The Lincoln Movie…at Jenkins’ Ferry

Lincoln Scene

One of most horrific moments in the battle was when the 2nd Kansas Colored Infantry charged a Confederate artillery battery, executing many of the Confederates after they had attempted to surrender (slicing off ears, cutting throats; all while the soldiers were still alive, begging for mercy). The 2nd Kansas called what they did revenge for what the Confederates had done to members of the 1st Kansas Colored Infantry days earlier at the Battle of Poison Springs. If you’ve watched the opening scene from the Steven Spielberg movie “Lincoln,” then you’ve recognize the gruesome battle depicted in the film – this was supposed to represent the charge made by the 2nd Kansas Colored Infantry. But did it really happen the way history has described it?

Colonel Thomas Benton commanded the 29th Iowa US Infantry during the Battle of Jenkins’ Ferry. He was an eyewitness to the events that occurred in the Saline River bottoms that day. Following the battle, Colonel Benton wrote the following letter to the National Democrat newspaper in Little Rock:

[LITTLE ROCK] NATIONAL DEMOCRAT, May 21, 1864, p. 3, c. 1   

We publish the following letter from the Unconditional Union, with a correction added by permission.                
                                    Little Rock, Ark., May 11, 1864.

Editor of Unconditional Union:         

I observe a slight error in your account of the battle of Jenkins’ Ferry, on the 30th of April, 1864, given in your paper of the 10th inst., which justice to my officers and men demands that I should correct.  The paragraph to which I allude is as follows:    

“The negroes particularly, deserve great credit for their gallantry.  They repulsed charge after charge from the enemy and no sooner was a command received than obeyed.  They charged a battery and captured three pieces of artillery and two battle flags, which inspired them with confidence, and urged them on to the bloody contest, pouring death and destruction before them.”     

Now the facts are these:  On the right of our line of battle, which rested on the road from Princeton to the Ferry, my regiment was the first that engaged that enemy, and after a severe contest of an hour, was relieved by the 9th Wisconsin and the 9th Wisconsin was subsequently relieved by the 2d Kansas, (colored) infantry.  The action had lasted some two hours before the 2d Kansas came up.  After the 2d Kansas had been engaged about half an hour, Gen. Rice ordered me to relieve them and charge the batter; (which had taken position in the road about one hundred paces in front of our extreme right;) but afterward so modified his order as to have the charge made jointly by the 29th Iowa and 2d Kansas.  I ordered my command to advance with a shout, which was promptly done, until we arrived at the line of the 2d Kansas, when the two regiments were blended into one, my own, being the largest, extending beyond the 2d Kansas on either flank.  companies “A” and “D,” and part of “I” of my right wing, (“F” having been previously posted across the Bayou to our right,) extending across the road, immediately in front of the guns, with their left resting on the right of the 2d Kansas.  In this order the two commands moved gallantly forward, and captured the battery; (two guns instead of three,) and eight prisoners, including one Lieutenant, but no battle flags.  The prisoners were taken to the rear and across the river in charge of four of my men.  There were two or three miniature flags taken from the guns by my men, one of which that I examined, was about five by nine inches, with blue field and three bars, and bearing the inscription, “God and our native land.”  My command advanced beyond the guns about sixty or seventy paces, and held the ground while the 2d Kansas, whose ammunition was exhausted, withdrew and aided a detail of my men in taking the guns to the rear.  I then fell back slowly to our regular line of battle, and was again relieved by the 9th Wisconsin, Col. Salomon, who had held himself in readiness to support us.      

In making this statement, I have not desire to detract in the slightest degree from the 2d Kansas, nor to claim any undue credit for my own regiment.  My sole object is to do exact and equal justice to all, and hence I cannot silently permit my command to be totally excluded from an act of gallantry in which it suffered so severely, having lost some of my best men, and had two officers wounded:  Capt. Mitchell severely, and Lieutenant Johnson slightly.  It affords me the greatest pleasure to say that the 2d Kansas, under its gallant leader, fought bravely, and although my men were first at the battery and actually took the prisoners, we cheerfully concede to it an equal share of the glory of the charge.  All the regiments engaged fought with a heroism unsurpassed in civilized warfare.  It is also worthy of note that the 50th Indiana infantry, and named in your account, was in the thickest of the fight.      

I am very resp’t’y, your ob’t, serv’t,              
                                    Thomas H. Benton, Jr.                      
                                    Col. 29th Iowa Inft. 

