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tv   The Civil War Confederate General Earl Van Dorn  CSPAN  October 14, 2022 5:02pm-6:01pm EDT

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my great privilege and honor to
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introduce the matt atkinson. matt is a native of houston, mississippi, and received a ba in history from the university of mississippi. he has worked at petersburg national battlefield, -- national historical park, manassas national battlefield and vicksburg national military park. he's currently employed as a ranger slash historian at gettysburg national military park. and he will be presenting to you about the fallen leader earl van dorn. >> [applause] >> this is the adjustment period, right? where you find out what the mic is like. or like hank williams said, one time, in
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1952, my good friend down in georgia, his daddy saw him and hank williams stepped up to the microphone and he blew in it. and he says, well, boys, this works. let's see if i do. >> [laughs] >>. i appreciate you all having me again. it's good to be back in -- i have an impossible task, i will go ahead and tell you, i've got 13 pages of single spaced notes on earl van dorn and i've got 45 minutes. and i've got a man standing in the back. this is such a big seminar, you notice they had the introducer of the introducer. that's when you are big-time, when you've got an introducer for the introducer.
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>> [laughs] >> i ain't got time to do 13 pages of single spaced. so you'll excuse me. you are going to get the 90 mile an hour tour right there. and i need to tell you about the honda. i need to give you an update on my honda. when i came here and spoke last time, the only thing you people seem to get out of my lecture was the story about my electric chair being down and me riding all the way from gettysburg with no back support, with pillow stuffed in it. well, i've got a new story for you if i can remember to tell you. all right, so let's do old earl van dorn, i guess i was supposed to do this last year or the year before. just couldn't help, it you know? so, let's see if i can get to work. earl van dorn, when chris murkowski came to me and said, i need an idea, i
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forget the whole thing, how the conversation went down, it's been three years ago. but i say, you know, i think i've got a winning topic. i've got a guy that's got sex and violence. >> [laughs] >> especially after lunch. when you get this slot, which, thank you very much for moving me up -- i will introduce you to the reason i've also gathered in double for time. i keep glancing to stage left. all right. earl van dorn, let's see where old earl is from right here. he was born in port gibson, mississippi, the same site as the civil war battle from the vicksburg campaign. born in 1820. he came from a wealthy and influential family. i've actually been in that house. it's in a lot better shape when i saw 20 years ago, 15 or 20 years ago. but i think that picture predates that. his father dies, though, when he is a teenager, leaving earl van dorn to fend
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for himself. and so, you know, people, i was just talking to greg mertz over here, 40 years in the park service, i've got 22 in. we've got all these kids in with the government and applying this to earl van dorn, i don't know how much his skill in life, ladies and gentlemen, and how much is who you know. well, none other than andrew jackson is the great uncle of earl van dorn and so when earl van dorn's daddy dies, uncle jack is going to come in and get his appointment into the west point military academy. and that's how van dorn gets going. from graduating in 1842,
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he ranked 52 out of 68. that would be about where i would fall. in my high school class. or there. incidentally, though, and i'm saying this for bob crick, i haven't seen him in decades either. now that he sends me christmas cards but i'm sure he'd appreciate this statement, that earl van dorn beat out james longstreet for 55th in his class. that's for you bob crick, wherever you are. >> [laughs] >> foreshadowing the ears of rebellious life, van dorn ranked 210 out of 217. i bet i could rank lower than that. such offenses that van dorn came across was including a failure to salute in passing, tobacco smoke in the quarters, failure to attend church as well as not suppressing the profanity of friends. didn't know you had to do that at west point. the first assignment for the newly minted graduate. of course they send him to the middle of nowhere. as a newly minted second lieutenant, he
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had a short assignment to fort pike, louisiana, then fort morgan in mobile, alabama. his collateral duties, sending to the arsenal in mount vernon, alabama and while there, he met none other then 16 year old martha caroline--. no, this is not earl van dorn, i don't know why you are looking at that. and after a speedy courtship, they married in december of 1843. he would have been 23 years old. carrie, as his wife was called, was remembered as a girlish looking little girl, modest and shy, slight and graceful, and of quote.
