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Jenkins' Ferry State Park

Location: Grant County

Size: 40 acres

 Jenkins’ Ferry State Park, in Grant County on the Saline River, commemorates a Civil War engagement that was part of the Camden Expedition of General Frederick Steele. The park contains interpretive exhibits, as well as a picnic area and a boat ramp for access to the river.

The name of the park comes from Thomas Jenkins, who established a ferry on the Saline River in 1815. By 1861, at the beginning of the Civil War, the ferry was being operated by Jenkins’s sons, William and John DeKalb.

In March 1864, General Steele led approximately 14,000 troops out of Little Rock (Pulaski County) to join in the Union army’s Red River Campaign. The goal of this campaign was to join General Nathaniel Banks’s troops in northern Louisiana and invade Texas. Steele and his troops seized Camden (Ouachita County) on April 15 but did not proceed to Louisiana or Texas. Instead, threatened by Confederate actions and running short of supplies, Steele chose to return to Little Rock. On April 29, confronted by the flood-swollen Saline River and aware of approaching Confederate forces, Steele ordered his engineers to create a pontoon bridge at the ferry crossing. Throughout the night and the following day, Confederate troops attacked the Union forces, resulting in 521 Union casualties and 443 Confederate casualties. Because the Union army succeeded in crossing the river, destroying the bridge behind them, the engagement is regarded as a Union victory. Steele’s troops arrived back in Little Rock on May 3.

Act 10 of 1961 by the Arkansas General Assembly created Jenkins’ Ferry Battleground State Park (the name was later shortened). One of three parks that commemorate the Camden Expedition, the site is also a Red River Campaign National Historic Landmark. The park, operated by the Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism, includes historic markers that describe the engagement, as well as recreational opportunities on the Saline River, including swimming and boating. A pavilion and several picnic sites are also located in the forty-acre park, which is thirteen miles south of Sheridan (Grant County) on Arkansas Highway 46.

For additional information:
Arkansas State Parks–Jenkins’ Ferry. http://www.arkansasstateparks.com/jenkinsferry/ (accessed June 4, 2014).

Bearss, Edwin C. Steele’s Retreat from Camden and the Battle of Jenkins’ Ferry. Little Rock: Arkansas Civil War Centennial Commission, 1967.

Steven Teske
Encyclopedia of Arkansas History & Culture

Last Updated 6/4/2014

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