I recall after the movie came out, there were several internet threads. Among the most common were the ones asking (1) What/Where is Jenkins’ Ferry and (2) Why, with all of the “big” battles, would Stephen Spielberg choose such an “obscure” battle as Jenkins’ Ferry? The writers of the movie obviously utilized the Official Records of the battle where they read the reports of those who participated in the charge.  Some of the eyewitnesses may have seen the battle from a different perspective from what is depicted in the film, among them Colonel Benton.

Sometimes….in the heat of battle, facts may be skewed. Perhaps it takes cooler heads after the guns have fallen silent to provide a different perspective. Colonel Benton certainly thought so.

Regardless, it was a horrific moment in our history.

Missing the Fight…at Jenkins’ Ferry

Zimri Bates

Zimri Bates missed out on the big fight.

And looking back on it all, I’m sure that was fine with Captain Bates.

On the afternoon of April 29, 1864, Captain Zimri Bates set atop his horse on the west bank of the Saline River as he watched the Federal engineers construct their pontoon bridge. He had heard the gunfire behind him. He, along with the other members of the 10th Illinois Cavalry, knew the Confederates were closing in on them. They also knew unless the pontooners got that damned bridge built, they were going to be trapped in that godforsaken swamp.

Zimri Barber Bates was a native of New York before moving to Illinois where he worked as a farmer. Joining Company G of the 10th Illinois Cavalry, he was initially commissioned a Lieutenant before being promoted in Captain in 1862.

That spring of 1864, the 10th Illinois was assigned to the Third Brigade of Brigadier General Eugene Carr’s Cavalry Division. The Division saw extensive service in the Trans-Mississippi Theater, including a skirmish at Cotton Plant in July 1862, the capture of Arkansas Post in January of 1863 as well as the capture of Little Rock in September 1863. Carr’s Division served as the eyes and ears of Steele’s Seventh Corps as it snaked its way southward to assist in the invasion of Texas.

Once the decision was made by Steele to abandon the march and return to the safety of Little Rock, he moved quickly northward from Camden but his army stalled once they reached the flooded Saline River bottoms. The Federals knew a fight was about to happen. But concerning Frederick Steele as much was Confederate General James Fagan. Following his overwhelming victory at the Battle of Marks Mills days before, Fagan had become a very real threat. Steele was concerned that Fagan would follow-up his victory by making a move on Little Rock.

As Steele and Eugene Carr sat atop their horses that afternoon on the bank of the Saline River, Steele’s orders were clear; as soon as the pontoon bridge was operational; Carr was to move his Division with all possible speed toward Little Rock

By 4:00 pm on April 29, 1864, in the pouring rain, Captain Bates trotted his horse across the newly constructed pontoon bridge.

Now, for those who have visited Jenkins’ Ferry State Park, can you imagine Bates and 3,000 horseman gathered on the east side of the river where the park is today? 3,000 horses? It seems unbelievable when you stand among those gentle oak trees today.

They were able to leave the Saline River behind as the Confederates closed the gap, resulting in the Battle of Jenkins’ Ferry.

Once Bates and the rest of Carr’s Division completed the crossing, they moved quickly to establish a camp on the high ground (near the intersection of Highway 291 and 46) before moving toward Little Rock. It turns out the fears over Fagan capturing Little Rock was unfounded (that will be the subject of tomorrow’s blog).

In January 1865, Captain Bates and his regiment were consolidated with the soldiers of the 15th Illinois Cavalry and designated the 10th Illinois Veteran Volunteer Cavalry.

After the war, Captain Bates would live quietly, dying in Blackwell, Oklahoma, in February of 1917 just as another war, the “Great War,” was raging across Europe.


From Jenkins’ Ferry to Camp Ford…

camp ford

John Jones was a private in the 5th Kansas Cavalry, fighting in several battles across Arkansas, including Helena and Pine Bluff. His luck ran out on April 25, 1864 when Jones, along with hundreds of other Federal soldiers were captured at the Battle of Marks Mills when the Confederates, under General James Fagan, swarmed a Union supply train.

Jones, a native of Iowa who later moved to Kansas, enlisted as a private, mustered into Company A of the 5th Kansas Cavalry, on October 31, 1861, at Leavenworth, Kansas.

Once they were captured, Private Jones and the others were marched southwest to Tyler, Texas to the Confederate Prisoner of War camp known as Camp Ford.

