Battle of Jenkins' Ferry
Tablet #1Jenkins' Ferry State Park
Act 10 of 1961 authorized this 37-acre state park as a commemorative site and recreation area. The park includes the ferry site where you are standing. The ferry was operated by the Jenkins' family prior to the Civil War and aided travelers on the Camden Road - a major travel route in pioneer Arkansas.
In April of 1864, this site gained Civil War fame. Retreating from Camden to the safety of Little Rock, the Union Army was attacked by Confederate forces. General Frederick Steele used the ferry site as a bridgehead for spiriting his troops across the flooded Saline River and out of Confederate reach.
Jenkins' Ferry, Marks' Mills and Poison Springs State Parks, and the 1836 Courthouse at Old Washington Historic State Park, which served as the Confederate Capitol of Arkansas at the time of the battle, are included in The Red River Campaign National Historic Landmark
Tablet #2Red River Campaign (Battle of Jenkins' Ferry)
Spring of 1864 saw war's violent hands seize southern Arkansas as Union leaders launched the Red River Campaign. Its purpose was to separate western Confederate forces from the east and to reopen access to Texas cotton. Union mistakes, heavy rain and floods, and strong Confederate resistance doomed the campaign to failure.
On April 26, following such overwhelming defeats as Marks' Mills and Poison Springs, the Union VII Corps under General Frederick Steele pulled out of Camden heading north. General E. Kirby Smith's Confederate troops were less than 24 hours behind. The heavy Union wagons moved slowly as torrential rains turned the Camden Road into a quagmire. On April 29, Confederate infantry caught the Union army in the flooded white oak forest of the Saline River bottoms just south of Jenkins' Ferry.
The battle raged for two days. Confederate forces mounted three major attacks but failed to halt the Union army's escape. Steele's troops managed to slip across the swollen Saline at Jenkins' Ferry on a mobile wooden bridge suspended by India Rubber pontoons. Once across, the bridge was sunk.
Without a bridge, the Confederates could not follow. Bedraggled Union troops moved northward to higher ground where they burned many of their cumbersome wagons. The starving army then pressed on to Little Rock. The Campaign was over! The disastrous Red River Campaign was the Union's last major encroachment into south Arkansas.
Confederate 336 wounded 90 dead 1 missing
Union 471 wounded 78 dead 40 missing
Total 827 wounded 168 dead 41 missing
Tablet #3The Saline River Bottoms
Found in the West Gulf Coastal Plain of southern Arkansas, Jenkins' Ferry Battlefield is on the banks of the free-flowing Saline River. The river's vast flood plain plays an integral part in the riverine ecology and in the history of the area.
The damp, muddy canebrakes and wet marshes of this bottomland support abundant plan and animal life. Heavy rainfall and thick vegetation made travel difficult for settlers and nearly led to the destruction of Frederick Steele's Union Army in April of 1864. The heavy Union wagons bogged down in the flooded river bottoms south of the river. This gave the Confederates time to attack. Using an India rubber pontoon bridge, the Union Army was able to cross the river and escape.