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Battle of Jenkins' Ferry
Part of the American Civil War
Date April 30, 1864
Location Grant County, Arkansas
Result Union victory in retreat
Belligerents
United States United States (Union) Confederate States of America CSA (Confederacy)
Commanders
Frederick Steele Edmund Kirby Smith
Strength
Department of Arkansas - 12000 Army of Arkansas - 10000
Casualties and losses
700 1000

The Battle of Jenkins' Ferry was fought April 30, 1864, in Grant County, Arkansas, as part of the Camden Expedition of the American Civil War.

Battle

Union Maj. Gen. Fred Steele's forces retreated from Camden after being mauled at Marks' Mills and Poison Spring. On the afternoon of April 29, the Union forces reached Jenkins' Ferry and began crossing the Saline River, which was swollen by heavy rain. Rebel forces arrived on April 30 and attacked repeatedly. 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 Saline. The Confederates bungled a good chance to destroy Steele's army, which after crossing the river, regrouped at Little Rock.

Aftermath

Both armies paid dearly for the carnage of Jenkins' Ferry. The Confederates reported 86 men killed, 356 wounded, and one missing for a total of 443 casualties. The numbers would doubtless have been much higher, perhaps 800 to 1,000, if Walker's Texas division's losses were known. Walker filed no report on the battle. Union casualties were reported as 63 killed, 413 wounded, and 45 missing, a total of 521 casualties. Again, the Union total is incomplete, as Gen. John Thayer filed no report.

The Battle of Jenkins' Ferry was a Union victory, because the Federals successfully held back the attacking Confederates and allowed their wagons time to cross the Saline. Kirby Smith's last, best hope to destroy Steele's army was dashed as a result of the badly mismanaged and disjointed attacks, in which the Confederate infantry was pushed in piecemeal instead of in a concentrated attack. The Confederates failed to capitalize on the Union's vulnerable left flank, choosing instead to pursue frontal assaults across Kelly's field, where the Southern line was devastated by Union fire. Steele gave up all thoughts of uniting with Maj. Gen. Nathaniel Banks on the Red River and realized that he had to save his army.

The battleground, preserved as Jenkins' Ferry State Park, is one of the Camden Expedition Sites that together were declared a National Historic Landmark in 1994.

References

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