Major-general earl van dorn (see main description for short history)

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Van dorn was born near port gibson in claiborne county, mississippi, to sophia donelson caffery, a niece of andrew jackson, and peter aaron van dorn, who worked as a lawyer and judge. He also had a sister named emily van dorn miller. In december 1843 he married caroline godbold, and they had a son named earl van dorn, jr. And a daughter named olivia. In 1838 van dorn attended the united states military academy at west point, and graduated four years later, standing 52nd out of 56 cadets. His family relations to andrew jackson had secured him an appointment there. He was brevetted a second lieutenant in the 7th u.S. Infantry regiment on july 1, 1842, and began his army service in the southern united states. Van dorn and the 7th were on garrison duty at fort pike, louisiana, in 1842 to 1843, and were stationed at fort morgan, alabama, briefly in 1843. He did garrison duty at the mount vernon arsenal in alabama from 1843 into 1844, and the was ordered to pensacola harbor in florida from 1844 to 1845, during which van dorn was promoted to second lieutenant on november 30, 1844van dorn was part of the 7th u.S. Infantry when texas was occupied by the u.S. Army from 1845 into 1846, and spent the early stages of the mexican-american war on garrison duty defending fort texas (fort brown) in brownsville, the southernmost town in texas. Van dorn saw action at the battle of monterrey on september 2123, 1846, and during the siege of vera cruz from march 929, 1847. He was then transferred to gen. Winfield scott’s command in early 1847 and promoted to first lieutenant on march 3.[4] van dorn fought well in the rest of his engagements in mexico, earning himself two brevet promotions for conduct; he was brevetted to captain on april 18 for his participation at the battle of cerro gordo, and to major on august 20 for his actions near mexico city, including the battle of contreras, the battle of churubusco, and at the beln gate. Van dorn was wounded in the foot near mexico city on september 3, and wounded again during the storming of the beln gate on september 13.After the war with mexico, van dorn served as aide-de-camp to major general p. F. Smith from april 3, 1847, to may 20, 1848. He and the 7th were in garrison at baton rouge, louisiana, from 1848 into 1849, and then at jefferson barracks in lemay, missouri, in 1849. He saw action in florida against the seminoles from 1849 to 1850, and was on recruiting service in 1850 and 1851.From 1852 to 1855 van dorn was stationed at the east pascagoula branch military asylum in mississippi, serving as secretary then treasurer of the post.[7] he spend the remainder of 1855 stationed at new orleans, louisiana, briefly on recruiting service again, and then in garrison back at jefferson barracks.[6] he was promoted to captain in the 2nd u.S. Cavalry on march 3, 1855.[4] van dorn and the 2nd were on frontier duty at camp cooper, texas, in 1855 and 1856, scouting in northern texas in 1856, and fought a minor skirmish with comanche on july 1, 1856. He was then assigned to camp colorado, texas, in 1856 to 1857, scouting duty again in 1857, returned to camp colorado in 1857 to 1858, and finally stationed at fort chadbourne located in coke county, texas, in 1858. Van dorn saw further action against the seminoles and also the comanche in the indian territory. He was wounded four separate times there, including seriously when commanded an expedition against the comanche and took two arrows (one in his left arm and another in his right side, damaging his stomach and lung) near the village of wichita on october 1, 1858. Without a surgeon near enough to treat van dorn, he pushed the arrow completely through his side. Van dorn and the 2nd were stationed at camp radziminski in the indian territory from 1858 to 1859, and at camp colorado, texas, in 1859. Van dorn was in command of scouting party against the comanche in 1859, fought in the valley of nessentunga on may 13, 1859, and served at fort mason, texas, in 1859 and 1860. While at fort mason, van dorn was promoted to the rank of major on june 28, 1860. He then was on a leave of absence from the u.S. Army for the rest of 1860 and into 1861.Van dorn chose to follow his home state and the confederate cause, and he resigned his u.S. Army commission, which was accepted effective january 31, 1861. He was appointed a brigadier general in the mississippi militia on january 23, and replaced jefferson davis as major general and commander of mississippi’s state forces in february when davis was selected as the confederacy’s president. After resigning from the mississippi militia on march 16, 1861, van dorn entered the regular confederate army as a colonel of infantry on that same date. He was sent west to raise and lead a volunteer brigade in the department of texas. Leaving new orleans on april 14 and arriving at galveston, texas, he and his men succeeded in capturing three union ships in the town’s harbor, on april 17 and then headed for the last remaining regular u.S. Army soldiers in texas at indianola, forcing their surrender on april 23. While at indianola, van dorn attempted to recruit the captured u.S. Soldiers into the forces of the confederacy, but was largely unsuccessfulvan dorn was summoned to richmond, virginia, and appointed a colonel in the 1st confederate cavalry on april 25, leading all of virginia’s cavalry forces, and then quickly promoted to brigadier general on june 5. After being promoted to major general on september 19, 1861, van dorn was given divisional command in the confederate army of the potomac five days later, leading the 1st division until january 10, 1862. Around this time confederate president davis needed a commander the new trans-mississippi district, as two of the leading confederate generals there, bitter rivals sterling price and benjamin mcculloch, required a leader to subdue their strong personalities and organize an effective fighting force. Both henry heth and braxton bragg had turned down the post, and davis selected van dorn. He headed west beginning on september 19 to concentrate his separated