Soldiers from Marks Mills as well as the Battle of Jenkins’ Ferry were housed at the prison.

Camp Ford was established in July of 1863 to accommodate the growing number of Federal prisoners being captured throughout the Trans-Mississippi Theater of operations.

The stockade that encompassed the camp enclosed an area of two to four acres with a spring running alongside the south wall, providing water for the men inside.

In an article written for the Texas State Historical Association:

“Living conditions at Camp Ford became deplorable in April 1864, when the population was suddenly tripled by the addition of about 3,000 prisoners captured at the defeat of the Union army in Arkansas and the battles at Mansfield and Pleasant Hill, Louisiana. The stockade area was doubled in size in an effort to accommodate this influx. The 4,725 inmates were overcrowded and critically short of food, shelter, and clothing. Their plight was desperate for several months, until major exchanges of prisoners in July and October 1864 alleviated somewhat the shocking conditions that had prevailed.”

After being paroled, Jones returned to his regiment, which was mustered out on December 8, 1864 at Leavenworth, Kansas.

Following the war, Private Jones moved west to California where he died at the Home for Disabled Volunteer Soldiers at Sawtelle on November 26, 1924.

My Name is E. Kirby Smith…


I have always preferred reading books to watching movies based upon books. Somehow, it seems that the spirit of the book is lost when it makes it to the big screen. One example is Dan Brown’s “The DaVinci Code.” I thoroughly enjoyed reading the book (I’m not so sure about the premise of the book but that’s another story) and eagerly looked forward to the movie version with actor Tom Hanks. Well…the movie was (in my opinion) so disappointing as compared to the book. So, I’ve stuck with reading books and creating that “movie of the mind” to visualize what I’m reading.

Over the years I’ve done that with the Battle of Jenkins’ Ferry, reading Ed Bearss’ book and creating that “movie of the mind” to help understand the battle better. And one way that’s possible is through the quotes of the soldiers who were there. There have been many stories passed down by the eyewitnesses to what occurred at Jenkins’ Ferry. Perhaps my favorite quote was from a recollection of the battle written by a Confederate Surgeon, Dr. Junius Bragg. Reading Dr. Braggs’s account of the battle is fascinating and provides much insight in to the events during those two days in April of 1864. However, it is one account of Dr. Bragg’s that stands out – even as a child when I first read it almost forty years ago – as one of those accounts where your “movie of the mind” can actually take you there. Below is the quote – which I’ve always found quite humorous in the midst of tragedy and after you read it, you’ll understand why. As you read it, allow your “movie of the mind” to take you there – to that Saline River Swamp.

“At midnight we were called into line and ordered to move on. The night was so black that one could almost feel the darkness with the hand. Sounds of distant thunder fell upon the ear, which, as it came nearer, swelled into a road. In the darkness one could see nothing. Then a flash of lightning would come and reveal a long line of bayonets stretching away down the road and out into the darkness. Every man that spoke did so in reference to the whereabouts of himself and his command. Frequently, a mounted officer was threatened by an infantryman, whom he had unwittingly ridden over.

We had stopped in the road for some purpose. I had dismounted and was leaning against my horse, with a cape over my head, for the rain was falling steadily of a horseman took me violently in the back. I said something to him which caused him to turn his head suddenly when he rode over two or three soldiers. One of them threatened to bayonet the man and the horse both, wound up a tirade of abuse by demanding of…[the horseman] his name and business. The horseman replied that his name was E. Kirby Smith, and that his business was to command the army. The announcement appeared to be satisfactory, as it was followed by profound silence.”

They are gone now – every eyewitness to the Battle of Jenkins’ Ferry. However we have the stories they left behind to help us understand and appreciate the horror that was the Battle of Jenkins’ Ferry.

So, take some time and reread Ed Bearss’ book “Steele’s Retreat From Camden and the Battle of Jenkins’ Ferry” or my book, “Harvest of Death: The Battle of Jenkins’ Ferry, Arkansas” and allow that “movie of the mind” to take you back to that Saline River Swamp so long ago.


Lost Graves at Jenkins’ Ferry…


From time to time I receive emails – either directly addressed to me or forwarded to me by other organizations such as the Grant County Museum in Sheridan. And without a doubt the most requested e-mail is from a descendent of a soldier trying to find where their ancestor is buried. And it’s about equal between the Confederate and the Federal soldiers. The sad truth that has to be reported to them is the odds are virtually impossible to locate the individual grave of their ancestor as so many were buried in unmarked graves following the battle. The Confederates, who commanded the field following the retreat of the Federal Army, hastily buried the soldiers who died upon the battlefield within a day or so after the battle.

