Around 50 people attended the ceremony Sunday at Missionary Grove Baptist Church north of Prescott to unveil the Civil War marker commemorating the Elkins Ferry National Historic Landmark and the Cornelius Farm site. The event included Don Collins, who talked about the area’s Civil War history and Shirley Graham who spoke on the history of the Cornelius family. Local historian Peggy Lloyd, with the assistance of John L. McWilliams, unveiled the marker, which rests at the edge of the cemetery in front of the church. Company “E” of the Third Arkansas Volunteer Infantry presented the colors for the event as well as firing three rifle and cannon salutes at the unveiling.
The Elkins Ferry National Historic Landmark straddles the Little Missouri River and lies in both Clark and Nevada Counties. As the Arkansas portion of the Red River Campaign of 1864, General Frederick Steele led a force of 8,000 Union troops, including colored troops, out of Little Rock on March 23, 1864, into Southwest Arkansas. Skirmishing with Confederate forces all along the way, Steele’s army crossed the Little Missouri River near Elkins Ferry into Nevada County, then Hempstead County, in early April 1864. Fighting intensified after Union troops crossed the river and encountered Confederate forces hoping to defend the Confederate state capital at Washington.
Union forces advanced through the lowlands to the Cornelius Farm on higher ground away from the river. The Cornelius family operated the Elkins Ferry under the oversight of Mrs. Malinda Ward Cornelius, whose husband had already died in the war. Steele stopped at the Cornelius Farm for a few days to await the arrival of an additional four to five thousand troops out of Fort Smith under the command of Colonel John M. Thayer before proceeding on to the Battle of Prairie D’Ane, a few miles away near present-day Prescott and then on to Camden.
The marker is sponsored by a grant from the Civil War Sesquicentennial Commission and the Nevada County Depot and Museum. Another similar marker commemorating the Civil War battle at Prairie DeAnn is scheduled to be unveiled on Highway 371 near I-30 in the near future.
Thanks to Paul Oller for the photos from Sunday’s ceremony.