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although married, carrie's parents did not want to let go of their baby girl -- she basically stayed in her parents house when van dorn was deployed to other stations -- the one thing, if i could get ahead of the cart right here, is she is going to survive van door and in life for his death and there is no pictures of her. and that's basically the only strip shun description that i can find. but from a personal standpoint, from a historian's standpoint, i'm very curious about her. i'd like to know more and i wish i had more to tell you because when i tell you these stories about earl van dorn, i'm not going to mention her much anymore, she's always in the shadow for me. lingering there. i've often wondered what she thought of what i'm about to describe to you. >> [laughs] >> not much of a sentimental crowd around here. all right. in 1846, you will never get to believe this, but the war broke out with mexico. and he was
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assigned -- earl was assigned to the u.s. infantry and began the war in for texas in brownsville, texas. future texas, i guess you could argue. when the american flag fell from the pole it was van dorn who volunteered to dash out 100 yards and re-raise the flag. in 1847, he transferred to winfield scott's command where he earned two promotions for conduct. one promotion to captain came at the battle of --. and the brevity rank of -- following the mexican war, the army signed him to various posts, such as jefferson barracks in st. louis. all right? always a favorite. baton rouge, louisiana. must have a tennessee fan in here somewhere, didn't like baton rouge. in
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florida, surely there is somebody from georgia here -- where he was fighting the -- in mississippi -- earl van doren. 1850s, he was in oklahoma, chasing the indians. and in october, earl first 1850, eight he was seriously wounded van doren. at the battle of wichita village. while holding the reins of his horse, i'm going to describe this to you, and i've got a lot to cover you and i probably going to shorten myself somewhere else but i think right here, ladies and gentlemen, in this life, in case i can't finish this program -- but in this life i think this is where the style of command that earl van dorn exercises in the civil war comes from. the time he was stationed in the peace war army. so, anyway, at the fight -- or, excuse me, at the battle of wichita village, while holding the reins in his left
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hand, an arrow that probably would hit his heart, his his left -- i don't know exactly how to describe that for you but i don't think i have to. if that didn't get your goose up after lunch i will tell you this, another arrow fired from below. the opponent was below and struck him on the right side, puncturing both lungs and stomach before exiting out his left side. he reportedly extracted the arrow himself, the arrows himself. van dorn was expected to die but you know that people like him and -- who do we add to that category? they don't die but revealing a tenacity like no other was back in the saddle five weeks later. no, no, no, no, i'm a government man myself. >> [laughs] >> i need a
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light workstation is what i need. all dorm. right -- van dorn became known as one of the greatest indian fighters in the united states army and he received a silver serving set from the citizens of port gibson. try saying that when you are in a hurry. silver serving set -- from the citizens of port gibson, in recognition of his gallantry. he was also given several swords over his career. one from the state of mississippi. this is van dorn, circa 1860, and the sword he has in his hand is the one from the state of mississippi. getting to the, war in 1860 and 1861, van dorn was on leave when the civil war broke out and he resigned and joined the provisional army of mississippi, basically the state army, remember, while montgomery is organizing the
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confederate states, they had provisional armies and so he gets into that and he rises to the rank of major general in the provisional army of the state of mississippi which means absolutely nothing. and he wanted a rank in the newly minted national government and therefore accepted a colonel--. and the confederate industry on april 11th, he was given command of the department of texas, and let's get into earl van dorn. the federal troops are starting to withdraw or most of them have been withdrawn from texas. but there is one last contingent and van doren shows great audacity or at least, i don't know if i would have pulled this. he doesn't have any naval forces, as you can well imagine. the state of texas does not have any navy. but the last remnants of the union army are pulling out and they have a transport ship and it's called the star
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of the west and to make it such a small world, this is the same vessel that was charged with reinforcing fort sumter in april of 61 and was turned back by the confederates. i'm reaching deep right here. but anyway, long story short, van dorn proceeds to get a transport ship and, hiding the men below the deck, he slides up again the star of the west and he hails the captain, somebody does, and says we're pulling into port, do you mind if we tie up? sure, go ahead. so, they throughout the gangplank, throw out a rope, and the next thing they know, there is a confederate flag. on