Within days of the Confederate’s departure, sightseers began arriving in the Saline River bottoms. A former slave, Jane Osbrook, recalled as a child a visit to the battlefield:

“The next Sunday [after the Battle of Jenkins’ Ferry], my father carried all us children and some of the white folks to see the battlefield. I [re]member the dead were lyin in graves, just row after another and hadn’t even been covered up.”

Others reported a more grisly scene. Many of the soldiers had been buried in very shallow graves where they had fallen. This led to other eyewitnesses describing how the wild hogs had dug up and were “feasting on the remains” of the dead soldiers.

Nothing more was done with the soldier’s remains until 1868 when the Federal Government, having just established a Military Cemetery in Little Rock (what is now the Little Rock National Cemetery), began sending crews to the various battlefields across Arkansas to retrieve the remains of fallen soldiers and bring them back to Little Rock for a proper burial. Crews did retrieve remains from the Jenkins’ Ferry Battlefield, though the number of soldiers removed is not exactly known. The War Department records that survive do confirm soldiers were removed from Jenkins’ Ferry and reinterred in Little Rock though the exact number nor names are not known. And of course, there were many burials throughout the area of soldiers who survived the battle but later succumbed to their wounds.

Today, there are no marked graves at Jenkins’ Ferry. Through my research I know the location of three mass graves (two on the battlefield and one nearby). I believe one of the “goals” in preserving the battlefield for future generations should include an appropriate monument at each of the mass grave sites honoring the men – blue and grey – who are buried there. That may be years away but I believe it is a goal worth working toward – those men deserve nothing less.

It’s frustrating when I have to reply to an email of someone who has been searching, sometimes for a lifetime for the grave of a loved one who perished at Jenkins’ Ferry only to convey the sad news the chances are very low in ever locating their individual ancestor’s grave.

However, the fact that the descendants of these soldiers continue to keep their memories alive brings me comfort. There is an old saying: “They say you die twice. One time when you stop breathing and a second time, a bit later on, when somebody says your name for the last time.”

If that’s the case…then these brave soldiers who fell at the Battle of Jenkins’ Ferry shall live on forever.



Everyone has “those stories” in their family histories. The stories that sound just a bit too farfetched to be believable; the ones where what began as a simple story has snowballed into something huge over the passage of time.

When I was growing up, we attended the House family reunion each year. House was my mother’s maiden name and has a long history tracing its origins back to 17th century Virginia.

The reunion was always held in the building adjacent to the cemetery in Holly Springs (Dallas County, Arkansas) where, after a morning of food and fellowship, the group would adjourn to the cemetery to place flowers on the graves of those who were no longer amongst us.

I especially remember one reunion in particular. During that reunion, someone had brought a very ancient pair of ladies shoes (the type from the 1800’s that resembled high lace up boots) and placed them on one of the tables where they soon became the center of attention. The story being told was that they belonged to one of our House relatives who had been onboard the Titanic.

THE Titanic I asked my mother?

Even in the age before the Internet, everyone knew about the disaster known as the Titanic.

The problem was…and this was a big problem…no one seemed to recall the woman’s name. It seems that after all those years following the sinking, her name had been lost to time.

Now, even as a child I could sense something was just not right about this story.

Over the next few years, I would hear my mother speak of this elusive Titanic ancestor, never knowing her name nor anything about her.

When I was older, I actually spent some time researching the issue and discovered that were Arkansas passengers aboard the Titanic. There was a couple from the Pine Bluff area who were aboard and survived the sinking. However, I could never connect them to our family. I eventually chalked up the shoes and story to just one of those made up stories that find their way into our family histories – and not in a bad way. I’m sure there was no ill intent in the story – it was just a fun made up story.

Then I found the postcard.

After my mother died in 2002, my brothers and sisters and I spent some time going through her possessions. Contained within those papers was a postcard dated three weeks after the April 15, 1912 sinking postmarked Philadelphia. The postcard was addressed to my mother’s grandfather, William Dudley House, indicating they had survived the disaster and had just arrived “here” (Philadelphia?). They promised to write more soon.


