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Arkansas in the Civil War: The Battle of Poison Springs

April 21, 2014 By: admin Category: 150th Anniversary Project by Don Roth, Arkansas in the Civil War, The Civil War Hub of Arkansas

Arkansas In The Civil WarLt. Gen. Kirby Smith on April 16 accompanied Gen. Sterling Price’s two divisions while en route to Camden where Union Gen. Steele was penned up. Together with Major Gen. John G. Walker’s Texas division, he positioned them in a circular arrangement across major roads to prevent any link with Gen. Banks.
Smith had departed Shreveport about the same time Steele entered Camden and the latter had not the slightest intention of moving south just yet. Desperation for food supplies to feed his 15000 men and numerous draft animals was now driving him.
On the morning of April 17, Col. James M. Williams left Camden with about 700 men of whom 440 belonged to the First Kansas Colored Volunteers—two guns and 198 wagons. By evening he was 14 miles from that city where he decided to encamp and at midnight, a large cache had been safely recovered from corncribs not six miles distant. At dawn on the 18th Col. Williams started the train back to Camden, while sending out details to collect the remaining corn from outlying farms along the return route. Sometime later they were reinforced by 500 men and two additional guns, increasing his force to 1170.
Meanwhile Confederate scouts in the area reported Williams’s movement to Gen. John S. Marmaduke who swiftly deployed 1700 dismounted cavalry across the road. Gen. Samuel B. Maxey arrived on the field at 9:30 A. M. with his division thus increasing Confederate strength to 3335 cavalry and artillery. Though he outranked Marmaduke, Maxey deferred to the Missourian at his direction.
Facing west on the Upper Washington Road, Marmaduke’s men held the right, those of Brig. Gen William L. Cabell and Col William Crawford held the center. Missouri Col. Colton Greene’s 300 mounted troops waited in reserve. Williams formed the wagon escort into a letter ‘L’ formation with the First Kansas facing east. He then tried to uncover enemy strength by firing his artillery, but the Southerners kept their 12 guns silent. At 10:45 the Confederates lunged forward delivering a terrific fire.
The Union commander held firm for three-quarter of an hour, hoping the sound of battle would bring support from Camden. When six of Marmaduke’s guns opened up catching Williams in a cross fire, the First Kansas fled in disorder. The Choctaw portion of Maxey’s command chased them into in a nearby woods but the fighting stubbornly continued until 2 P.M. with a number of Federals dispersing while making their way back to Camden.
Col. Williams horrific casualties amounted to 204 killed and missing and 94 wounded. Of these, 117 blacks died and 65 were wounded. Witnesses claimed the Confederates had ruthlessly killed black soldiers of the First Kansas after they had been wounded and captured. This was later denied but evidence supports the claim of a massacre at Poison Springs.
Total Confederate losses stood at 114 to all causes. About 170 usable wagons were captured and four excellent artillery pieces were taken as well as many firearms. Patricia L. Faust, Encyclopedia of the Civil War, Harper and Row, Publishers, 1986)
This was the first victory for Price since Steele left Little Rock a month earlier, providing a tremendous boost to Confederate morale. One has to wonder what Steele was thinking for having assigned so puny a force to the train. If the corn was so extremely vital for the life of the army, wouldn’t a larger escort have been imperative? And what of his non-response to the nearby sounds of battle? Command leadership had lapsed at Steele’s HQ.

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Arkansas in the Civil War- The Battle of Marks’ Mills

April 21, 2014 By: admin Category: 150th Anniversary Project, Arkansas in the Civil War, The Civil War Hub of Arkansas

Arkansas In The Civil WarOne of the most decisive Confederate victories west of the Mississippi River occurred this week one hundred and fifty year ago. As General Steele and his band of Yankees were held up in Camden, the Confederate army began to swarm, leaving the blue coats at the mercy of what little forage they could find; food was running short and the rebs were at the proverbial back door.

Steele had already sent over 20 wagons into the countryside to steal corn and other food supplies from southern farms only to be ambushed and run back to the relative safety of Camden from Poison Springs. He lost all his wagons and many of his men- mostly African American troops. On April 25, 1864 Steele sent over 200 more wagons from Camden to be filled with commissary stores from Pine Bluff only to have them smashed by waiting Confederates at Marks’ Mills.

Steele, now mad and concerned over the loss of over 400 wagons in a week and no food stores making its way to his starving troops, the 7th Corps under the command of Steele made its fateful decision to retreat back to Little Rock, thus officially ending the Red River Campaign and the Camden Expedition.

Military actions that took place in Arkansas this week in 1864 include affairs at the Cache Rover and Cotton Plant the 21st and 22nd; an expedition from Jacksonport to Augusta from the 22nd-24th; a skirmish at Swan Lake on the 23rd; a skirmish near Camden and near Jacksonport on the 24th; an engagement at Marks’ Mills on the 25th; skirmishes at Moro Bottom the 25th and 26th; a skirmish at Mount Elba Ferry and near Little Rock on the 26th; the Union forces are forced to flee Camden on the 27th, and a skirmish on the 28th near Princeton.