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the star of the west. well, guess what, you can't have a corvette like that and -- they take it for a sale and it eventually goes to new orleans and, when new orleans falls, they take it further north. it ends up, the union navy coming south from kay roe and st. louis, etc. and you get the other flotilla, ascending north from new orleans. the confederates eventually -- i know you can see that very well, but it's the best i can do for you and i'm really in a hurry right now. they tell the star of the west into the interior of the mississippi, or the state of mississippi. and when the union army approaches, during the yazoo pass expedition -- if you got that, one my hats off to you, the yazoo pass expedition -- i've been writing about it. -- lord have mercy. i'm going to show you what's holding that book up in just a few minutes. anyway, they literally sailed this thing into the interior of the state when the union navy approached, they sank it, they turned it at right angles and sank it. and guess what? that vessel that was supposed to resupply fort sumter, the one that van doren captured outside
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galveston, texas, is now still sitting at the bottom in greenwood, mississippi. there is some trivia for you. now, while he's down there, going back to texas, the good folks of san antonio threw a ball in van doren's honor and after a generous toast, van doren responded in parts like this, now, the only reason i'm telling you this is because i like to hear my voice okpo off this microphone. no, just getting. but it will give you, in all honesty, it will give you a good taste of what he was like. -- and it is all cavalier, if you will. sir walter scott. i hope he didn't do this off the cuff, but if he did, boy, i'm jealous. this assembly of beauty and chivalry is more than a fountain to the thirstiest ambition. one smile from the beauty around me here, when kind of proving glance from the eyes of those here who, like myself, contend in the
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rough arena of life are more than sufficient to compensate me for all my humble laborers on the tended field. the smile of women and the approbation of men are the earth marks of our loftest aspirations. to win them, the student burned the midnight lamp, the soldier sheds his blood on the battlefield, and for them, all are willing to die. they are the sweetest apples of the -- i'll never get this. i'll never get this one. h e s p e r i. d. e. a. s -- anybody know a little ancient history? well, guess what? all that convoluted
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stuff, i went to the mississippi public education system. what's your excuse? thanks for bailing me out. you know we're on live television. allow me to propose the women of the south, the safeguards of our honor, wherever they point, there our honor lies. [applause] you can just smell the whiskey on his breath. when you read that quote right there, you are looking at a drinking man right there. cold beer man. in september of 61, van doren was ordered to richmond, virginia. when he arrived at richmond, he received the promotion to the rank of major general, making him the senior
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major general of the south. at first, he was given all the command of the cavalry in virginia, but department commander joe johnson preferred another officer named jeb stewart. van dorn was reduced to inspections. he did his duty, but he longed for action. one eyewitness said that many people visited van dorn's headquarters were quote, around his hospitable board, the danger of the fields were forgotten for a time, giving place to the feast of reason and the flow of the soul. which means, what? [laughs] that's the one knock on this darn banquet, i don't get all you can drink, they ought to open the taps up right after lunch. we could be sitting here for an
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hour or two. at a banquet, given by general james -- and argument on the subject of what song should be the new national anthem? some suggested marilyn my marilyn, while others, dixie, not van dorn, he argued for the liberty duet from i puritana. the liberty duet for i puritana. in his merriment, he began to sing the stands at the table. van doren could not be heard -- retorted upon the table and show yourself, we can't see you. up on the table van dorn went, but not before telling longstreet that the only way he would get up on that table was, if longstreet joined him. and up on the table they went. and joining them was none other than gustavas smith. that must have been a heck of a
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birth. gustavas. and they bellowed the -- looked on. let the words, country victory and honor awaken tear in the enemy. let the trumpet sound and fearlessly, i'll fight courageously, it is a fine thing to face death crying, freedom. that's the best i can do for you. while at manassas, a lady named constance -- designed a new battle flag for the armies. being the senior major general in the confederate service, and her family also being from mississippi, she sent one of the originals to earl van doren. with a request to liberate her hometown of alexandria virginia. here's a note for you. these flags run for all the troops of the grand ceremony on november 20th, 1861. and the reason i put this slide up here and told you the story is this is one of the few paintings i've ever found that has van dorn in it. and that's not gentlemen right here. right here. you can't really see him
