Page:Southern Historical Society Papers volume 19.djvu/203

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Recollections of General Earl Van Dorn. 197

short to the left, and cross the Hatchie by the Boneyard road, with- out the loss of a wagon.

By 10 P. M. his whole army and train were safely over the Hatchie, and with a full moon to light us on our way we briskly marched for Ripley, where we drew up in line of battle and awaited the enemy, but he not advancing we marched to Holly Springs. When in No- vember Van Dorn checked Grant's advance, he then occupied the works on the Tallahatchie, which he held for a month; Grant's force was sixty thousand, Van Dorn's was sixteen thousand. He then re- tired behind the Yallabusha to Grenada and awaited Grant's advance until Christmas eve, 1862, when, leaving the army at Grenada under Loring's command, he moved with two thousand horse around Grant's army, swooped down upon Holly Springs, captured the gar- rison, destroyed three months' stores for sixty thousand men, and defeated Grant's whole campaign and compelled him to abandon Mississippi. From that time Van Dorn resumed his proper role as a general of cavalry, in which he had no superior in either army. His extrication of his cavalry division from the bend of Duck river equaled his conduct in the forks of the Hatchie.


In the spring of 1863 he was the chief commander of the cavalry of Bragg's army, then at Tullahoma ; he had as brigade commanders Armstrong, Jackson, Cosby and Martin, and with about eight thou- sand men, was preparing to move across the Ohio. His command was bivouacked in the fertile region of Middle Tennessee. His headquarters were at Spring Hill, and almost daily he would engage the enemy with one of his brigades while the other three were care- fully drilled. His horses were in fine order and his men in better drill, discipline and spirit than our cavalry had ever been. He was assassinated just as he was about to move on the most important enterprise of his life. I believe that in him we lost the greatest cav- alry soldier of his time. His knowledge of roads and country was wonderful. He knew how to care for his men and horses. His own wants were few ; his habits simple ; he was energetic and enduring ; he deferred everything to his military duty ; he craved glory beyond everything high glory; there was no stain of vain glory about any- thing he ever did or said. As the bravest are ever the gentlest, so was he simple and kind, and gentle as a child. I remember one eve- ning on our ride across Arkansas we stopped at the hospitable house of an old gentleman (Dr. Williams) about one day's march this side