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Camp Van Dorn honors name of great soldier

Gen. Earl Van Dorn Was One Of South's Great Soldiers

The life and accomplishments of Major General Earl Van Dorn for whom this camp is named, reads more like a scenario for a thrilling historical motion picture than an ordinary biography.

General Van Dorn was a man of action and determination and whatever he did or wherever he went he usually had a major role in pageant of events that made history.

Major General Van Dorn was born on September 7, 1820, at Port Gibson, Miss., a community not far from this camp. By the time he was 16 he knew that he wanted to devote all his time to the service of his country as a soldier.

But General Van Dorn didn't want to be just an ordinary soldier — he wanted to be a West Point soldier. So with that thought in mind he penned a note to Ex-president Andrew Jackson who was living at the Hermitage in Tennessee. The old general must have been impressed by Van Dorn's sincerity because he immediately went to work in the young man's behalf and a few months later the anxiously awaiting youth received his appointment to the academy.

After four years of hard work and study at the "Point" the 20-year-old youth graduated as a second lieutenant and was assigned to Fort Pike on the Gulf of Mexico.

A short time after his marriage he was sent to Mexico where he fought in Scott's Campaign.

At Fort Brown where the fighting was particularly hot it was observed that the American Flag had been shot down outside the fort. The commanding officers asked for volunteers to fasten the flag to the staff. Lt. Van Dorn asked for the assignment and with bullets pelting the ground around him he raised the flag above the battle.

In 1855 Lt. Van Dorn was promoted to captain of the 2nd Cavalry — a regiment that was specially detailed to quell the troublesome Comanche Indians on the Texas border. Fellow officers of this regiment were Robert E. Lee, J. E. B. Stuart, G. B. McClellan, G. H. Thomas, W. H. Harder, Kirby Smith, John B. Hood and Fitzhugh Lee.

It was not long after he had established his reputation as an Indian fighter that Capt. Van Dorn was made a major. So successful were his campaigns against the Indians that the red men were brought under control.

And then the Civil war broke out. Since he was a southerner he gave up his commission in the United States Army and became a colonel in the Confederate Army. He was soon transferred to Richmond, Va., to organize the cavalry regiments. There he was made a major General in charge of the First Division Army of the Potomac.

During a lull in military movements he was ordered to Missouri and Arkansas where General price was being threatened by General Curtis.

The proudest day of General Van Dorn's life came when he was singled out by Gen. Davis, the confederate president, to defend the city of Vicksburg in his home state.

And Mississippians were so proud of this dashing officer that the legislature voted him a sword n the recommendation of the governor.

But in spite of his efforts Vicksburg fell. Undaunted by this set back Gen. Van Dorn fought brilliantly in Tennessee where the Union troops feared his strategy and all-around fighting ability. The by-word of the northern forces was "Look out for Van Dorn's Cavalry."

Not long after the battle of Cornith he took a short leave of absence to visit his family in Alabama. It was fortunate that he did because it was the last time he saw them.

For on May 7, 1863, he was sitting at his desk at Spring Hill, Tennessee, when a physician entered the room to ask permission to go to Nashville. The general approved and turned to write the necessary passport, and when he did the man shot him through the back of the head.

The assassination was a tribute to Gen. Van Dorn's greatness as a soldier. The Federal troops feared him so much that they had him killed.

Even Gen. Van Dorn's death was spectacular. Though wounded several times on the battlefield and always the first in dangerous action, no enemy bullet could touch him. Treachery ended his life.