Page:Southern Historical Society Papers volume 06.djvu/161

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Van Dorn's Operations in Northern Mississippi.

Van Dorn's Operations in Northern Mississippi—Recollections of a Cavalryman.

By Colonel A. F. Brown.

The writer having had the honor of serving with Van Dorn's cavalry from its organization until the death of its gallant commander, proposes to narrate some of the events connected with its history. As the sketch is written without access to official data of any kind, it claims to be nothing more nor less than the "recollections of a cavalryman."

General Van Dorn took command of cavalry in December, 1862, but, to understand clearly the causes which led to his being transferred to that arm of the service, it will be necessary to glance at the situation of affairs in Mississippi just prior to the date mentioned.

The summer and autumn of 1862 brought to the people of North Mississippi the first of the many dark days which they experienced during the war. The Federals occupied Memphis and Corinth and held undisputed possession of the Mississippi and Tennessee rivers north of those points, and it became obvious, early in the autumn, that they were preparing to avail themselves of the easy means of transportation afforded by these streams for concentrating at Memphis, Corinth, and other points along the northern border of the State, a force destined for the invasion of Mississippi.

The army of Tennessee had retired from Corinth and finally from the State, leaving only a few battalions of cavalry scattered from the Alabama line to the vicinity of Memphis and a single brigade of infantry—General Villipegue's—stationed on the south bank of the Tallahatchie river, near where the Mississippi Central railroad crosses that stream. These forces could accomplish nothing beyond observing the movements of the enemy and protecting the country to some extent against small marauding parties. The country was teeming with immense supplies of bread-stuffs and forage; for no portion of the cotton States yielded finer crops, prior to the war, than North Mississippi, and its patriotic people had almost entirely abandoned the cultivation of cotton and devoted their energies to the production of grain. It became a matter of grave importance to avert or, at least, delay the threatened invasion, until these supplies could be transported to interior points for the use of the army. To accomplish that end, the Confederate authorities deter-