Appleton's Cyclopedia of American Biography, edited by James
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VAN DORN, Earl, soldier, born near Port Gibson, Mississippi, 17 September, 1820: died in Spring Hill, Tennessee, 8 May, 1863. He was graduated at the United States military academy in 1842, assigned to the 7th infantry, and served in garrisons. After his promotion to 2d lieutenant, 30 November, 1844, he took part in the military occupation of Texas in 1845-'6, was made 1st lieutenant, 3 March, 1847, and brevetted cap-lain on 18 April for "gallant and meritorious conduct in the battle of Cerro Gordo." He was at Contreras and Churubusco, and was brevetted major, 20 August, 1847, for gallantry in those actions. He also took part in the assault and capture of the city of Mexico, and was wounded at Belen gate. He was aide-de-camp to General Persifer F. Smith, from April, 1847, till May, 1848, at Baton Rouge, Louisiana Lieutenant Van Dorn engaged in the Seminole war in 1849-'50, was made captain in the 2d cavalry, 3 March, 1855, took part in the battle with the Comanches, 1 July, 1856, and commanded the expedition against those Indians near Washita Village, Indian territory, 1 October, 1858, where he was four times wounded, twice dangerously by arrows. He was again engaged with the Comanches in the valley of Nessentunga, 13 May, 1859. He became major of the 2d cavalry, 28 June, 1860, but resigned on 31 January, 1861, and was appointed by the legislature of Mississippi brigadier-general of the state forces, afterward succeeding Jefferson Davis as major-general. He was appointed colonel of cavalry in the regular Confederate army, 16 March, 1861, took command of a body of Texan volunteers, and on 20 April captured the steamer "Star of the West" at Indianola. On 24 April, at the head of 800 men, at Salaria, he received the surrender of Major Caleb C. Sibley and seven com-panics of United States infantry, and on 9 May he received that of Colonel Isaac V. D. Reeve with six companies of the 8th infantry, he became brigadier-general on 5 June, and major-general on 19 September, 1861, and on 29 January, 1862, took command of the Trans-Mississippi department. He was defeated at Pea Ridge on 6-8 March (see CURTIS, SAMUEL R.), and, being superseded by General Theophilus IX. Holmes, joined the Army of Mississippi. At Corinth, 3-4 October, where he was in command with General Sterling Price, he was again defeated, and he was superseded by General John C. Pemberton. On 20 December he made an attack on Holly Springs, Mississippi, which was occupied by Colonel Murphy with a body of United States troops, and captured a large amount of valuable stores. On 10 April, 1863, he made an unsuccessful attack on General Gordon Granger at Franklin. Tenn. In the following month General Van Dorn was shot by a physician named Peters, on account of a private grievance. General Van Dorn provoked many strictures at one time by an order restricting the comments of the press on the movements of the army, though the step was taken in obedience to the commands of General Braxton Bragg. He possessed a cultivated taste, and was a fine draughtsman. When stationed at Newport, Kentucky, barracks, opposite Cincinnati, he devised and successfully tried in that city an elevated electric railway.
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