I am yet sanguine of success, and will not cease to repeat my blows whenever the opportunity is offered.
Very respectfully, sir, I am, your obedient servant,
EARL VAN DORN,
Honorable J. P. BENJAMIN,
Secretary of War, Richmond, Va.
HEADQUARTERS TRANS-MISSISSIPPI DISTRICT,
Jacksonport, Ark., March 27, 1862.
GENERAL: I have the honor to report that while at Pocahontas I received dispatches on February 22, informing me that General Price had rapidly fallen back from Springfield before a superior force of the enemy, and was endeavoring to form a junction with the division of General McCulloch in Boston Mountains. For reasons which seemed to me imperative I resolved to go in person and take command of the combined forces of Price and McCulloch.
I reached their headquarters March 3, and being satisfied that the enemy, who had halted at Sugar Creek, 55 miles distant, was only waiting large re-enforcements before we would advance, I resolved to attack him at once. Accordingly I sent for General Pike to join me near Elm Springs with the forces under his command, and on the morning of March 4 moved with the divisions of Price and McCulloch by way of Fayetteville and Bentonville to attack the enemy's main camp on Sugar Creek. The whole force under my command was about 16,000 men.
On the 6th we left Elm Springs for Bentonville, and from prisoners captured by our scouting parties on the 5th I became convinced that up to that time no suspicion was entertained of our advance, and that there were strong hopes of our effecting a complete surprise and attacking the enemy before the large detachments encamped at various points in the surrounding country could rejoin the main body. I therefore endeavored to reach Bentonville, 11 miles distant, by rapid march, but the troops moved so very slowly that it was 11 a.m. before the head of the leading division (Price's) reached the village, and we had the mortification to see Siegel's division, 7,000 strong, leaving it as we entered. Had we been one hour sooner we should have cut him off with his whole force, and certainly have beaten the enemy the next day.
We followed him, our advance skirmishing with his rear guard, which was admirably handled, until we had gained a point on Sugar Creek about 7 miles beyond Bentonville and within 1 or 2 miles of the strongly-intrenched camp of the enemy.
In conference with Generals McCulloch and McIntosh, who had an accurate knowledge of this locality, I had ascertained that my making a detour of 8 miles I could reach the Telegraph road leading from Springfield to Fayetteville, and be immediately in rear of the enemy and his intrenchments. I had resolved to adopt this route, and therefore halted the head of my column near the point where the road by which I proposed to move diverges, threw out my pickets, and bivouacked as if for the night. But soon after dark I marched again, moving with Price's division in advance, and taking the road by which I hoped before daylight to reach the rear of the enemy. Some obstructions, which he had hastily thrown in the way, so impeded our march that we did not gain the Telegraph road until near 10 a.m. of the 7th.