So there was truth in the Titanic story after all. The postcard confirmed the family legend with one important problem…the postcard wasn’t signed. Apparently, my great-grandfather knew the writer well enough that no signature was necessary. Even though the postcard seemed to confirm the story, I was still no closer to learning the name of our relative who was aboard. To make matters worse, the shoes themselves have been lost to history as those of us who were just children at these reunions cannot remember who the relative was that brought the shoes.

There is a bit of a tie in to Jenkins’ Ferry to all of this.

Something that saddens me nowadays are that the tradition of family reunions seems to be fading away. I used to anticipate the yearly reunions of my Walker and House families but with the older generation passing away, it seems that the tradition was lost as well. Growing up, our family used to gather annually at the Jenkins’ Ferry State Park for a day of food and fellowship. It remains one of my favorite childhood memories. I’ve thought recently about resurrecting the idea and invite my brothers and sisters and their children for a day at Jenkins’ Ferry, complete with time in the Saline River swimming hole.

It the hectic world we live in, we often lose sight on what is most important to us. I used to hear my parent’s talk about how much easier life was in “simpler times.” I must say I say the same thing around my children. My daughter cannot even comprehend a world without Internet or cell phones but those of you old enough to remember such things can recall we got along just fine without cell phones and YouTube videos.

This summer, we’re going back to Jenkins’ Ferry State Park – and celebrate a simpler time, and share the stories of our childhood. It will be an awesome day.

Saved by a Math Professor…


You may not recognize the gentlemen pictured here but it weren’t for him, the Yankees might never have made it back to Little Rock in the spring of 1864.

Captain Junius Brutus Wheeler was a native of North Carolina who in 1852 traveled to New York where he had been accepted at the United States Military Academy at West Point.

Wheeler would graduate from West Point in 1855. Ironically, Wheeler, who would go on to become Chief Engineer in General Frederick Steele’s Seventh Corp, attended West Point while another Engineer served as Superintendent of the Military Academy – Robert E. Lee.

Following a brief stint in the U.S. Cavalry, Wheeler returned to West Point, this time as an instructor, serving as an Assistant Professor of Mathematics. He wrote several books during the period, some of which are available on-line through Google Books.

When the Civil War broke out, Wheeler was assigned as Chief Engineer of the Federal Army of the Susquehanna and later transferred to the west, where he became Chief Engineer of General Frederick Steele’s Army as they moved to capture Little Rock in 1863.

In the spring of 1864, Wheeler and his crews left Little Rock with the rest of Steele’s Army – moving south toward Shreveport to participate in the planned invasion of Texas. As you know, the invasion fell apart with Steele’s Army marching across southern Arkansas more in search of food than the enemy.

As Chief Engineer, Wheeler was responsible for deploying and maintaining the Federal’s India Rubber Pontoon Bridge which was deployed several times during the 1864 Camden Expedition. This type of Pontoon Bridge had been used as far back as the Creek Wars of 1836.

During the spring of 1864, the bridge was deployed at least five times: at Benton, Rockport, Elkins’ Ferry, Camden, and Jenkins’ Ferry. Once they had reached Jenkins’ Ferry on April 29, 1864, the march that had turned into a retreat was now an escape. Time was of the essence as over 8,000 Confederates had caught up with the Federal Army in the Saline River bottoms.

After the last of the Yankees had made it across the bridge following the Battle of Jenkins’ Ferry, General Steele decides that there is no time to wait for Wheeler’s crews to break down the bridge and reload it onto the twenty-six wagons it took to transport it. He orders Wheeler to destroy the bridge, which Wheeler’s men did, sinking it into the swollen Saline River (where pieces of the pontoon bridge have been found by relic hunters). This prevented the Confederates from pursuing the Federals who finally reached the safety of Little Rock a few days later.

Wheeler’s actions at Jenkins’ Ferry no doubt were instrumental in saving the Federal Army from certain disaster.

Not to shabby for a 26 year old West Point Math Professor.

Sheer Stupidity and Pig-Headed Obstinacy


“Sheer stupidity and pig-headed obstinacy.”‘

That’s what Confederate General Richard Taylor wrote in memoirs describing General E. Kirby Smith’s decision to pursue the Federal Army into Arkansas, which culminated in the Battle of Jenkins’ Ferry on April 30, 1864.

Taylor, the son of President Zachery Taylor, was one of the primary commanders who held back an invasion of the Trans-Mississippi by a Federal army under command of General Nathaniel Banks.

