Camden Expedition: May 1, 1864


While the Battle of Jenkin’s Ferry was being played out on April 30th, Union General Steele sent General Carr’s Cavalry of 2000 troopers to Little Rock, along with the cavalry’s supply and ordinance wagons.

During the ride, the Union force clashed with a small Confederate Missouri Cavalry Battalion commanded by Major Elliott north of Jenkin’s Ferry. The conflagration must have spooked General Carr into believing Confederate Cavalry General Fagan was close, because Carr ordered the burning of 200 of his wagons.  Carr’s men abandoned large amounts of military property and made an overnight march to Little Rock.

Carr arrived at 5:00am on the morning of May 1st and reported to Little Rock commander General Joseph West the condition of Steele’s army and that emergency rations needed to be transported to the advancing column. General West ordered 30,000 rations to be sent by wagon to General Steele.

Meanwhile on the Confederate side, the Rebs had retreated to the high ground south of Jenkin’s Ferry after the battle. On the night of April 30th, General Scurry, one of General Walker’s Texas Brigade commanders, died. His body was transported south to Tulip, AR on May 1st, where he was buried with full military honors. All the Confederate Generals attended the funeral.

On their return, those in the funeral party learned that Colonel Randal, another Texas Brigade commander, had also died.

By May 1st, all the houses in the Jenkin’s Ferry area had been transformed into hospitals for both Confederates and Union casualties. Confederate burial parties were busy interring the dead of both armies.

Confederate Major Elliott reported to Overall Confederate Commander Kirby Smith that Union General Steele’ s Army was marching to Little Rock.

On the Union side north of Jenkin’s Ferry, on the night of April 30th, General Steele’s scouts reported that the road to Little Rock was going to be almost impassable for wagons and artillery. Steele put his Chief Quartermaster to work destroying any surplus wagons.  Steele also issued an order to the army that the march to Little Rock would commence at 4:00am on the morning of May 1st.

At the designated hour, the Union force was formed into two columns. One was comprised of ambulances and wagons transporting the sick and wounded and was accompanied by refugees. This column, after moving north for a few miles, turned off on the Pine Bluff road, which wasn’t as bad a road as the one to Little Rock. The second column continued on its way to Little Rock with the wagon train leading the way followed by General Salomon’s Infantry, which in turn was followed by Thayer’s Frontier Infantry Division, providing rear guard protection.

Union General Steele’s column got to the point described by his scouts the day before, a place called Lost Creek swamp. The road had been so cut up for 5 miles by Union General Carr’s Cavalry and wagons that one of Salomon’s Infantry Brigades was formed into three parties. One party had the job of cutting a new road, where possible. A second party corduroyed the road. The third and largest party helped get bogged-down wagons and artillery out of the mud, and in some cases, had to bodily pick up the cannons and caissons to move them out of the morass.

Through a concerted effort, the column made it out of Lost Creek around 1:30pm. The last of the bottoms and swamps were behind, and the going was much easier. At about dark, the column halted momentary.

General Steele ordered a night march, and the army continued to Little Rock.

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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