Page:Southern Historical Society Papers volume 19.djvu/199

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Recollections of General Earl Van Dora. 193

My boy Jem alone enjoyed that trip. He rode in the ambulance all day and slept ad libitum day and night; and except when he got a ducking by the upsetting of a canoe in Black river, he was as happy as ever he had been since the last herring season on the Potomac. The battle of Elkhorn disturbed Tern's equilibrium even more than the upsetting of the canoe. The excitement of imminent danger, which was never a pleasing emotion to Jem, was kept up at Elk'horn much longer than in Black river, and I could not find him for three days not, indeed, until we accidentally met on the route of our retreat, when I must say he showed great delight at "meeting up" with me again, and took to himself no little credit for the skill with which he had conducted the movements of that ambulance for the past three days. It had contained all of our clothing and blankets and camp supplies, of no little value to hungry and wearied warriors. The blankets and clothing were all right, but we found nothing whatever for the inner man. Jem was cheerful and cordial and comfortable, but we never could ascertain where he had the ambulance from time to time the first shot was fired, until the moment we encountered him in full retreat, and with the last sound of the battle died out in the distance behind him.


Van Dorn had planned the battle of Elkhorn well ; he had moved so rapidly from Boston mountain with the forces of Price and McCulloch combined that he caught the enemy unprepared, and with his division so far separated that but for the inevitable indiscipline of troops so hastily thrown together he would have destroyed the whole Federal army. By the loss of thirty minutes in reaching Bentonville we lost the cutting off of Siegel with seven thousand men, who were hur- rying to join the main body on Sugar creek. But we pushed him hard all that day, and after he had closed upon the main body Van Dorn, leaving a small force to occupy the attention in front, threw his army, by a night march, quite around the Federal army and across their only road by which retreat to Missouri could be effected. He handled his forces well ; always attacking, always pressing the enemy back. When he heard of the death in quick succession of the three principal commanders of his right wing McCulloch, Mclntosh and Hebert and the consequent withdrawal from the attack of that whole wing, he only set his lips a little firmer ; his blue eyes blazed brighter, and his nostrils looked wider, as he said: "Then we must press them the harder." And he did, too, and he had everything 13