We’ve talked about this before. The Federals had developed a plan to move into eastern Texas in an attempt to secure the reported vast supplies of cotton stored in warehouses.

As they pushed into northern Louisiana, the Confederate Army under Taylor and Kirby Smith blocked their path. The Federals probably could not have picked a worse commander than Banks, a politician turned military commander.

Following the battles in Louisiana at Mansfield (April 8th) and Pleasant Hill (April 9th), it appeared the Confederates had the Federals on the run. General Taylor wanted to pursue the Federals, to hunt them down and destroy Banks’ army. And just as Taylor was ready to begin the pursuit…

Kirby Smith took away half the army.

Taking three divisions (Parson’s, Churchill’s and Walker’s), Kirby Smith began a march northward into Arkansas in pursuit of General Frederick Steele’s Seventh Corps. Steele had been ordered south from Little Rock to assist Banks in the Texas invasion but lack of supplies had forced Steele to abandon his plan and retreat back to the safety of Little Rock.

Kirby Smith believed that once Steele’s army was destroyed, it would not only wrestle control of Arkansas but it would pave the way for a possible invasion of Missouri.

This was not to be as the Confederates failed to stop Steele’s escape across the Saline River at Jenkins’ Ferry.

Of Jenkins’ Ferry, General Taylor wrote:

“I am at a loss to conceive what connection the fruits of Mansfield have with the fight at Jenkins’ Ferry. We do not today hold one foot more of Arkansas than if Jenkins’ Ferry had ever been, and we have a jaded army and 1,000 less soldiers.”

Some historians have joked that had Kirby Smith been anywhere in the vicinity, Richard Taylor would have shot him himself.

Kirby Smith, however, claimed that General Taylor had agreed to the pursuit of Steele’s army.

Following Jenkins’ Ferry, the rift between Kirby Smith and Taylor only deepened with Taylor criticizing Kirby Smith’s command abilities as “all ruffles and no shirt.”

One thing you never do is criticizing your commander. Soon enough, Taylor reported his requests were being lost in a “maze of red tape and circumlocution.”

It wasn’t long before Richard Taylor had had enough of Kirby Smith. In his resignation letter from Kirby Smith’s command, Taylor wrote: “After the desire to serve my country, I have none more ardent than to be relieved from longer service under your command.”

The feud between them spilled over and wound up on the desk of Confederate President Jefferson Davis. Kirby Smith wrote Davis:

“I would have arrested General Taylor on the receipt of his first letter, but acknowledging his merits as a soldier and feeling kindly disposed toward him, I passed it by.”

The problem was (and it’s a big one) is that if you’re going to rebuke someone to the President, make sure the person you’re tearing apart is not a relative of the President.

That’s right. General Richard Taylor was the former brother-in-law of President Jefferson Davis (Davis was married to Taylor’s sister, Sarah Knox Taylor).

Instead of demoting Taylor, President Davis promoted him to Lieutenant General and placed him in command of the Department of Mississippi and East Louisiana.

So much for that plan.

In return, Kirby Smith fired off a letter to President Davis where he sought to justify his action during the Red River Campaign, including the debacle at Jenkins’ Ferry. He closed his letter with this:

“I understand that efforts have been made in Richmond to have me relieved from command of the department. I know that facts will be misrepresented and distorted by certain parties in Louisiana who are waging a bitter war against me. I have made a plain statement in advance of my reports that Your Excellency might have the means of judging impartially of past events. 

While I believe that my operations in the late campaign, founded on true military principles, have been productive of at least as great results as would have been achieved by a different course, I do not ask to be retained in command, but will gladly and cheerfully yield to a successor whenever it is deemed the interests of the service require a change.”

The feud between them would last for the remainder of the war.

Would the outcome in the Trans-Mississippi have turned out any differently had Kirby Smith remained in Louisiana and taken the combined forces and destroyed Nathaniel Banks’ army? Some believe that the action in the Trans-Mississippi served only a distraction to the real action in the eastern theater. I’ve read where Robert E. Lee had hoped that troops tied up in the Trans-Mississippi could have been better utilized assisting his Army of Northern Virginia in their pursuit of the Federal Army in Virginia.

When Smith refused to allow Taylor to take with him certain staff officers, Taylor’s patience snapped and he requested permission to cross over to Mississippi without the accompanying troops. Smith refused.