Skirmish at Princeton (April 28, 1864)



Dallas County


Camden Expedition


April 28, 1864

Principal Commanders:

Lieutenant Colonel Adolph Dengler (US); Lieutenant Colonel Benjamin Elliott (CS)

Forces Engaged:

Forty-third Illinois Infantry, two artillery pieces, unknown number of cavalry (US); Four companies of the First Missouri Cavalry Battalion (CS)

Estimated Casualties:

Unknown (US); Unknown (CS)



After Union major general Frederick Steele abandoned Camden (Ouachita County) and led his army back to Little Rock (Pulaski County), Confederate cavalry forces pursued the Federals as Confederate infantry units struggled to cross the Ouachita River. This action at Princeton (Dallas County) was a prelude to the Engagement at Jenkins’ Ferry on April 29–30, 1864.

Confederate brigadier general Joseph O. Shelby dispatched the First Missouri Cavalry Battalion on April 28 to determine if the entire Union force had evacuated Camden. Before Lieutenant Colonel Benjamin Elliott, commander of the First Missouri, departed, he sent scouting parties in several directions to find the Federals. Upon reaching Tulip (Dallas County), Elliott was contacted by one of his patrols under the command of Lieutenant Robert Tucker, saying that they had located the Union forces north of Princeton. Elliott quickly reinforced the patrol with the remainder of Tucker’s company and soon had to send the rest of the battalion, a total of four companies, into the fight. The Confederates faced several Union cavalry units, as well as the Forty-third Illinois Infantry and a two-gun section of the Springfield Light Artillery. The Federal cavalry was able to keep the Confederates at bay, and the Union infantry deployed to serve as skirmishers and to support the artillery, although they were never engaged.

Elliott’s major mission was to determine if the entire Union force had departed Camden and was retreating to Little Rock. While his men engaged the enemy, other patrols were able to move alongside Steele’s army and learn that indeed the Federals had abandoned Camden. With this information in hand, Elliott ended the engagement and moved to Pratt’s Ferry to deliver his intelligence to Brigadier General James Fagan. Fagan was not at the ferry, however, and eventually Elliott led his men across the Saline River to find forage for their mounts.

Both sides accomplished their objectives in this small skirmish. The Federals were able to keep moving toward Little Rock, and the Confederates were able to determine that the entire Federal force had abandoned Camden and was approaching the Saline River. Neither side reported suffering any casualties during this action.

For additional information:
Bearss, Edwin C.Steele’s Retreat from Camden and the Battle of Jenkins’ Ferry. Little Rock: Arkansas Civil War Centennial Commission, 1967.

TheWar of the Rebellion: A Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies. Series 1, Vol. 34, Part 1. Washington DC: Government Printing Office, 1889.

David Sesser
Henderson State University


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