Trying to determine actual causality figures from the Battle of Jenkins’ Ferry has always been difficult. From the eyewitness accounts, we know there was chaos in that river bottom during and after the battle. Additionally, with scores being removed from the battlefield and treated at makeshift hospitals, it is impossible to know the number of soldiers who’s names moved from the “wounded” column to the “killed” column. To further muddy the waters, several of the Confederate units (including Walker’s entire Texas Division) failed to submit any causality figures, so the numbers are immediately skewed.
That being said, we are able to make some sense out of the limited data that we have available. What stands out the most to me are the wounded, particularly the Federal wounded. I can understand the high Confederate causalities; they were moving across open ground, visible for 200+ yards prior to being mowed down by the Federals, entrenched behind makeshift breastworks.
But apparently, the breastworks weren’t as effective as what might have been expected.
The night before the battle, as the Federals were desperately trying to cross the Saline River, the sound of axes were heard throughout the river bottom as General Samuel Rice’s Third Brigade piled trees and fence rails to form a barrier to the anticipated Confederate onslaught coming at daylight.
Confederate General Thomas Waul, commanding a brigade in Walker’s Texas Division, recalled the breastworks in front of him as he made the charge:
“The Federal’s principal line concealed and protected by fallen timber and other hastily constructed defenses and the banks of a slough, commanded the only direct approach through an open field in front. They had also a strong force nearly at right angles with the right of their main line, position under the high banks of a deep bayou that skirts the Jenkins’ Ferry road, directly on the edge of the field and commanding the left flank, and enfilading any force that might enter the field in front of the main line. The enemy’s left extended a considerable distance beyond the field, forming an obtuse angle, inclining toward our right and commanding a large portion of the field.”
The available causality figures for the Confederates are brutal: 517 killed and wounded but keep in mind that these figures do not include several of the units who were engaged. Again, I can understand the figures, given the head-on assaults across the open cornfield. However, the Federal causalities were equally high: 621 killed and wounded.
It was a hell of a fight.
That’s 1,200 causalities before calculating in the missing figures from the other Confederate units. I have no doubt, especially with Walker’s Texas Division, that the causality figures would rise to over 1,500-1,700.
Here are the reported causality figures for those companies reporting their numbers:
50th Indiana Infantry: Killed-13 Wounded-71 Missing-9
29th Iowa Infantry: Killed-8 Wounded-84 Missing-0
33rd Iowa Infantry: Killed-9 Wounded-105 Missing-9
9th Wisconsin Infantry: Killed-14 Wounded-71 Missing-0
Casual Detachment: Killed-5 Wounded-27 Missing-5
43rd Illinois Infantry: Killed-3 Wounded-9 Missing-0
40th Iowa Infantry: Killed-6 Wounded-34 Missing-0
27th Wisconsin Infantry: Killed-5 Wounded-11 Missing-14
2nd Kansas Colored Infantry: Killed-15 Wounded-55, Missing-3
Springfield Illinois Light Artillery: Killed-15 Wounded-55 Missing-3
3rd Missouri Cavalry: Killed-6 Wounded-31 Missing-0
4th Missouri Cavalry: Killed-1 Wounded-12 Missing-0
19th and 24th Arkansas Infantry: Killed-8 Wounded-18 Missing-0
28th and 38th Arkansas Infantry: Killed-4 Wounded-22 Missing-0
33rd Arkansas Infantry: Killed-21 Wounded-71 Missing-0
Gause’s Brigade, Arkansas Infantry: Killed-15 Wounded-67 Missing-0
Dismounted Casuals: Killed-1 Wounded-14 Missing-1
8th Missouri Infantry: Killled-7 Wounded-22 Missing-0
9th Missouri Infantry: Killed-7 Wounded-45 Missing-0
Ruffner’s Missouri Battery: Killed-4 Wounded-6 Missing-0
10th Missouri Infantry: Killed-3 Wounded-7 Missing-0
11th Missouri Infantry: Killed-2 Wounded-15 Missing-0
12th Missouri Infantry: Killed-1 Wounded-2 Missing-0
16th Missouri Infantry: Killed-5 Wounded-20 Missing-0
9th Missouri Sharpshooter Battalion: Killed-4 Wounded-4 Missing-4
Killed: Federal-93 Confederate-107
Wounded: Federal-522 Confederate-410
Missing: Federal-43 Confederate-5
The number of killed/wounded/missing were not recorded from the following Confederate units:
14th Missouri Cavalry
8th Missouri Cavalry
Harris’ Missouri Battery
11th and 14th Texas Infantry
28the and 6th Texas Cavalry
Daniel’s Texas Battery
The only possible way of compiling the missing causality figures would be to analyze the service records of each of the companies who failed to report their numbers. That, I am afraid, would be a monumental task but one that I hope someone will one day take on the challenge. It would finally fill in a significant piece of the puzzle that is the Battle of Jenkins’ Ferry.