Monday, April 13, 2009

Red River Campaign leads to Occupation of Camden

After the inconclusive fighting at Prairie D'Ane on April 10-11, 1864, Union General Frederick Steele realized that he was facing a growing Confederate force and running low on supplies at the same time.

Turning his army to the city of Camden in southern Arkansas, he took up positions there on April 15th.

Steele apparently still planned to continue his advance to Shreveport as soon as he could round up additional supplies. He had no way of knowing that the Louisiana phase of the campaign had already ended in disaster. Confederate General Richard Taylor had smashed the army of Union General Nathaniel P. Banks at Mansfield on April 8th and then pursued him to Pleasant Hill where the two forces had fought a bloody battle the next day. Despite the fact that he outnumbered Taylor, Banks began to withdraw in the face of the Confederate attacks.

Camden was strongly fortified and Steele settled his men camp protected by earthworks such as Fort Sutherland, shown above. The forts had originally been built by the Confederates, but were not manned when Steele moved on Camden. He strengthened the positions and was relatively secure, but his supply situation was beginning to grow critical.

With no other option for obtaining provisions for his army, Steele decided to send out strong raiding parties to gather corn and other supplies from farms and plantations in the area. This strategy would soon lead to major disaster for the Union forces.

I will continue to look at the Red River Campaign in Arkansas through the coming week, so be sure to check back for additional posts.

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