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but this is -- i believe that j. w. smith. i believe that maybe johnson, right here. i always liked -- he was always one of my favorites. as the new year 62 turned over, van doren reached a new assignment out west. all those confederate forces have been driven out of missouri, they have rallied in arkansas. their true principle commanders -- could not get along. jeff davis sends earl van dorn to unite the two forces. so, this will set up the battle of p ridge. thank you very much. doing a lot better than that last word. this is samuel -- i apologize that. but basically, they were under the command of samuel curtis. and van dorn ordered mccullough -- 16,000 total,
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which included 1000 indians, under the command of pike, confederate organized indians. to unite for a counter offensive. for his part, federal commander took up a defensive position along sugarcreek with about 10,000 confederate. so, 16 versus 10,000. from a confederate standpoint, you might think they had pretty good odds. van doren did not which to attack the federals in their strong position along this creek, you can't see it very well. i can't either. it's down here at the bottom of the screen. this blue, which you see, and that line, which you see. -- so, anyway, van dorn proceeds to try to attack curtis from the rear. the confederate mars -- too slow to surprise curtis and in an effort to speed things up just made things slower. so, in order to expedite things, because the armies were backed
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up on one road, van doren has this idea of separating his army into two forces., that is separating the two halves of his army -- now, you should know, ladies and gentlemen, even if you aren't a military historian, without instant communication, it is well nigh impossible to coordinate to separate forces with the means that they had at hand at that time period. this is what van doren is going to do. now, one half of this army is going to be under mccullough. and, long story short, they are going to meet and curtis's army is going to get to focus solely on mccullough's half of the confederate army. and this is near the town of louise town, arkansas. mccullough has
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18,000. a lot more veterans of wilson creek -- they marched out. mccullough gets killed. his second in command, james mcintosh, gets killed. shortly thereafter -- and basically, everything goes to pieces after that. is that concise enough? the remaining confederates try to stand them off, which included the indians, -- pike. but they eventually are checked by the arrival of fresh union forces, even though, seesaw battle -- and jefferson c davis, -- arrives with his division and turns the tides for the union. and so, mccullough's half is defeated. as a side note, i just can't resist putting his picture up here as we go through it. these are veterans, and american indians. that are up there. pikes indian brigade didn't participate in this fight and the -- did not
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fight -- in conventional napoleon tactics. basically, they came up, fired a volley, and they ran off. however, they returned later, after the fight was over, and retrieved some scouts. boy, you didn't offer laughs for that one, did you? meanwhile, van doren wrote that -- and on the morning of march 7th, 1862, the head of van dorn's column, struck the -- near -- van dorn it is slow to deploy, the federals are allowed to deploy and their own defensive conditions -- but nevertheless, the confederates hit them on both flanks and they do collapsed the union line, sending them back. curtis, samuel curtis, the union commander, is not done though. even though van dorn scores a
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success at the tavern -- the next day -- i need not even explain the action. you can look at the map and tell what happens from here. so your is going to be in tactical command of the field and he will counter attack and drive van dorn from the battle of p ridge. van doren is very lucky to get away in the retreat. he is -- he needs to retreat south and he is on the northern side of the battlefield. the union, doesn't know the roads any better than the confederates -- and van dorn goes around the union flag -- he gets very lucky. -- van dorn writes richmond that if they will leave him and command, he will be willing to go back on the
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offensive, he would have no problem doing that. the next up is the confederate government is finding out that you can't offend everywhere along 1000-mile front of the confederacy. and arkansas is going to be sacrificed. so, after the battle of p ridge, johnson starts consolidating all the forces, including the confederate forces from the west of the mississippi and so, van dorn and his command are going to march east and cross the river. they will not make it in, time though, for the battle of shiloh. they will get there like, i believe, two or three days after the battle. i would love to have known what would have happened if 10,000 men had crossed the river. -- but what they bring with them -- this is just a personal interest note of mine. they do bring the missourians, the former state guard, the militia,
