Monday, April 30, 2012

Battle of Jenkins' Ferry (April 30, 1864)

Jenkins' Ferry Battle Monument
Today marks the 148th anniversary of the Battle of Jenkins' Ferry, Arkansas.

A bloody and important engagement of the Arkansas portion of the Red River Campaign, the battle took place about 12 miles south of Sheridan in the lowlands and swamps along the Saline River.

Union General Frederick Steele had been badly mauled in a series of battles near Camden over the previous two weeks, particularly at the Battle of Poison Spring on April 18th. Learning that the Louisiana phase of the campaign to take Shreveport and advance into northern Texas had failed, he decided that discretion was the better part of valor and began to evacuate his fortified position at Camden on April 26, 1864.

Saline River at Jenkins' Ferry
The Confederates, who had hovered around Camden in large numbers and had defeated several efforts by General Steele to supply his hungry army, quickly moved in pursuit of the retreating Federals. Led by General Kirby Smith in person, they caught up with Steele at Jenkins' Ferry on the morning of April 30, 1864, 148 years ago today.

The ground over which the battle was fought was horrible for offensive operations. The river was running high and the bottoms were partially flooded. Thick swamps and mud hindered the movement of troops and cannon and greatly impacted Smith's ability to properly coordinate his forces.

Fighting on the defensive, the Federals were able to condense their lines and throw up breastworks of fence rails and logs. The Confederates had to come at them through the swamps and mud and without the protection of fortifications of their own. The result was a bloody fight that ended when Kirby Smith realized he would not be able to overwhelm the Union lines and ordered the attacks to stop. The Union army slipped across the Saline River during the night, destroying its pontoon bridge behind it, and moved on for Little Rock.

Total losses in the battle numbered nearly 1,000. The Confederates suffered casualties of at least 86 killed and 356 wounded. The Federals lost an estimated 63 killed, 413 wounded and 45 missing in action.

To learn more about the Battle of Jenkins' Ferry and Jenkins' Ferry State Park, please visit

No comments: