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Major General Earl Van Dorn was born in 1820 in Natchez at the family plantation, “The Hill.” He was the first son of Peter Van Dorn, a full time lawyer and part time planter whose family roots stretched way back to Holland.
Earl attended the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, and graduated 52nd out of 56 cadets in the Class of 1842. He served on the western frontier in the pre-war years and the outset of the Civil War he resigned his commission and cast his lot with the Confederacy.
He was quickly appointed major general and placed in command of the Trans-Mississippi Department. It was there in Northwest Arkansas that he fought and was defeated at the Battle of Pea Ridge (Elk Horn Tavern). Shortly after the battle he and his Army of the West were directed by General Albert Sidney Johnston to cross the Mississippi River and join his growing force in Corinth.
Van Dorn was delayed due to an insufficient number of boats to cross his army and he did not arrive in Corinth until mid-April. By that time the Battle of Shiloh had been fought and Gen. Johnston had been killed.
Earl Van Dorn established his headquarters in the Verandah House alongside his friend Braxton Bragg.