Page:Southern Historical Society Papers volume 19.djvu/206

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200 Southern Historical Society Papers.

cept it, left Van Dorn's presence (I think they never met again) to perform the most wonderful feat in the history of that remarkable war I refer to the capture of Strait and his command.


Very shortly after the departure of Forrest, General Granger having reinforced Franklin, moved out with a force of about ten thousand infantry, and a large body of cavalry and artillery, and Van Dorn retired before him, hoping to repeat the operation against Coburn; but finding Granger's force larger than it was at first supposed, he determined to assume the defensive and take position behind Ruth- erford's creek, a tributary of Duck river, with which it unites only a few miles below Columbia. Accordingly he formed his command on the left bank of the creek, which at that point is about four miles from the river at Columbia, and for some distance is nearly parallel with the river, intending to receive Granger's attack there; but heavy rains having fallen on an already swollen river it became past fording in a few hours, and Van Dorn deemed it imprudent, under the cir- cumstances, to risk an engagement between the creek and swollen river, in which, if beaten, he would probably both lose his command, and leave Columbia exposed. He, therefore, decided to turn up the river to a bridge twenty miles distant, cross, and return down the river by a forced march to cover Columbia before the enemy could cross, he (Van Dorn) having fort)' miles to move and they only four. This bold and dexterous movement was accomplished in spite of the fact that the enemy, seeing his position, pressed vigorously upon Van Dorn's right to force him into the fork ; but finding that he had extricated himself and reached Columbia before any preparation could be made by them to cross, they retired immediately, seeming to fear that their absence from Franklin might tempt so daring and expeditious an opponent as Van Dorn to precede them to that point. Van Dorn at once resumed his position at Spring Hill, and his assas- sination followed very quickly. My recollection is that, during the few months of his brilliant career in Tennessee he captured more men than he had in his own command.

I may not be entirely accurate in all I have said, but substantially it is correct. If, however, you wish to be minute, you had better send this to General Forrest or General Jackson, either of whom can verify it or correct any inaccuracy of my memory if it be at fault. It is deeply to be regretted that the details of Van Dorn's