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if you will from missouri. which turned out to be some of the finest combat troops -- if you ever want to see heavy lifting, you look at john bowls division in the pittsburgh campaign. there is a reason those missourians are called on. he goes back across, they missed that, in the meantime, though, president davis is not happy about the vicksburg, mississippi situation. new orleans has fallen by now. if you know your civil war history -- mansell lovell has retreated from new orleans -- and jefferson davis doesn't trust him with the last nugget of the river. so, he sends earl van doren down there in the summer of 62 to take command. that is when van dorn sends john c. breckenridge in turn to attack baton rouge. that is the end of the -- arkansas. so, van dorn
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it's over that department at the time that all these offenses are taking place. when i'm trying to get you -- if how many places this guy is at in a short span that he is in the war. i mean, no doubt jefferson davis trusts him up until this point. we have a problem again up in northern mississippi. the missourians, who crossed the river, are now under the command of sterling -- the same guy that was at -- van doren's supposed to go up there and unite with, him take over, and they are jointly going to attack the route junction of -- mississippi. remember the battle of shiloh? -- the offensive, which goes up, is in conjunction with robert e. lee's anti-trump campaign and bragged 62 kentucky campaign. so, van dorn is, some would
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argue, the fourth leg of this offensive which is happening right here. here he goes. the first thing that van doren does is march past car thief. i know that doesn't make sense, but he marches to the northern side, acting like he's going to go through middle tennessee, into western kentucky. he is not doing that. he turns back around and attacks -- from the north. he is slow getting into position and you hear this over and over. on october 3rd, the union army is allowed to consolidate and is awaiting his arrival. -- a gap, i don't know -- there's a small gap in between one of the two union brigades, the confederate eventually exploit that gap, -- and drive the union forces back. so, here's the front lines, the exterior alliance. but and the union forces are going to fall back closer to--.
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and where, on october 4th, this will happen. now, the attack is delayed because we a number of different reasons. lewis hebert's sickness, -- postpones it until 9:00. i don't think it made any difference anyway. i always feel sorry for the soldiers. both sides have to attack the strongly entrenched enemy lines. forts, entrenchments -- that kind of power facing them, and the confederates momentarily breakthrough -- but it's just fleeting, if you will. the end result is a bloody debacle. and van dorn has to get out of there as best he can. -- loses 2500, van dorn loses 4200. to show you the extent of his losses, this is part of the coederate dead that are piled
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up in front of battery robinette, right here, interesting. on the left foreground, the gentleman that is propped up on the very left is colonel william p lodger's -- if you ever go to -- mississippi, i hate to say this, i don't know this, i'm not trying to be flippant right now. if the monument is still standing over the square, i believe that's supposed to be the likeness of rodgers on the confederate monument in the courthouse square. so, if you get there, remember me kindly. you know, i was at a seminar in virginia out there. and that guy said that william p rogers was up on that statue. i figure y'all need a reprieve. after --, the confederate government lost faith in earl van dorn and his ability to lead an independent army. they sent john c pemberton to supersede him. that's even more puzzling. as
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the new army and department commander, van dorn received a core command as a result. beginning in november of 62, grant begins an offensive against vicksburg. and what happens here is grant has not yet learned in his career that -- y'all are seeing something that not many people see. matt standing still. i hope you're enjoying this moment. there are two railroads right here. memphis is at the center top of your map. basically, grant is going to rebuild the railroad. he has not yet learned that he can forge off the countryside. like they would later. so, he is tethering his army to the railroad. well, the confederate start off -- there are three main rivers that they can
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defend. the coldwater, the tallahatchie, and the--bushy. pemberton decides to keep retreating, back to the center of this map. and this is where van dorn it's going to come into play. he will go, or at least, if you want to take a deep dive, one of his texas man will come to him and say general, why don't we ride around grant's army? grant is approaching grenade right here and his supply de poe's -- van dorn proposes, or at least he is going to get the credit, that we ride around grant's army and -- this is in december of 1862. i would say this is the peak of van dorn career because he pulls it off. he rides around and destroys, surprises the union garrison and destroys 1. 5 million dollars worth of supplies. and
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grant is forced to turn around. the net result of that is that sherman, his trusted lieutenant, has set sail on boats and gone to vicksburg, mississippi, but he's waiting on grant to come in from behind, while he hits them in front -- sherman attacks. and that is the battle of chickasaw bayou. so, van dorn is responsible for turning back grant's army. now, folks, positive press was now at van dorn feet. and can you imagine -- i hope you're getting a sense of what kind of guy. he's not a coward. he does not send
