Brigadier General Grenville Mellen Dodge arrived in Corinth shortly after the battle. Gen. Rosecrans was given a promotion to command the Army of the Cumberland and Dodge was brought in as his replacement as garrison commander. He moved into the Verandah House and quickly set about the work he became best known for; the Corinth Contraband Camp and building more earthworks.
Slaves in northeast Mississippi and northwest Alabama had heard of the preliminary Emancipation Proclamation and began to runaway and make for the Union enclave at Corinth. Known as contrabands, these runaway slaves came looking for the protection of the Union army as they made their first steps towards freedom and citizenship.
Soon their were hundreds of contrabands in and around Corinth with more on the way. Dodge directed Chaplain James Alexander to create a camp on the east side of the town and it soon became a model camp replete with real houses, trade shops, school, and hospital. In addition, three hundred acres of farm land was planted in cotton and another hundred in vegetables. There were scores of contraband camps throughout the South, but none so successful as the one at Corinth.
Dodge also put his soldiers to work strengthening the earthworks around the city. The inner line of defenses known as the “Rosecrans Line,” was improved upon and an additional twelve forts, or batteries, were added to the system of earthworks. The “Dodge Line” made the city virtually impregnable.
Without authority to do so, Dodge recruited and armed a security force of contrabands to defend the new camp. In the spring of 1863 he was given permission to actively recruit and the 1st Alabama Infantry of African Descent was raised from the population of the camp. Later designated the 55th U.S.C.T it was one of three regiments recruited from the camp.
On May 10, 1863, Major General Lorenzo Thomas made his famous speech in the yard of Dodges’s headquarters. (See Lorenzo Thomas Speech in “The War Years.”
Not long after the Lorenzo Thomas visit Gen. Dodge was called away to assist in the Siege of Vicksburg.