Copied from a Special Edition of "THE MERRY GREEN PRESS"
Article: BLACK TROOPS OUTDUEL CONFEDERATES
Colonel Samuel J. Crawford, commanding the 2nd Kansas Colored Volunteer Regiment with Federal General Steele's VII Corps, has reported favorably on the conduct of his men at the recent Battle at Jenkins' Ferry. According to Colonel Crawford, the regiment had marched with Steele retreating northeast from Camden on April 27 and first encountered the enemy throughout the afternoon of April 29 at the Saline River. As Confederate troops advanced on the rear of the Federal wagon train near the highground, Kansas volunteers, then at the pontoon bridge, were double timed back to face the attackers.
The volunteers quickly discarded their overcoats and haversacks and formed into a column of companies after receiving orders from General Rice. With Cox Creek on the north, the troops took position in the scrub timber and thick underbrush of the river bottom. Some men waded the rapidly rising creek to reinforce elements of the 43rd Illinois, resulting in many cartridge boxes being filled with water. As the 600-man skirmish line exchanged fire with the Confederate infantry, witnesses reported that Colonel Crawford rode behind his troops shouting for them to "aim low and give them hell." Due to the intensive training given to the black soldiers, their fire was deadly and continuous, outdueling the enemy and driving them back.
At this time Crawford said he was ordered to take unlimbered Confederate artillery which had proved to be deadly to the Federal line. His black troops charged the artillery with fixed bayonets and poured a savage volley into the rear battery killing over thirty horses and capturing the gunners. A Confederate officer said later that black troops bayoneted the wounded, although this was denied by Colonel Crawford.
The Confederate Officer said this was done in retaliation of the rebel massacre of wounded black soldiers of the 1st Kansas Regiment at Posion Spring two weeks earlier.
After resupplying his men, Colonel Crawford ordered them back into the battle which had lasted over six hours. Confederate forces were pushed back and left the field. At this time the black soldiers were ordered to care for the wounded and dead Federals and to again guard the rear of the wagon train. As the last wagons of the VII Corps passed over the pontoon bridge at the Ferry crossing, the Kansas Volunteers also crossed and proceeded to destroy the structure.
Speaking to a reporter, Colonel Crawford said, "My black troops carried the day at Jenkins' Ferry. We were among the first to encounter Kirby Smith's rebels and were the last to leave the battlefield. We lost over eighty men killed and wounded and regretably left over forty casualties on the field. I feel we have now redeemed our comrades who fell at Posion Spring. My men have shown they can fight and win!"
General Steele commented, upon reaching Little Rock, "The recent conduct of the black troops of my command prove that the African can be made as formidable in battle as a soldier of any other color."
Article: THE USE OF ARTILLERY DURING THE BATTLE
A duel between Federal and Confederate artillery erupted at Guesses Creek bottom west of Jenkins' ferry before the main fighting on the 30th. Federal Lieutenant Charles W. Thomas of the Springfield Light Artillery serving as a rear guard for the VII Corps threw his guns into action against Confederate Captain Harris' four-gun battery. At least one house in the area was hit by shot and shell.
The Springfield Light Artillery was later positioned at a house on the ridge overlooking the Saline bottom. As Confederate troops approached, they were raked with canister. Confederate cannon were called in and returned the Federal fire which now switched to shot and shell. The Confederate battery was quickly withdrawn.
As the VII Corps moved into the bottom, Federal artillery was redeployed in a muddy cornfield near Cox Creek. confederate Captain Lesueur's battery was ordered to rake the underbrush with canister. When they opened fire, the 12-pounder howitzers sank up to their axles in the mire. Confederate Lieutenant John O. Lockhart now moved forward with a section of Ruffner's battery which blasted into the 2nd Kansas and the 29th Iowa Regiments.
Lockhart's gunners were charged by the two Federal regiments who captured the two 6-pounders and their caissons as well as an abandoned howitzer.
Dr. J. M. Brown, chaplain of the 29th Arkansas Volunteers said that two of the brass rifled cannons captured had been captured earlier in 1862 from Federals at Oak Hills battle in Missouri and that it was reported that there was a reward of $6,000 offered for their recapture.
Another witness says that these captured Confederate guns were dragged off the field by the black soldiers of the 2nd Kansas Volunteers. At the river the three guns were spiked, their wheels knocked out, and rolled into the river.
It is not known whether these guns were recovered by Confederate troops still on the battlefield, since at this writing the river is still at flood stage.
Grant County Museum in Sheridan, Arkansas printed in observance of the 125th Anniversary of the Civil War Battle of Jenkins' Ferry that was fought April 29-30th, 1864 in what was then Hot Springs and Saline County Territory...later incorporated into Grant County in 1869.
The above information may be used for non-commercial historical and genealogical purposes only and with the consent of the page owner may be copied for the same purposes so long as this notice remains a part of the copied material. EDWARD G. GERDES
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