Major General Nathanial Banks' “Red River Campaign” began in March, 1864. The campaign involved a “pincer” movement with Banks advancing north, up the Red River Valley from New Orleans and Major Gen Fredrick Steele’s 8500 man force moving south from Little Rock, Arkansas. The objective was to link up at Shreveport, Louisiana. Once in Shreveport. Banks' goal was an all-out push into Texas. Steele’s mixed force left the Little Rock Arsenal on March 23, 1864 and moved South southwest through a thinly populated (therefore thinly supplied) area of Central Arkansas. His objective was the port city of Camden on the Ouachita River. Camden would be the resupply point for Steele’s Army and from there they would turn southwest toward Shreveport.
Steele’s first major obstacle was fording the Little Missouri River at Elkin’s Ferry. The bridges proved impassable, forcing the construction of pontoon bridges. Confederate cavalry, under Brig. General Joe Shelby and Brig. General John Marmaduke, launched two days of attacks on the Federals trying to cross the river. Steele held off the attacks and was able to cross the river on April 5. Three days later the Federals reached a vast sea of prairie grass covering some twenty-five or thirty square miles known as Prairie DeAnn. Here both armies would fight for four days, April 9 10, 11 and 12.
The 150th Anniversary Battle of Prairie DeAnn will be fought again on a portion of the original battlefield. Participants will experience a battlefield unlike anything we have ever had before with vast maneuvering space. When our Armies come within site of each other on Saturday, June 13th, they will be over a mile apart, on the original battlefield. You do not want to miss this once in a lifetime opportunity!