OUACHITA and SALINE RIVERS, Ark.
On April 27th Confederate Commander Kirby Smith had ordered General Marmaduke to send a cavalry brigade, under General Greene, north to cross the Ouachita River at any point they could find.
Greene was to proceed north, find the Union column, and block their movement. This action would give the Confederate infantry a chance to catch the Yanks before they could cross the Saline River.
Greene eventually found a crossing point, but it took him the rest of April 27th and into the morning of April 28th to affect a crossing of his brigade.
It was the morning of April 28th that the Confederates considered their floating raft bridge substantial enough to cross the Ouachita River. Confederate Commander Kirby Smith sent Churchill’s, Parson’s and Walker’s divisions, in that order, over the Ouachita River to take up the rapid march to catch the Union army.
The Confederates marched without supply wagons or any baggage train. The rank and file of the Confederates carried their rations and ammunition in their haversacks. The only horse/mule driven vehicles were the ambulances and artillery.
Meanwhile, on April 28th Confederate General Fagan’s cavalry division assessed the Saline River at Pratt’s Ferry, located about 10 miles below Benton, AR and about 8 miles northwest of Jenkin’s Ferry, where the Union army wanted to cross the Saline River.
The river was too high to cross. So Fagan turned southwest toward Arkadelphia.
General Shelby, one of Fagan’s Brigade commanders, sent a scouting party southeast to Tulip, AR, which is about 10 miles north of Princeton, to ascertain if the Union army was on the road from Camden to Little Rock. The scouting party ran into Union Cavalry units and was brushed aside. However, they had the vital information of where the Union army was. They headed north to report to Shelby.
Fagan’s main Confederate cavalry unit spent the night about 25 miles northwest of Princeton.
On the Federal side, Union Commander Steele had given orders on the night of April 27th that the column had to be on the road at 4:00a.m. the morning of the April 28th. True to form, the Union cavalry under General Carr rode out at the appointed time leading the column. The Union wagon train and infantry followed. They marched 13 miles to Princeton, AR where they camped for the night. Forage parties secured fresh meat for the soldiers.