Page:Southern Historical Society Papers volume 19.djvu/198

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Southern Historical Society Papers.

whom men could trust and follow. No young officer came out of the Mexican war with a reputation more enviable than his. After the close of that war he resumed his duties and position in the infantry regiment of which he was a lieutenant.

In 1854 the Second Cavalry was organized, and Van Dorn was promoted to be the major of the regiment. He conducted several of the most important and successful expeditions against the Comanches we have ever made, and in one of them was shot through the body, the point of the arrow just protruding through the skin. No surgeon was at hand. Van Dorn, reflecting that to withdraw the arrow would leave the barbed head in his body, thrust it on through, and left the surgeon little to do. When the States resumed their State sovereignty he took a bold and efficient part in securing to Texas, where he was serving, all of the war material within her borders. Early in the war he was ordered to join the army under General Joe Johnston at Manassas; whence soon after, in February, 1861, he was ordered to take command of the Trans-Mississippi Department.


I was associated with him in this command as chief of his staff and saw him daily for many months. He had conceived the bold project of capturing St. Louis and transferring the war into Illinois, and was actively engaged in preparing for this enterprise when he was summoned by General Price to Boston mountain, where the forces of Price and McCulloch lay in great need of a common superior for—these two generals could not co-operate because of questions of rank. Therefore, Van Dorn promptly responded to Price's summons, and in a few hours was in the saddle and on his way to Van Buren. I went with him, and one aide-de-camp, an orderly and my servant man Jem made up our party. Van Dorn rode a fine thoroughbred black mare he had brought from Virginia. I was mounted on a sorrel I had bought in Pocahontas a few hours before we set out. Except my sorrel mare, Van Dorn's black mare was the hardest trotter in the world, and as we trotted fifty-five miles every day for five or six days, we had a very unusual opportunity of learning all that a hard trotter can do to a man in a long day's march. Had it not been that we slept every night in a feather bed that soothed our sore bones and served as a poultice to our galled saddle pieces, we would have been permanently disabled for cavalry service forever.