Camden Expedition: April 18, 1864

POISON SPRINGS, Ark. 

Union General Williams’ command moved out on the morning of April 18, and after a few miles, ran into Confederate pickets, which the Union forces swept aside. However, moving ever toward Camden, they encountered a Confederate force facing them on the Washington Road west of Camden.

Due to the ambushing Confederate forces on both sides of the road, the Union force had its hands full just keeping the Confederates from overrunning them.  Williams moved his Union regiments to shore up the sagging Union Line, but to no avail. Ultimately, the Union force was outnumbered 3 to 1. The Federals were not able to deploy their cannons, so they retreated back to Camden with the Confederates pursuing them.  After about 2 ½ miles, the Rebs were ordered to cease their pursuit and return to their units.

The Battle of Poison Springs was over by 2:00PM.

The Union casualties numbered 301 killed, wounded and missing, with the 1st Kansas (Colored) losing 182 of the 438 engaged. The Confederate losses were 144 killed, wounded and missing.

historic marker, arkansas civil war

Union after-action reports indicated that Confederate soldiers shot and killed wounded black soldiers.

A Confederate report corroborated this statement by claiming Morgan’s Regiment of Cabell’s Brigade had killed at least 80 Negroes. However, Morgan’s regiment had not participated in the battle.  The unit had been stationed on the road east of the battle site to intercept any Yankees retreating back to Camden.

In sum, Poison Springs was the first Confederate victory in the Camden Expedition, which netted 200 wagons full of corn and 4 Yankee cannons.

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About Civil War Reflections

Vernon has been a Civil War buff since childhood, but had been inactive in Civil War history for over two decades. However, in the early 1990s his interest was rekindled after watching Ken Burns’ “Civil War Documentary” on PBS. He particularly became interested in the Battle of Antietam (Sharpsburg) and decided to learn more about this epic struggle.
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