Many African Americans fleeing slavery were with Gen. Frederick Steele's Union army as it retreated to Little Rock. As army wagons became stuck in the thick mud, so too did wagons with refugee children. Some were abandoned by desperate parents; others were rescued by Union soldiers with "on one shoulder a rifle, on the other a black child." At least one refugee child would stay with the Chapple McElroy family near here, who found an abandoned youth they named Tom. Tom McElroy lived with them into the 1870s, later owning a farm southwest of Benton.
As Union Gen. Frederick Steele's army struggled along the muddy roads between Jenkins' Ferry and Little Rock, the starving mules hauling its wagons began to collapse from exhaustion. Steele ordered many wagons burned after their contents were moved to other wagons. Despite that effort, more wagons were destroyed as the teams hauling them collapsed. A 33rd Iowa Infantry soldier wrote: "all over the swamp, near the road, were the burning wagons and their scattered contents." Steele's army lost 635 wagons and tons of supplies in the Camden Expedition.