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into places that he would not go himself. -- he is impulsive. that's what i sense from this gentlemen. he has an impulsive character to him. and he loved glory. he loves the glory of war. okay. march 5th, van dorn scores another success at a small place called thompson station. not a very good picture of him, but i love that jacket he's gone on. i'd like to have that jacket. i saw stephen lang at gettysburg a couple weeks ago and i wanted to talk to him about that jacket he had on. where did you get that jacket? it's a nice jacket. at thompson station on march 5th of 63. van doren scores a very good success against a small federal force. he has -- under him at the time. and he stands in classic -- well, i'll just let the map explain it to, you all right? you've got whitfield, armstrong, and forest on the right here and all at the arrow show you -- it is never good to have an
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arrow with forest's name at the bottom pointing to your rear. that's the battle of thompson station. as a side note, in the midst of this fighting, i thought this was interesting, into the fray. and the confederates were fighting -- steps 17 year old alice thompson -- not too much older than you all, ladies. and she picked up the fallen banner and waved it around to rally the arkansas men. and after the battle, she attended the wounded. the reason i'm telling you this is she later married the sergeant that she assisted that day. a doctor david dungan. the story does not and, well though. i never, does? especially when you start off talking about hank williams. alice dies in 1869 at the age of 23. some people just don't
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have any luck. -- i got one more story for. you you know forest never worked well underneath somebody else. ladies, could you bring me that drink please. i forgot it. thank you. i appreciate it. you can imagine how van dorn and forest are going to get along. you gonna come up? no, you ain't coming. i decided, there is no use coming up all the way to gettysburg to turn back around. so, here we go. i would like murkowski to know that he
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is present -- that this is the reason his vicksburg book is not done. right here. i got one to match over here, but she's not playing right now. >> that's an excellent reason. >> thank you. thank you very much. i guess you want to sip before you go. i learned -- you people may not think you drink after someone else -- i used to work at vicksburg, and i had 12 12 year old boys underneath me, -- hundred degrees, 100 percent humidity, will uniforms -- you'd be surprised who you drink after -- you get over it in a hurry. oh, lord. she says, daddy -- oh, thank you. i appreciate it. she says, daddy, you're not going in there talking about those dead people, are you again? forest and van
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doren can't get along and, reportedly, there was a heated engagement -- not engagement. that belies military forces -- a heated argument between the two of them. at van dorn's headquarters about some kind of article that came out over a thompson station, the battle that i just detailed, and forest got the credit for it and van dorn was angry -- van dorn said -- the general expressed conviction of my great willingness to listen to
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stories to hear of discredit. one thing led to another, until at length, i threw off all restraint and directly expressed my belief in his treasury and falls it. suggesting that there was as good a place and time as any to settle our difficulties, and suiting the action to my word, i step to wear my sword was hanging against the wall, snatched it down, turn to face him, forest was really a sight to see. he had risen and advanced one step. his sword half drawn from the scabbard. and his face, a flame with feeling. but even as i -- my own sword and advance to meet him, a wave of some kind seem to pass over his countenance and he slowly returned his sword to with sheath and steadily regarding me, said, general van doren, you, i am not afraid of. but i will not fight you. i leave you to reconcile with yourself the gross wrong you have done me. it would never do for two
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officers of our rank to set such an example to the troops. and i remember, if you forget, with what's both we owe to the cause. i never felt so ashamed in my life, van dorn said to his staff officer. he went on to say that the true or position was restored, quote, i immediately replied, that he was right. and apologize for being used for such expression to him. i wish i could talk like that. and so we parted better friends. and i believe that we have been before. whatever else he may be, the man is certainly no coward. i hope to show -- and this is the part i wanted to dwell on right here -- i hope the show has brought out a couple of things. impetuosity, for one, that is
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coming out of van dorn. and also, his love for glory. and that love also is going to extend, of course, to the fairer sex. even after the bloody, repulsive -- of the confederate army retreating, van dorn still wanted to turn back and attack the city. sterling price turned to van dorn and said, you are the only man i ever saw who loves danger for its own sake. when any daring enterprise is before you you cannot adequately estimate the obstacle in your way. van was dorn also a renaissance man, painting, poetry, and horsemanship. he also, as i said, had an insatiable desire for glory. we come now to the ladies. a mobile newspaper
