Friday, September 5, 2008
Battle of Poison Spring, Arkansas - Part One
During the spring of 1864, Union forces engaged in one of the most ill-conceived campaigns of the Civil War.
Despite the objections of Gen. U.S. Grant, two armies were sent to invade northern Louisiana and southern Arkansas. Their target was the strategic city of Shreveport, Louisiana, and the ultimate goal was the establishment of a foothold in Texas.
The Louisiana wing of the invasion was turned back at Battles of Mansfield and Pleasant Hill. The Arkansas phase began to unravel here at the Battle of Poison Spring.
Following smaller engagements at Elkin's Ferry and Prairie d'Ane, the Union army of Gen. Frederick Steele occupied Camden, Arkansas on April 15, 1864. The Federals were desperately short of supplies, so three days later Steele sent a force of 670 men with nearly 200 wagons to confiscate corn from private farms about 20 miles east of Camden. This force was reinforced by around 500 additional men as it returned from its raid, giving the Federals 1,190 men and four pieces of artillery as they leisurely escorted the slow-moving wagons on their way back to Camden.
The Confederates, however, were aware of their activities. After Union troops had occupied Camden, Southern Gen. Sterling Price sent out cavalry forces to observe all of the roads leading in and out of the city. When the wagon train emerged and began to move west, Price's forces began to prepare a surprise for the enemy raiders.
The surprise came on April 18, 1864, near a trickling water source named Poison Spring.
We will continue our look at the Battle of Poison Spring, Arkansas in our next post. Until then you can read more by visiting our new Battle of Poison Spring website at www.exploresouthernhistory.com/poisonspring.