War of the Rebellion: Serial 008 Page 0790 OPERATIONS IN MO., ARK., KANS., AND IND. T. Chapter XVIII.

Search Civil War Official Records

marched against the enemy some days since is now in camp a few miles from this place, and that I shall march in a few days for Pocahontas, to make a junction with whatever force that may be assembled at that place. It is my intention then to fall upon the force of the enemy in the vicinity of New Madrid or Cape Girardeau and attempt to relieve General Beauregard, and, if practicable, I shall march on Saint Louis, and thus withdraw the forces now threatening this part of the State of Arkansas. The army cannot be subsisted here any longer, neither do I think that the enemy can make any serious demonstration from here until later in the spring.

I send several thousand cavalry off in a few days via Forsyth, on White River, to burn up the depots of the enemy at Springfield, and to destroy his immense trains which go to and fro nearly unguarded. They will then join me at Pocahontas. I shall order Pike to operate in his marches, and to prevent him as far as possible from supplying his troops from Missouri and Kansas; he cannot supply them here.

I have debated this movement in my own mind and think that it is the best I can make. I attempted first to beat the enemy at Elkhorn, but a series of accidents, entirely unforeseen and not under my control and a badly-disciplined army, defeated my intentions. The death of an officer to command the right wing (which was thrown into utter confusion), and the strong position of the enemy the second day left struck them, however, and they are somewhat paralyzed. I shall march to another field before they recover, and before their re-enforcements arrive, which they are daily expecting. If I give battle to the troops near New Madrid, I relieve Beauregard. If I find this not advisable or practicable, I shall march boldly and rapidly toward Saint Louis, between Ironton and the enemy's grand depot at Rolla. I think I shall accomplish something in that direction. I shall at all events task my humble abilities to their utmost to achieve some success for our cause, and I earnestly hope that I may be successful.

I shall not be able to make my report of the battle of Elkhorn for some time, on account of the difficulty I have of getting subordinate reports. Our loss was not as heavy, however, as I had thought and as was reported to me, not being more than 800 or 1,000 killed and wounded and between 200 and 300 prisoners. The enemy's loss was about 800 killed and 1,000 or 1,200 wounded and about 300 prisoners. We also took two batteries of artillery, one of which was destroyed by fire (burnt up). The enemy's position was a strong one, but we drove him from it and slept on our arms on the field of battle. The second day wee found him at daylight in a new and stronger position, to the rear of his first, about 2 miles off. From all the circumstances which surrounded me I determined to withdraw. I therefore made a demonstration in front to cover the movement and put the army on the road, Huntsville, toward the east, and retired with a heavy heart, but with a determination to recover as soon as possible and fight again. I was not defeated, but only failed in my intentions. 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,

Major-General.