Friday, April 17, 2009

Williams' Raid before Poison Spring

Colonel James Williams left Camden on the morning of April 17, 1864 (145 years ago today) with 670 men, 200 wagons and 2 pieces of artillery.

The Federals marched 20 miles out from Camden, striking plantations and farms to the west of the city. By the end of the day, they had confiscated an estimated 5,000 bushels of corn as well as livestock and other supplies. Stories handed down in local families also indicate the soldiers raided homes for clothing, furniture and any other valuables they could fine. According to some eyewitnesses, they even stole items from the slave cabins, taking from those with little to offer.

Although they did not encounter resistance on the 17th, the Confederates knew the Federals were on the move. General John Marmaduke learned from scouts and local citizens of the Union raid and decided to intercept them on their way back to Camden. Accordingly, he set out with 3,600 men and 12 pieces of field artillery on a road that would intersect the route by which Williams had marched.

In Camden, General Steele became concerned that his raiding party might not have enough men to fend off a Confederate attack, so he sent out an additional 490 men and 2 more cannon to link up with Williams and assist in getting the confiscated provisions safely back to camp.

By the evening of April 17th, the stage was set for the Battle of Poison Spring. The fighting would begin the next day.

I will have details about the battle in the next post. Until then, you can read more by visiting

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