Dead Confederates, A Civil War Era Blog

Houston CWRT: Ed Bearss on Camden and Jenkins Ferry

Posted in Memory by Andy Hall on January 9, 2017

The Camden Expedition
and Battle of Jenkin’s Ferry, Arkansas

Edwin C. Bearss
Thursday, January 19
The Hess Club
5430 Westheimer Road at Westheimer Way
6 p.m. cash bar, 6:45 p.m., dinner, 7:30 program begins



Considered a part of the overall Red River Campaign in the spring of 1864, with the invasion of Texas by Union forces as one of the key objectives, the Arkansas portion of the campaign also is known as the Camden Expedition. It became a failed attempt by Union troops in Arkansas to converge on Shreveport and link up with General Banks’ forces advancing northward through Louisiana and then toward Texas. Maj. Gen. Frederick Steele’s Union forces retreated from Camden after being mauled in fierce engagements at Poison Spring and Marks’ Mills. On the afternoon of April 29, 1864 the Union troops reached Jenkins’ Ferry to begin crossing the Saline River, which was swollen by heavy rain. Gen. Edmund Kirby Smith’s Confederate army caught Steele’s men and launched a succession of Confederate attacks on April 30. Many of the soldiers (including Texans) had fought at the battle of Mansfield, Louisiana only 22 days earlier. The Federals repulsed the attacks and finally crossed with all their men and supply wagons, many of which they were compelled to abandon in the swamp north of the Saline. The Confederates missed the opportunity to destroy Steele’s army, which after crossing the river, regrouped to the north at Little Rock. Their failure at the Battle of Jenkins’ Ferry cost the Confederates any chance they may have had to capture the Union army or retake Little Rock.

Edwin C. Bearss authored the in-depth book documenting Steele’s part of the ill-fated Red River Campaign (Steele’s Retreat from Camden & The Battle of Jenkins’ Ferry). Ed Bearss will speak about the events and impact of this expedition and its final battle on the Trans-Mississippi theater and Texas.

Reservations required for both dinner ($30) and lecture only ($10)E-Mail Reservation is Preferred; Email Don Zuckero at, or call (281) four seven nine-one two three two by 5 p.m. Monday, January 16.


Photo by David Grubbs, Billings Gazette.




2 Responses

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  1. Craig L. said, on January 12, 2017 at 5:55 am

    One thing I’ve often wondered about the Battle of Jenkin’s Ferry is the effect of a heavy driving rain on the use of Civil War weaponry. My great great grandfather didn’t fight in this battle, but the unit he joined six months later, the 27th Wisconsin, did. Most of the men in that unit had been neighbors of his in Sheboygan County for about ten years and this engagement was the most significant combat they saw in their three year enlistment My understanding is that his unit and several others crossed the river once the attack began and took positions downstream on the opposite bank where they could fire from the flank of the advancing rebels without fear of being overrun.

    • Andy Hall said, on January 12, 2017 at 9:10 am

      That’s a great question, and I’ll ask if there’s an opportunity. I will also look and see if it’s discussed in some of my references.

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