension Commissioner, 1881, 2:222

The National cyclopedia of American biography. Clifton, NJ [etc.] J. T. White, 1892, v. 2, page 222 

Who Was Who in America. A component volume of "Who's Who in American History." Volume 1, 1897-1942. Chicago: A.N. Marquis Co., 1943. 

The National Cyclopaedia of American Biography. Volume 2. New York: James T. White & Co., 1891. Reprint. Volumes 1-50. Ann Arbor, Michigan, University Microfilms, 1967-1971

The Twentieth Century Biographical Dictionary of Notable Americans. Brief biographies of authors, administrators, clergymen, commanders, editors, engineers, jurists, merchants, officials, philanthropists, scientists, statesmen, and others who are making American history. 10 volumes. Edited by Rossiter Johnson. Boston: The Biographical Society, 1904. Reprint. Detroit.

The Civil War Dictionary. By Mark Mayo Boatner, III. New York: David McKayCo., 1959, Page 250.  States that W.W.Dudley made Brevet Brigadier General, U.S. Volunteers, for War Service.

This Glorious Cause; The Adventures of Two Company Officers In Washington’s Army, By Herbert T. Wade and Robert A. Lively. Author: Wade, Herbert T. b 1872. Princeton, NJ, Princeton University Press, 1958. 

Hodgkins, Joseph 1743 – 1829. Wade, Nathaniel, 1750 – 1826. 

History of the Republican party, 1899, I329.6 s541h

Representative Men of Indiana, 6th District Volume 1 I 920 b615I, Section 6, Page 24

Indiana and Indianaians Page 89, Volume 2, I977.2 D923in

Adjutant Generals Report for the State of Indiana, W.H.H. Terrell, Page xix, Section 1, Volume II, Commissioned by the President as Captain, Resigned 13 September 1865 V.R.C

Adjutant Generals Report for the State of Indiana,W.H.H. Terrell, Page 181, Section 2, Volume I, Lieutenant Colonel by Brevet, Date of Commission 13 March 1865, Residence Centerville, IN, member of V.R.C. as Captain

Adjutant Generals Report for the State of Indiana,W.H.H. Terrell, Vol II, page 170, Captain of Company B, 19th Indiana, Commissioned 29 July 1861, Muster in date 29 July 1861

Adjutant Generals Report for the State of Indiana,W.H.H. Terrell, Vol II, page 168, Promoted Major, Commissioned 18 September 1862, Muster In date 18 September 1862, Promoted Lieutenant Colonel, Commissioned 10 April 1864, Muster in 08 October 1864, Discharged due to wounds, lost his leg, 1 July 1863 Gettyburg, PA. 09 April 1864

The Iron Brigade at Gettysburg, Official Report of the Part Born by the First Brigade, First Division, First Army Corps, W.W. Dudley, 1879, Cincinnati Ohio

The Iron Brigade, A Military History, Alan T. Nolan, Indiana University Press, Bloomington, Indiana 1994 ISBN 0-253-34102-7 (cl) Page 164, Colonel Meridith preferred Captain Williams as Lieutenant Colonel, so Captain Dudley deferred to that choice and became Major of the Regiment.

Memoirs of Wayne County and the City of Richmond, Honorable Henry Clay Fox, 1912, Western Historical Association, Madison Wisconsin, Volume I, Page 269, 274, 295.

Roll of Honor, containing the Names, Regiments, Date of Death, Cemetery, Section and Lot, or Burial Place of all Union Soldiers of the War of the Rebellion ( 1861 - 1865 ) That are now buried in Marion County, Indiana, Published by the General Memorial Association of Indianapolis, Indiana, November 03, 1915


Submitted by Stephen Bruce Bauer with assistance from Tim Beckman.

Please address any web page problems or questions to:

Department of Indiana Web Host and Signal Officer, Tim Beckman


This Web Page Last Updated: 04/08/2011

Return to GAR Indiana Department Commander Page

Return to Indiana Department Home Page