The battle at Jenkins’ Ferry was the culminating engagement of the Camden Expedition. The beating he received at Poison Springs and Marks’ Mill and the lack of supplies forced General Steele to order his command to retreat to Little Rock. An account of a small part of that desperate struggle follows:
On the morning of the 30th of April, 1864, a unit of Brigadier General Thomas J. Churchill’s Division was ordered across Cox Creek. Lt. Col. Horatio Gates Perry Williams waded his newly formed 19th Arkansas Regiment through chest deep water and up the north bank of Cox Creek. William’s command consisted of a little over four hundred disheartened soldiers from Fagan’s Command. Col. Williams’ task was to move eastward along the northern side of the creek and come into a position where the Confederates could enfilade the Federal line. Once the enemy line was flanked General Mosby M. Parsons forces would be able to roll over the union lines.Union Division Commander Fredrick Saloman anticipated the flanking movement. Captain Marmaduke Darnall was ordered to take two companies of the 29th Iowa Infantry and stop the flanking movement.
The 43rd Illinois Infantry under the command of Colonel Adolph Dengler was also ordered across Cox Creek. When Col. Dengler’s men approached the creek many of the men hesitated when ordered to enter the rushing stream. In their haste to get the men across the creek no order was given to remove cartridge boxes. Thus many of the soldiers were without ammunition. Col. Dengler requested more men. Company C and Company D of the 2nd Kansas Colored Infantry under the command of Captain Frank Kister were ordered to assist. The opposing forces soon were heavily engaged. The 19th Arkansas now faced the combined might of 43rd Illinois, two companies of the 29th Iowa and two companies of the 2nd Kansas Colored. The 2nd Kansas anchored on Cox Creek forming the left of the line. Performing a left wheel movement, Col. Dengler managed, with a withering fire, to force the 19th Arkansas back across the creek.
Meanwhile, the bluecoats on the north bank of the creek were able to lay a deadly fire into the flank of General Parsons’ gray clad men as they launched an assault on against the protected Yankee line. Under this devastating fire the southerners were forced to withdraw. Thus ended the second major attack on General Fredrick Steele’s rear guard.