Circumstances continued on a course that would bring Union General Steele to decide what he needed to do: Obey orders, or save his army.
Steele was weighing whether gunboats coming up the Ouachita River was the answer to his supply dilemma; if he could continue to Shreveport; or if he could call it a day and go back to Little Rock. During the next few days he would be able to answer these questions.
On the Confederate side, General Sterling Price had assigned General James Fagan the command of the cavalry raid to sweep south, cross the Ouachita River, and put his command of 4000 cavalry troops between the Union army in Camden and any roads leading west to Pine Bluff and north to Little Rock.
Fagan was given 4 brigades of cavalry to undertake this task. Fagan organized the 4 brigades into two divisions. General William Cabell would command one division comprised of his own brigade and the brigade of General Thomas Dockery. The second division would be led by General Jo Shelby, composed of Shelby’s brigade, under the command of Col. David Shanks, and General William Crawford’s brigade.
Shelby’s brigade, also known as “The Iron Brigade,” had left the Confederate Camp on the 20th of April. On the 21st, they arrived at El Dorado Landing, 26 miles below Camden. It was here that Shelby received a message from General Price to wait for General Fagan and the rest of the divisions before starting the sweep to the east.