By April 1864, the Union Red River Campaign was in disarray. Its commander Nathaniel Banks had been beaten at Mansfield, and his reinforcements under the command of General Frederick Steele seemed marooned in Arkansas, encircled by Confederate armies. After eluding entrapment in the town of Camden, Steele escaped to the banks of swollen Sabine River. Here, Confederate Generals Kirby Smith and Sterling Price moved to finish off the ostensibly trapped Union army. However, Steele’s defences were artfully designed. With flanks protected by heavy forest and a cane swamp, a log breastwork protected the Union rifle pits. Through dense fog, soon thickening with gunsmoke, a disjointed series of Confederate charges were successively mown down. Meanwhile Steele managed to erect a pontoon bridge over the river and evacuate the bulk of his forces, providing covering artillery fire while the rearguard crossed, and then burnt the bridge, frustrating Confederate pursuit.
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