In the spring of 1864 following the failed Red River Campaign, two vast armies marched across Southern Arkansas. The Federal Army, trying desperately to get back to the safety of Little Rock, having marched toward Louisiana in support of the Union’s failed invasion of Texas was running out of food and supplies. Union General Frederick Steele knew he had to get his army back to the safety of Little Rock if they were to survive. In hot pursuit of the Federals were thousands of Confederates under command of General Edmund Kirby Smith. Their mission: destroy the Union Army at all cost. As both armies marched north toward Little Rock, the rain that had plagued the march early on had returned with a vengeance, turning the Federal retreat into a mud march. Standing in the way of the Federal retreat was the rain swollen Saline River crossing at Jenkins’ Ferry. The frustrated Federals were forced to construct a pontoon bridge across the rising river slowing their march, enabling the Confederates to close the gap. The resulting Battle of Jenkins’ Ferry was one of the largest and certainly one of the most vicarious in Arkansas Civil War history.
Harvest of Death: the Battle of Jenkins ’ Ferry, Arkansas is the first major work dedicated to the Battle of Jenkins’ Ferry in fifty years. Author Joe Walker tells the story of two armies and their epic clash alongside the Saline River. Through the use of previously unpublished photographs and stories, Walker brings the battle to life as never before. Through the use of a previously unpublished map of the battle, drawn by a Confederate Engineer shortly after the battle, Walker shows the battle in a completely new light and changes forever the way historians believed the Battle of Jenkins’ Ferry was fought.
Walker also discusses the discovery of previously forgotten accounts of the battle that suggest the Federal Army used more that skill and tactics to out battle the Confederates – they may have outwitted and defeated the Confederates through one altered courier dispatch – an alteration that may have affected the outcome of the battle and changed the balance of power in Civil War Arkansas.
The Battle of Jenkins’ Ferry, Arkansas was one of the most violent Civil War battles in our history with accusations of atrocities committed by both sides. It will make you rethink the history of Civil War Arkansas.
April 1864 was the deadliest month in Arkansas history. It was a month when two vast armies snaked their way across the pine forests and swamps of Southern Arkansas, killing one another in wholesale slaughter. It was a month when farms were raided, those same two armies desperately searching for any scrap of food to keep them from starving. It was a month when scores of slaves shed their chains of bondage, deserting the plantation to follow the blue army, who had marched thousands of miles to emancipate them. Standing in their way was the Confederate army. In a series of epic battles across Southern Arkansas known as the Camden Expedition, these two armies would leave a trail of death and destruction that took generations to heal. The first clash between the blue and gray armies occurred at a small river crossing known as Elkins' Ferry. In the first book devoted entirely to the Battle of Elkins' Ferry, author Joe Walker gives a detailed account of this often overlooked Arkansas Civil War battle. In was the beginning of the deadliest month in Arkansas history.
Captured by Federal soldiers while on a scouting mission in 1864, Lt. James Vance Walker, commander of Company “G” of the Third Tennessee Confederate Infantry (Vaughn’s Brigade), was sent as a prisoner of war to the Fort Delaware POW camp outside of Philadelphia where he was held for the remainder of the war. While at the prison, Walker, along with several other officers, worked tirelessly to establish a religious presence inside the fort – doing moral battle with the gambling and drinking that ran widespread throughout the fort. Walker’s diary, coupled with the diary of Rev. Isaac Handy, a political prisoner, offers amazing insights into the struggle between good and evil, even in the midst of Civil War.