The Arkansas Campaign began with the invasion of Little Rock, Arkansas, by Union Major General Frederick Steel in March 1864. The intention was both to force the Confederate garrison towns to capitulate and to meet up with Major General Nathaniel P. Banks’s Unionist Red River Expedition. On 23 March, Steele’s column headed southwest, clashing en route with Confederate cavalry. After five hours of hard fighting, he beat off the Confederates at Elkin’s Ferry. On 9 April, Steele’s expedition was joined by Brigadier General John M. Thayer’s division, which had marched southwards from Fort Smith and included the First and Second Kansas Colored Volunteers, made up of ex-slaves from Arkansas and Missouri. On 15 April, Steele’s troops entered Camden, while on 18 April at Princeton, victorious Confederates massacred soldiers of the First Kansas Colored Cavalry. On 26 April, Steele learned of Banks’s defeat ordered to retreat to Little Rock, fought a pitched battle at Jenkin’s Ferry and crossed the Saline River, burning their pontoon bridge behind them.
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