Monday, May 6, 2013

May 7, 1863 (Thursday): Van Dorn Assassinated

Ferguson Hall, Spring Hill, TN.

Spring Hill, Tenn., May 7, 1863.
I. Major-General Van Dorn having just died, the undersigned, being the ranking brigadier-general present, hereby assumes command of this corps.
II. Brigadier-General Cosby will assume command of the First Division until further orders.

     W. H. JACKSON,


Spring Hill, Tenn., May 7, 1863.
     It becomes the sad duty of the brigadier-general commanding to announce to this corps the death of its late beloved and gallant commander, Major General Earl Van Dorn. He departed this life at 1 p. m. to-day. The sorrow with which his death is announced will be deeply felt by the country and by this corps, for to it his loss is an irreparable one. His career has been eventful. An educated soldier, he has served with distinction in the armies of his country for nearly a quarter of a century with varied successes, at times shrouded and enveloped in the gloom of defeat, at others his career made resplendent with the most glorious victories; but in the midst of it all he has presented the same calm, intrepid front. Self-sustaining, self-reliant, he bared his breast to every shock with that true, genuine nobleness and courage which he so eminetly possessed. At the commencement of the present war he occupied a very high position in the Army of the United States, which he had won for himself by his own valor and military skill unaided by any influence from powerful friends. Upon the dismemberment of the Federal Union he was amongst the first to resign his position and espouse the cause of his native State, Mississippi, by whose authority he was placed in command of her forces, second only to Jefferson Davis. Probably more interest has gathered around him than anyother general officer on this continent, for amidst the glory that his deeds had won for himself a storm of obloquy burst upon him at one time, and his friends trembled for his safety; but with his wonted calmness, steadily and bravely, he met his relentless enemies and hurled every charge trimphantly and proudly back upon them, making for himself a complete and magnificent vindication. it stands upon record; it is enrolled in the archives of the nation. Upon the battle-field he was the personification of courage and chivalry. No knight of the olden time ever advanced to the contest more eagerly, and after the fury of the conflict had passed away none were ever more generous and humane to the sufferers than he. As a commander he was warmly beloved and highly respected; as a gentleman his social qualities were of the rarest order; for goodness of heart he had no equal. His deeds have rendered his name worthy to be enrolled by the side of the proudest in the Capitol of the Confederacy, as it is, and long will be, sacredly and proudly cherished in the hearts of his command.
     By command of Brigadier General W. H. Jackson:

    Captain and Assistant Adjutant-General.

Official Records, Series I., Vol. 52, Part 2, Page 466.

Van Dorn was a veteran of hard fighting against the Commanches before the war, having been seriously wounded four times.  He also fought in the Mexican and Seminole wars before resigning to take command of Mississippi troops from Jefferson Davis when the later became President of the Confederacy.  He commanded the Department of Texas, led the 1st Division in the Army of the Potomac in late 1861 and in early 62' took command of the Trans-Mississippi Department fighting at Pea Ridge and Shiloh.  He then took command of the Army of the West and Army of West Tennessee.  After the loss at Corinth he was investigated but vindicated for his role in the defeat.  When he returned to action he returned to his natural role of cavalry commander but was killed at Spring Hill, Tennessee by Dr. Peters, a local resident, who stated Van Dorn had "violated the sanctity of his home."  Van Dorn's friends denied this were so, saying he was shot in the back in cold blood for political reasons.

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