Saturday, September 6, 2008

Battle of Poison Spring, Arkansas - Part Two

On the morning of April 18, 1864, the Union raiding party began its return to Camden.
Commanded by Col. James Williams of the 1st Kansas Colored Volunteers, the Federal force numbered nearly 1,200 men with four pieces of field artillery. As they moved forward on the Washington-Camden Road, however, they soon began to encounter Confederate pickets. Pushing the Southern horsemen before them, the Federal vanguard advanced roughly one mile before a stronger line of Confederate skirmishers suddenly halted the advance.
Colonel Williams quickly realized he was in trouble and pulled the 198 wagons loaded with stolen supplies into a tight formation on the road and then placed his troops into a position to defend the train as well as possible. The Confederates were concealed by the thick undergrowth and timber of the battlefield and the Federals had difficulty determining what kind of a force they were up against. To better unveil the situation, Williams felt from his right flank with detachments from the 2nd and 6th Kansas Cavalry and opened fire with his artillery. To his chagrin the Confederates responded with massive volleys of musketry and artillery fire and began to show themselves in force both in his front and on his right flank.
The Confederates had devised a plan of action that called for them to push strongly against the main Union line while also striking hard at the Federal right flank. As Williams began to realize the difficulty he was in, Maxey and Marmaduke ordered their troops forward, accompanied by the crash of 12 pieces of Confederate artillery.
Our series on the Battle of Poison Spring will continue. Until the next post, you can read more and see photographs of the battlefield by visiting the new Battle of Poison Spring site at

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