Camden Expedition: April 27, 1864


The Union evacuation of Camden had occurred without a hitch.   The Confederates didn’t learn of the mass withdrawal until a few hours after the Union army had left Camden.

It was the next morning, April 27th,before the Confederates actually entered the town.  Unfortunately, they didn’t have a pontoon bridge to cross the Ouachita River. They put together a pioneer unit to build a floating raft bridge for their crossing of the river.

On the night of April 26th the main body of the Union army camped a few miles north of Camden. On April 27th the Army marched seventeen miles to Freeo, AR. – about 13 miles south of Princeton, AR.  There they camped for the night.

Several troop movements began on April 26th or April 25th which culminated in events on April 27th.

Confederate General Kirby Smith sent for General Walker’s Texans to move from to Minden, LA to Camden, AR. They arrived the afternoon of April 27th.

Gen. James Fagan, CSA

Gen. James Fagan, CSA

The most mysterious action of the Camden Expedition was Fagan’s ride after the Marks Mills victory. On April 26th General Fagan’s cavalry left Marks Mills and proceeded up the western side of the Saline River. He supposedly had been given orders by Commander Kirby Smith to attack Union bases along the Arkansas River, which would have required him to cross the Saline River and move north.  General Shelby, one of his two division commanders, urged Fagan to block any road leading north from Camden to Little Rock, instead of crossing the Saline River to the east and carrying out his mission. Fagan declined due to his orders. Shelby suggested that a staff officer be sent to Commander Kirby Smith to ask for confirmation of his orders, to which Fagan acquiesced, and a staff officer was sent to Smith.

In the meantime on April 27th Fagan crossed over the road from Princeton to Little Rock north of Steele’s column without any idea that Steele’s army was just south of him.   Fagan proceeded toward Pratt’s Ferry on the Saline River about 10 miles below Benton, AR, in obedience of his original orders.

About Civil War Reflections

Vernon has been a Civil War buff since childhood, but had been inactive in Civil War history for over two decades. However, in the early 1990s his interest was rekindled after watching Ken Burns’ “Civil War Documentary” on PBS. He particularly became interested in the Battle of Antietam (Sharpsburg) and decided to learn more about this epic struggle.
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