Sunday, September 7, 2008
Battle of Poison Spring, Arkansas - Part Three
When the Confederates began their main advance, the Union wagon train was in tight formation along the road (visible here beyond the interpretive shelter) and the Federal troops were positioned beyond the road to defend the train.
Maxey and Marmaduke's plan was to push against the main Union force to divert their attention while a surprise assault was launched against their right flank.
The flank attack was not really a surprise because Col. Williams and his men were able to see the Southern troops moving into position through gaps in the underbrush, but even so it proved highly effective.
As the firing between the two sides reached a peak, the Confederates moved forward. Williams estimated his effective force at the beginning of the battle at around 1,000 men and Maxey later reported that, although his command was much larger, only about 1,500 of his men were actually engaged. Much has been said about the overwhelming size of the Southern force during the Battle of Poison Spring, but in truth the forces actually engaged were closer in size than has generally been stated.
The Confederates did have a major advantage in field artillery during the battle and employed it to good use. The twelve Southern guns devastated the Union lines and had inflicted heavy losses on Williams' command even before the main attack began.
When the Confederates moved forward against their front and right flank, the Federals quickly realized that they were in serious trouble. Williams tried to bring forward additional men from his rear guard to help, but found out that the Southern lines were overlapping him in all directions.
He and his officers would later report that they beat back three distinct Confederate attacks, but the reports of Generals Maxey and Marmaduke do not agree. The Confederate generals describe one constant push that ultimately drove the Federals beyond their wagons and broke their lines.
Our series on the Battle of Poison Spring, Arkansas will continue. Until the next post, you can read more and see battlefield photos by visiting the new Battle of Poison Spring website at www.exploresouthernhistory.com/poisonspring.