Earl Van Dorn

Headstone: Find-a-Grave

Reference: Alabama Department of Archives & History. Custodian of the original pictures. Confederate Officers photo album.  http://www.archives.alabama.gov/conoffalb/index.html

Previous Page

Earl Van Dorn was born near Port Gibson, Mississippi, on September 17, 1820. He was graduated fifty-second in a class of fifty-six members at the Military Academy in 1842 (James Longstreet stood fifty-fourth). He saw service in the Indian campaigns and was breveted captain and major for gallantry in the Mexican war. By 1861 he had attained the regular rank of major in the celebrated 2nd United States Cavalry, whose field officers at the outbreak of the Civil War were Colonel Albert Sidney Johnston; Lieutenant Colonel Robert E. Lee; Major George H. Thomas; and Major Earl Van Dorn.

Upon Van Dornís resignation on January 31, 1861, Edmund Kirby Smith was appointed in his stead and served until he also resigned to join the South. Earl Van Dorn was commissioned Colonel and, on June 5, 1861, Brigadier General in the Confederate service, and was assigned to Texas, where some of the Union forces surrendered to him.

On September 19, 1861 he was promoted Major General and transferred to Virginia. He was made commander of the Army of the West in the Trans-Mississippi theater the following January, where he fought and lost the battle of Elkhorn (Pea Ridge). He was subsequently transferred to the Army of Mississippi, with headquarters at Vicksburg. After his defeat at Corinth by W. S. Rosecrans he was superseded by General John C. Pemberton and placed in charge of Pembertonís cavalry. His most noteworthy achievement thereafter was the destruction, in December 1862, of Grantís supply depots at Holly Springs, Mississippi. This action temporarily disrupted Grantís projected operations against Vicksburg.

He was assassinated in his headquarters at Spring Hill, Tennessee, May 7, 1863, by a Dr. Peters, who alleged as a justification for his act that Van Dorn had violated the sanctity of his home. Van Dornís partisans termed the deed a cold-blooded murder for gain. General Earl Van Dorn is buried in Port Gibson, Mississippi.

Ref: Generals in Gray, Lives of the Confederate Commanders by Ezra J. Warner.  Printed by Louisiana State University Press, Baton Rouge and London.