In 1846, Thomas Jenkins paid the Saline County clerk $1 to register to "keep a ferry" and charge travelers to cross the Saline near the mouth of Cox's Creek when the river was at flood stage. Gen. Frederick Steele's Union army came to Jenkins Ferry while retreating to Little Rock from Camden and began crossing on April 29, 1864. Steele conferred with the commanders of his rear guard, Gens. Rice and Salomon, in the Jenkins' family cabin in the early hours of April 30 to plan the day's battle. Steele's men crossed after fending off a Confederate attack.
The Union army used an India rubber pontoon bridge to cross the swollen Saline River on April 29-30, 1864. The bridge, transported in 34 wagons, was inflated with bellows. Each pontoon was 19 feet long and they were attached in groups of three. Gen. Frederick Steele's army began crossing on the 29th and the last of his troops were over by 2 p.m. on the 30th. With the animals used to haul the bridge nearing exhaustion, Steele ordered it destroyed. Union engineers pierced the pontoons with bayonets and axes, then burned them along with their wagons.