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reporter described van dorn as quote, the terror of ugly husbands and serious poppas. >> [laughs] >> would you like for me to repeat that? because some -- i shouldn't say, never mind -- >> [laughs] >> the terror of ugly husbands. the same reporter described the following conversation. quote, with the buxom widow of 20, after the lively little creature had congratulated on him his recent success, she closed by saying, general, you are older than i am, she said. but let me give you advice -- let the women alone until the war is over. my god, madam, replied van dorn, i cannot do that. because it is all i am pining for. i hate all men and were it not for the women i should not fight at all. >> [laughs] >> besides, if i adopted your generous advice, i would not now be speaking to you. whoa! now that man, if he's going to be saying that, he's got good hair. he's got
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good hair, i tell you what, i'm going to try i wouldn't try that. you want to go, all right. by the time he got to spring hill, in 1863, earl was already reversed and having affairs. while he was in texas from 57 to 1860, he took up company with a local laundress named martha goodbread. and had three children during those years he was stationed in texas. during the civil war, there was rumors of an affair with an 18 year old in vicksburg. actually pulled a staff officers letter one time when i was researching at the library of congress. he was writing his parents saying all these rumors are not true. and i'm reading this and i am saying, yeah, i think they, are
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i don't know. now we come to april of 63 and van dorn goes to the home of dr. george peters to inquire about using his farmland to graze his cavalry horses. well, the good doctor is out but while he is there, a prides the lady of the house. her name is jesse helen --. and mrs. peters offers the general the use of a cabin on the estate for his headquarters. and van dorn, it's not something he immediately jumps on. he would rather be in the town with all the bars and all the social stuff is happening. but eventually he goes out. and when she finds out he is out in that cabin, what else is there to do? all right, so -- >> [laughs] >> when doctor peters arrived out in town, he's about 51 years old. he's been out doing the rounds. he's 51 in 1863. jesse was his third wife, who he married in 1858. i'm
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sorry this is the only picture i could find. she's not 25. she was the local dark haired beauty. witty and intelligent, the daughter of a prominent springhill family and 25. besides the age difference, twice between the two, apparently the married couple were not well suited to each other. can you imagine? she wanted to go out and socialize and he wanted to sit at the house. well, you can see what is coming, don't you? all right, so, the doctor had landholding in arkansas, which would take him over there, i think he had some plantations during this time. van dorn and her get to know each other. dr. peters was present at some of these things. there was one time when the doctor came home when there was a bunch of guests there. just not van dorn, and it was a
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big row upstairs about that and everything, anyway, rumors started. and van dorn, i think, moves. now after dr. peters kicked everyone out of the party, some van dorn moves t whitehall. and apparently, jesse was not far behind him. you've got to remember that the people doing this, they are good christian folk. and when you open the door up and jesse walks through and asks where the general is, you are supposed to wait him in the parlor. well, he is not waiting. he goes straight up the stairs and they closed the door and they don't come down for a couple of hours. well, you can't have that happening. and so -- [laughs] -- the misses takes sick. put it on her husband to kick van dorn out and van dorn moves right down the hallway to martin
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shares home, also known as ferguson hall. meanwhile, dr. peters, who has been making sick calls, has found out that there is something amiss. and he returns home to hear the story. well, old george peters did not appreciate that. so he is ready to go. and so he goes to find van dorn and there are two versions of the story. one is that he found van dorn at his house, he came home unexpectedly, there was a rainstorm, and van dorn came out and he found him in the house and he dragged him out of the house and beat him up and stuck a gun to his head and van dorn told him to spare his life if he would come to the headquarters the next day he would write him a full confession. the second story -- that's tying it all in at the
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end, the second story just has dr. peters going to headquarters and van dorn knowing nothing is up or nothing is amiss. so whichever one you want to believe. regardless of which is true, he shows up at headquarters and van dorn is sitting at his desk and i can't imagine van dorn knew something was coming, because dr. peters gets off a single shot behind the left ear of earl van dorn. why would you turn your back on a man that meant to harm you, all right? i believe that dr. peters, it would indicate, and i could be wrong, that dr. peters was simply trying to get across to make sick calls and the staff thought nothing of it, to see the general. and the staff, he got away, he made it to union lines. believe it or not. interestingly enough -- i've got to wrap this up, you are being very gracious with me --
