While Bragg reached for great things in Kentucky, the forces he left behind in northern Mississippi to support his invasion had enormous difficulties to overcome. They suffered from many of the same problems that bedeviled Bragg: a divided command structure and far too few troops and resources to accomplish their ambitious strategic goals. Even defining what those goals ought to be was a problem because the Mississippi forces were led by two demanding and headstrong generals. A great deal of extended, long-range debate took place between Bragg, Maj. Gen. Earl Van Dorn, and Maj. Gen. Sterling Price as to where these men ought to march and what they should attack.
Both Van Dorn and Price were men with strong personalities. Born of Mississippi planter aristrocrats, Van Dorn was forty-two years old. He had graduated fifty-second in a class of fifty-six at West Point and had seen extensive frontier service in Texas before the war. He was a dashing, romantic figure who burned for military fame and was reckless with troops. Like Beau- regard, Van Dorn was given to grandiose strategic plans that were designed to win the war in one fell stroke, while at the same time he blithely ignored the fact that he seldom had the resources of manpower, wagons, or food to accomplish them. His generalship was amply evident in the Pea Ridge campaign of March 1862, when he rushed his Army of the West into an offensive against a Union force that had invaded Arkansas. He failed to acquaint himself with its personnel, capabilities, or logistical limitations. That campaign ended disastrously and led to Federal domination of the Trans-Mississippi for the remainder of the war. Van Dorn's Army of the West was then transferred to Mississippi, where it took part in the evacuation of Corinth.