Early in the war he was ordered to join the army under General Joe Johnston
; whence soon after, in February, 1861, he was ordered to take command of the Trans-Mississippi Department.
I was associated with him in this command as chief of his staff, and saw him daily for many months.
He had conceived the bold project of capturing St. Louis
and transferring the war into Illinois
, and was actively engaged in preparing for this enterprise when he was summoned by General Price
to Boston Mountain
, where the forces of Price
lay in great need of a common superior — for these two generals could not co-operate because of questions of rank.
Therefore, Van Dorn
promptly responded to Price
's summons, and in a few hours was in the saddle and on his way to Van Buren
I went with him, and one aide-de-camp
, an orderly, and my servant man Jem made up our party.
rode a fine thoroughbred black mare he had brought from Virginia
I was mounted on a sorrel I had bought in Pocahontas
a few hours before we set out. Except my sorrel mare, Van Dorn
's black mare was the hardest trotter in the world, and as we trotted fifty-five miles every day for five or six days, we had a very unusual opportunity of learning all that a hard trotter can do to a man in a long day's march.
Had it not been that we slept every night in a feather bed
, that soothed our sore bones and served as a poultice to our galled saddle pieces, we would have been permanently disabled for cavalry service forever.
My boy Jem alone enjoyed that trip.
He rode in the ambulance all day and slept ad libitum
day and night; and except when he got a ducking by the upsetting of a canoe in Black river
, he was as happy as ever he had been since the last herring season on the Potomac
The battle of Elk Horn
disturbed Jen's equilibrium even more than the upsetting of the canoe.
The excitement of imminent danger, which was never a pleasing emotion to Jem, was kept up at Elk Horn
much longer than in Black river
, and I could not find him for three days-not, indeed, until we accidentally met on the route of our retreat, when, I must say, he showed great delight at “meeting up” with me again, and took to himself no little credit for the skill with which he had conducted the movements of that ambulance for the past three days. It had contained all of our clothing, and blankets, and camp supplies, of no little value to hungry and wearied warriors.
The blankets and clothing were all right, but we found nothing whatever for the inner man. Jem was cheerful, and cordial, and comfortable, but we never could ascertain where he had the ambulance from the time the first shot was fired