Friday, March 2, 2012

March 2, 1862 - Van Dorn approaches the Scene of Action

Gen. Earl Van Dorn, CSA
March 2, 1862, 150 years ago today, found Confederate General Earl Van Dorn approaching the scene of the action in Northwest Arkansas.

He was in Pocahontas on February 22, 1862, when he learned that Springfield, Missouri, had fallen and that General Sterling Price's Missouri State Guard was retreating into Arkansas:

...I received dispatches on February 22, informing me that General Price had rapidly fallen back from Springfield before a superior force of the enemy, and was endeavoring to form a junction with the division of General McCulloch in Boston Mountains. For reasons which seemed to me imperative I resolved to go in person and take command of the combined forces of Price and McCulloch. - Gen. Earl Van Dorn, CSA, March 27, 1862.

Arkansas River
The magnitude of the emergency was evident and Van Dorn began to move. At the same time, the Confederate forces in the Boston Mountains continued to rest and regain their strength. Supplies flowed up from the Arkansas River and news came from west of the line that General Albert Pike was approaching with a large force of Native American Confederates. 

With Van Dorn on hand to overrule any disputes that might arise from the long-standing bickering between Generals Price and McCulloch, the Confederate army would be ready to defend itself. 

The Confederate commander had more in mind than just defense, however, and would prove it the next day. Although he was sick with fever, Van Dorn was as aggressive as ever and dreamed not just of defeating Curtis in Northwest Arkansas, but of taking Missouri and marching on St. Louis. This dream would lead him to undertake a bold gamble. He would show his hand in just five days at the Battle of Pea Ridge.

Be sure to check back tomorrow as I post on the Confederate army's advance to Pea Ridge. You can learn more about the battle anytime at

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