Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Earl Van Dorn
Born near Port Gibson, Mississippi, Van Dorn graduated from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point in 1842 near the bottom of his class. He fought in the Mexican War and against the Seminoles and Comanches, and this experience led to his rapid advancement in the Confederate States Army, rising from colonel in March 1861 to major general in September. In this capacity, he commanded the Confederate forces at the Battle of Pea Ridge (Elkhorn Tavern) in Pea Ridge, Arkansas. The Confederates' defeat at this battle enabled the Union to control the state of Missouri. His incompetence at the Battle of Corinth, Mississippi in October 1862 led to another Union victory.
Van Dorn was more effective as a cavalry commander, winning actions at Holly Springs, Mississippi in December 1862 and Thompson's Station, Tennessee in March 1863. However, it was his reputation as a womanizer, not a Union bullet, that led to his death. On May 7, 1863, he was shot at his headquarters in Spring Hill, Tennessee by Dr. George Peters, who claimed that Van Dorn had carried on an affair with his wife. Peters was later arrested by Confederate authorities but was never tried for the killing. Van Dorn is buried at Port Gibson, Mississippi.
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