Holly Springs Van Dorn Summary

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Brandon Beck 's Holly Springs: Van Dorn, the CSS Arkansas and the Raid That Saved Vicksburg is a very short account of the roles played in the defense of Vicksburg by the Confederate ironclad CSS ARKANSAS and Major General Earl Van Dorn 's cavalry raid on Grant 's supply base at Holly Springs, Mississippi. The combination of these actions thwarted the second campaign against Vicksburg. The U.S. Navy considered the threat of CSS ARKANSAS as a serious one, but in fact, the ironclad was handicapped by such poor engines, her career as a warship lasted less than a month. She destroyed no Union vessels before being blown up by her own crew. She was more effective as a threat than a reality. The colorful Earl Van Dorn, with his reputation tarnished by defeats at Pea Ridge and Corinth and recurrent charges of drunkenness and debauchery, accepted a descent from corps command to lead the cavalry raid against the Union depot at Holly Springs. Van Dorn found his niche as a cavalry raider. His three small brigades, about 3,500 men, rode 500 miles in two weeks, surprised and routed the defenders of Holly Springs, captured and paroled 1,500 Federal troops, plundered warehouses, cut telegraph lines, and tore up vital railroad tracks. After putting the torch to those supplies they could not carry off, the Confederates withdrew to their own lines with impunity. In one day at Holly Springs, Van Dorn 's force destroyed $1,500,000 worth of supplies ($66,000,000 in today 's dollars) and…show more content…
Beck 's book, at only 99 pages of text, is like an extended journal article. It is not comprehensive, but brief and well-written. On the subject of CSS ARKANSAS, I recommend James McPherson 's War on the Waters: The Union and Confederate Navies, 1861-1865 and Iron Afloat: Story of the Confederate Armourclads by William Still. The definitive look a Earl Van Dorn remains Robert Hartje 's Van Dorn: The Life and Times of a Confederate General. It includes a thorough chapter on the Holly Springs

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