The Steering Committee for the Arkansas Red River Campaign Scenic By-Way met at 11 a.m. on July 25 at the Grant County Museum in Sheridan.
The Steering Committee for the Arkansas Red River Campaign Scenic By-Way met at 11 a.m. on July 25 at the Grant County Museum in Sheridan. The Committee consists of members from 10 counties in southwest Arkansas who wish to preserve, protect and interpret sites that are associated with the Civil War Red River Campaign in Arkansas and, above all, to encourage heritage tourism as an important boost for the economy in the region.
Members attending the Sheridan meeting were: Roger and Patricia McClellan of Cleveland County, Kathy Boyett of Ouachita County, Pete DeWoody and Paul Ridgell of Nevada County, Bob Thompson and Charles and Laverne Todd of Clark County, Steve Perdue of Saline County, Bill Farmer of Dallas County, Janette Horton and Jerrell Harper of Grant County, Brenda Stuckey and Dee Lois Lawrence of the Friends of Jenkins’ Ferry and Peggy Lloyd of Hempstead County. Dr. Wendy Richter of Hot Spring County, Mark Christ of Pulaski County and Billy Nations of Historic Washington State Park in Hempstead County were unable to be present. Stuckey and Lawrence prepared the lunch for the group, and Harper led the guided tour to the Civil War marker sites.
The members of the committee in their various local organizations have undertaken and will continue to undertake a variety of activities. They installed Civil War markers at significant sites during the Sesquicentennial and have contacted landowners to encourage archeological study of these sites under the guidance of a professional archeologist, Dr. Carl Drexler of SAU at Magnolia.
In Nevada County, they worked to raise $950,000 from a variety of sources for the 448-acre battle site at Elkins’ Ferry on the Little Missouri and an additional $48,000 for closing costs and an interpretive plan. The property was officially transferred to the Nevada County Depot and Museum on Aug. 5.
They have organized re-enactments. They have discussed the preservation of these sites with city and county officials and have given presentations to local civic clubs. They also have as a goal the promotion of heritage tourism as a benefit to the economy in the region. Recently they have held their meetings at various locales along General Steele’s route in order to become familiar with the entire expedition. They met at Malvern in June and toured sites at Tulip in Dallas County. In July, they met at the Grant County Museum and toured sites related to Jenkins’ Ferry. In late August they will meet in Fordyce and tour at Marks’ Mill and related sites.
The Red River Campaign had as its purpose to send Union forces up from southern Louisiana under Gen. N. P. Banks and down from Little Rock, under General Frederick Steele to take Shreveport, Louisiana, secure the Red River and invade Texas. Confederate General Kirby Smith was in command at Shreveport. Smith, an experienced professional soldier, defeated Banks at the Battle of Mansfield, south of Shreveport. Banks was not a professional soldier and had attained his rank because of his political connections.
General Steele in Little Rock had as his orders to proceed to Arkadelphia and then to Shreveport by as direct a route as possible. The Confederate state capital was then at Washington, in Hempstead County. Soon after leaving Little Rock on March 23, 1864, Steele’s forces began to suffer from inadequate supplies for the soldiers and the horses and mules pulling their many wagons. After a standoff at Prairie D’Ane near present-day Prescott along the I-30 corridor, Steele turned his army toward Camden which was reported to have a cache of food supplies. The battles at Poison Springs, Marks’ Mill and Jenkins’ Ferry ensued as Steele fought to get his army back to Little Rock. They reached Little Rock on May 3,1864. Southwest Arkansas was to remain in Confederate hands until the end of the war. Steele’s march toward the Red River is often known as the Camden Expedition, though that does not accurately indicate the real purpose of the Union invasion.
The Arkansas Red River Campaign is an important part of Arkansas’ Civil War history and a potentially important economic source of tourism dollars for the state.