Camden Expedition: April 22, 1864

CAMDEN, Ark. 

The Union supply train that had arrived from Pine Bluff on April 20th had been quickly unloaded, and by April 22nd was ordered to return to Pine Bluff for more supplies.

Steele now had one of his three questions partially answered. There were no Union gunboats in the area. The Union garrison in Pine Bluff was the quickest source for resupply.

In addition to the 150 wagons that had arrived from Pine Bluff, Union quartermaster Captain Henry had 61 of Steele’s wagons added to the wagon train.

General Steele called upon Infantry Division Commander General Salomon to provide a brigade and 4 cannons to guard the wagon train to Pine Bluff.  Salomon gave the assignment to Col. William McLean, the brigade commander who had secured the Elkin’s Ferry crossing for the Union Army.

Unfortunately, McLean was ill, and the command devolved on Lt. Col. Francis Drake.

Francis M Drake

Francis M Drake

General Steele met with Lt. Col. Drake and gave him the following orders:

1. Escort the wagon train now located on the other side (east side of the river opposite Camden) of the Ouachita River to Pine Bluff.

2. Leave early on April 23rd

3. The road through Moro Bottoms, a swampy area located close to the Saline River, another large river in the area, was not to be crossed during the night.

4. Upon reaching Pine Bluff, Drake was to get the wagons reloaded, and his command was to escort the supply wagons on their return trip to Camden.

Drake crossed his command over the Ouachita River during the night of April 22nd in preparation for the early morning march on the 23nd.

Meanwhile on the Confederate side, the Union supply train had been observed entering Camden on April 20th.  It was concluded that Union personnel would be sent out to forage for food in the area east of Camden or for a return trip to Pine Bluff for more supplies.  This was just the thing that the Confederate cavalry raid was meant to prevent, and the raid’s implementation took on more importance.

Additionally, the two Confederate Infantry Divisions that had left Louisiana under General Parsons and General Churchill had arrived in the Confederate Camp at Woodlawn, 16 miles west of Camden.

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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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