commands, and set up his headquarters at pocahontas, arkansas. He assumed command of the district on january 29, 1862.Van dorn first major engagement was at the battle of pea ridge numerous factors would cause the confederates to be defeated at this battle, coupled with van dorn’s army being ordered across the mississippi river to bolster the army of tennessee, enabled the union to control the entire state of missouri and threaten the heart of arkansas, left virtually defenseless without van dorn’s forces. Despite the loss at pea ridge, the confederate congress would vote its thanks “for their valor, skill, and good conduct in the battle of elkhorn in the states of arkansas” to van dorn and his men on april 21. In his report on march 18 to judah p. Benjamin, then the confederate secretary of war, van dorn refuted suffering a loss, saying “i was not defeated, but only foiled in my intentions. I am yet sanguine of success, and will not cease to repeat my blows whenever the opportunity is offered.”the performance of van dorn at the second battle of corinth that fall led to another union army victory. As at pea ridge, van dorn did well in the early stages of the battle on october 12, 1862, combining with the price’s men and prudently placing his force that now was roughly equal in size to the federals at about 22,000 soldiers. However, van dorn failed to reconnoiter the union defenses, and his attack on brig. Gen. William s. Rosecrans’ strong defensive position at corinth, mississippi, on october 3 was bloodily repulsed. On october 45 his command was “roughly handled” along the hatchie river by union soldiers led by brigadier. Generals, stephen a. Hurlbut and edward ord. However rosecrans’ lack of an aggressive pursuit allowed what was left of van dorn’s men to escape. Total casualties for the second battle of corinth totaled 2,520 (355 killed, 1,841 wounded, 324 missing) for the union, and 4,233 (473 killed, 1,997 wounded, 1,763 captured/missing) for the confederates.After the battle van dorn ordered a retreat, falling back through oxford and then coffeeville, and finally reaching abbeville, constantly skirmishing with federal cavalry. Along the way van dorn and his staff were nearly captured at water valley on december 4. Two days later van dorn halted the retreat at grenada. Following the defeat at corinth, van dorn was sent before a court of inquiry to answer for his performance there. Though he was acquitted of the charges against him, van dorn would never be trusted with the command of an army again. He was subsequently relieved of his district command. Van dorn proved to be more effective as a cavalry commander; his action in a raid at holly springs, mississippi on december 20, 1862, seriously disrupted ulysses s. Grant’s first vicksburg campaign plans, capturing 1,500 soldiers and destroying at least $1,500,000 worth of union supplies. Van dorn and his men then followed the mobile and ohio railroad, fought unsuccessfully at davis’s mills, skirmished near middleburg, tennessee, passed around bolivar, and returned to their grenada base by december 28. On january 13, 1863, van dorn was appointed to command all cavalry in the department of mississippi & east louisiana, and then was ordered by gen. Joseph e. Johnston to join the army of tennessee, operating in middle tennessee. Van dorn and his force left tupelo, mississippi, went through florence, and reached the army on february 20 at columbia, tennessee. Van dorn set up his headquarters at spring hill, and assumed command of all of the surrounding cavalry from there. He was ordered by the army commander, gen. Braxton bragg, to protect and scout the left of the army, screening against union cavalry. Van dorn was also successful at battle of thompson’s station, on march 5, 1863. There a union brigade, under colonel. John coburn, left franklin to reconnoiter to the south. About four miles short of spring hill coburn attacked a confederate force composed of two regiments and was repulsed. Van dorn then sent brig. Gen. W. H. Jackson’s dismounted soldiers to make a direct frontal assault, while brig. Gen. Nathan bedford forrest’s troopers went around coburn’s left and into the federal rear. After three charges were beaten back, jackson finally carried the union position as forrest captured coburn’s wagon train, blocking the road to columbia and the only union escape route. Nearly out of ammunition as well as surrounded, coburn surrendered.On march 16, 1863 van dorn was given command on the cavalry corps of army of tennessee[33] and fought his last fight april 10 at the first battle of franklin, skirmishing with the cavalry of gordon granger and losing 137 men to granger’s 100 or so. This minor action caused van dorn to halt his movement and rethink his plans, and subsequently he returned in the spring hill area.It was van dorn’s reputation as a womanizer, not a union bullet that led to his death. In may 1863 he was shot in his headquarters at spring hill in maury county, tennessee, by dr. James b. Peters, who claimed that van dorn had carried on an affair with his wife jessie. Alone in his office at the home of martin cheairs (now known as ferguson hall) van dorn was writing at his desk, and peters entered and shot him once in the back of the head, killing him instantly. Peters was later arrested by confederate authorities, but was never brought to trial for the killing. In defense of his actions, dr. Peters stated that van dorn had “violated the sanctity of his home.”van dorn’s body was brought back to mississippi and buried at wintergreen cemetery in port gibson, unusually buried facing his family home.Controversial throughout his life, and the only confederate general to be murdered, van dorn as a military commander was an able leader of small to medium groups of soldiers, particularly cavalry, but was out of his depth with larger commands. Military historian david l. Bongard described him as “aggressive, brave, and energetic but lacked the spark of genius necessary for successful high command in combat.” noted by military historian richard p. Weinert summarized van dorn as, a brilliant cavalry officer, he was a disappointment in command of large combined forces.”