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interestingly enough, jesse gives birth to a baby girl on january 26th, 1864. would you like to do the math with me? >> [laughs] >> in 1866, dr. peters files for divorce, citing abandonment on may 17th, 1863. the couple reconciled a couple of years later. they sell their home and move to memphis with george passing in 1889 and jesse passing in 1921. that would be an interesting grave to look up. the daughter reportedly took care of the doctor on his sick bed. that was the point of their splitting in the first place, i'm sure. in conclusion, ladies and gentlemen, stevenson. the
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bloodstains that are in the house today. in conclusion, lady and gentlemen, the coverage of the van dorn death stephen some was mostly slanted toward the allegiance of the publication. the murder, the murder of general earl van dorn, a conspicuous trader traitor we'll strike the thrill of her through the whole south. pennsylvania's -- weekly herald said that this man was a conspicuous traitor. he had not a particle of moral principle. he was deceiving alike, friend and foe, falls to his country, his god and his fellow man. and a violent death was a natural consequence of the life stained all over with violence. i don't think they liked him. >> [laughs] >> i want to end this right where i began it. earl van dorn could not be buried in port gibson, his hometown, because it was in federal hands. he was buried at the godbold family plot. remember, the girl i told you about in
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the beginning? his wife. he is taken home to alabama, mount vernon to be exact. -- six white horses, a gorgeous way of white and black ones, bore the grand casket in which the dead hero lay, with thoughtless or, out the handsome face, him and death, in the heartbroken wife, this cruelly windowed, his little daughter the chief sorrower visible at his --, the wife being too prostrate to do with grief to leave her room. do you believe it? do you believe that? >> [laughs] >> would you show up if you were her? she can read. >> [laughs] >> in november of 1899, emily miller, with the help of her
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son, t. marshall miller, had her brother's body disinterred. it was reburied next to her father's. both tombstones facing south, toward the old home. in port gibson, the casket was reopened. and after 30 years, would you like to know what they found? you always like that, that don't you? right when the coffin is opened? the remains were found to be an excellent state of preservation. quote, the form was clad in the confederate uniform of a major general. the belt buckles and -- being intact and around the shoulders with a soft golden curls -- as the intrepid warrior road at the front of his men and urged them to battle. ladies and gentlemen, the earl! mr. van dorn, thank you all. >> [applause] >> wow! i don't have time for any questions. i've
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done burned through that. anyone have a quick one? >> as taudry as this tale is and with men as the storyteller, imagine the version we would have gotten had his daughters not been here? >> yeah! that's karma is what's sitting over here. >> matt from--. would you consider van dorn to be an asset or liability to the confederate cause? >> he's like anyone else, it depends on where you put him. i could say the same thing about myself. you would probably say the same thing about yourself. if you have to put somebody and you supervise him and you have to put them in a place to succeed, there are some people you cannot put in that position. in answer to the question, i think he was an excellent cavalrymen. but he doesn't need to be in total control. he is too impetuous. he -- i don't know. you know? it's the peter
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principle. he also, in his defense, he is the quintessential southern type general. he is the type the confederate government wants. an offensive minded combat general is what he is and i think that comes from the indian fighting which he learned on the plane. and he attacked before they set. it is moving, moving, moving. fast-paced in other words. but his larger battle, as i said, were pretty slow. but cavalry he seemed to do well in. [applause] at
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coming up next, the congresswoman susan molinari talks about her own political career. for a series of oral history interview, -- who served in congress. the u.s. house of representatives, office of the historian, is conducting this interview. >> my name is kathleen johnson, in today, i am with the head historian. the date is january 8th, 2016, in the house recording studio, and we are pleased to be speaking with former representative, susan susan molinari from new york. thank you for coming today. we are excited to be part of this project. >> this project we're working on is to recognize, and celebrate, the election of jeannette rankin to congress, the first woman. we have many questions who want to ask you today. but, first, off when you were young, did you have any female role models?


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