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Civil War Sesquicentennial Observance: Steele Vs Smith

April 14, 2014 By: admin Category: 150th Anniversary Project by Don Roth, Arkansas in the Civil War, The Civil War Hub of Arkansas

Arkansas In The Civil WarOn March 23, Gen. Steele’s army of 8500 men left Little Rock, on a disagreeable march toward Shreveport while consuming short rations. The head of the column passed through Benton and made a rainy encampment on the Saline River 26 miles from the Capital City on the evening of the 24th.
The route through the bottoms was so muddy it had to be corduroyed to get the wagon train across. When the advance reached the high ground, they found the road led through a series of steep and nasty red clay hills. The exhausted mules were given several hours rest and then the entire command later encamped near Rockport (Malvern) by the morning of the 26. Here the cavalry and train forded the Ouachita River while the infantry and big guns crossed on a 217 foot pontoon bridge. Flooded crossings plagued the army with more delays at Bayou Roche and Caddo Creek.
At last the Federal Army tramped through Arkadelphia on March 29, where Steele imprtiently waited for Gen. Thayer’s column to arrive from Fort Smith. It turned out the same weather related problems that hampered Steele also created less than ideal marching conditions for Thayer. This cause and effect relationship lent by the weather and a countryside stripped of subsistence, could doom the role Steele was supposed to play in the Red River Expedition.
In a series of dispatches Gen. Kirby Smith, the department commander, described to Gen. Price Confederate strategy and his mission. The District of Arkansas commander was to keep Steele in check with his 6000 man cavalry force until Louisiana General Richard Taylor defeated his upstream rival Gen. Banks. When this was accomplished, sufficient forces would be switched northward to wallop Steele and regain Little Rock. Indeed, Kirby Smith’s thinking was that given Price’s superiority in cavalry, an “advance of Steele into our impoverished and exhausted country must be attended with great risk and should result in the destruction of his command.” He then instructed Price to fall back before the invaders and not risk a major engagement unless he possessed a major advantage. He was instructed further “to embarrass and retard the enemy’s advance by throwing cavalry upon his flanks and rear, interrupting his communications, and destroying his trains, as well as opposing him at every point … and by destroying as you fall back all supplies that might be used by him.” In the coming weeks the result of this strategy would unfold in Smith’s favor.
At Monticello, about 70 miles east of Camden, Brig. Gen. Thomas Dockery had been making preparations to reach Princeton in Dallas County to join Missourians who were about to operate against Gen. Steele. On March 24 Steele ordered Col. Powell Clayton at Pine Bluff to watch his movements toward Camden. Two days later scouts reported to Clayton the enemy appeared getting ready to leave.
The pro-active Clayton quickly fielded an 1100 man strike force that caught Dockery unaware, resulting in an embarrassing capture of 300 prisoners. Clayton’s loss totaled 35 killed and wounded. Though off to a good start, the limited supporting role contributed by Clayton would not insure Steele’s progress.
(Margaret Ross, Chronicles of Arkansas, Arkansas Gazette, March 22 and 25, 1964. Albert Castel, General Sterling Price and the Civil War in the West, Louisiana State University, 1968, P. 173-174.)

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Arkansas in the Civil War: The Camden Campaign Begins

April 14, 2014 By: admin Category: 150th Anniversary Project, Arkansas in the Civil War, The Civil War Hub of Arkansas

Arkansas In The Civil WarOne hundred and fifty years ago the Confederate and Union forces met on the fields of South West Arkansas. As General Steele’s Yankees attempted to out-maneuver the Confederate forces under the command of General Price, the two armies clashed at Prairie D’Anne.

The Confederate army in South Arkansas was in Camden while Steele was trying to push into the Confederate capitol in Arkansas, then located at Washington. The Confederates had been entrenching for nearly a week when the Union army tried their luck. The engagement area consisted of over thirty miles of rolling Arkansas prairie.

As Confederates left Camden to protect the capitol city in Washington, Steele outflanked Price and headed to the relative and short-lived safety of Camden on April 15. It was here that Steele launched a series of foraging expeditions that culminated into what is now known as the Camden Expedition.

Military actions that took place within the borders of Arkansas this week one hundred and fifty years ago include a skirmish at Roseville and Jenkins Ferry on April 15; skirmishes at Liberty Post Office on April 15-16; an affair at Osage Branch on the 16th; skirmishes at Camden from April 16-18; skirmish at Red Mound and Limestone Valley on the 17th; an engagement at Poison Springs on the 18th; a skirmish at Kings River on the 19th; an attack on Jacksonport and a skirmish near Camden on the 20th; and affairs at Cotton Plant and the Cache River from April 21-22.

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Sesquicentennial Update: A Vexing Date with Destiny

April 13, 2014 By: admin Category: 150th Anniversary Project by Don Roth, Arkansas in the Civil War, The Civil War Hub of Arkansas

Arkansas In The Civil WarFederal Gen. Steele waited patiently at Arkadelphia for the arrival of the 5000 man column from Fort Smith commanded by Brig. Gen. John M. Thayer. Through lack of food, forage and bad roads he failed to meet the April 1 juncture with Steele who marched onward the following day.
For Gen. Steele, declining subsistence for his army was fast becoming an issue of fearful apprehension. In fact the countryside had been destitute for the first 80 miles from Little Rock and the army’s 1200 mules and horses consumed the last bit of forage at Rockport.
The Chief Quartermaster had organized a train that brought in enough for a few days despite the rain soaked roads. But the delays created by Thayer’s tardiness, compounded by the mud and Gen. Marmaduke’s slashing mounted attacks resulted in swift depletion
of rations for men and draft animals. On April 7, Gen. Steele secretly reported to his superior in Tennessee that he was moving to Camden to renew supplies before proceeding further to Shreveport.
Gen Kirby Smith had continually reminded Gen. Price that Steele would take the shortest route to Shreveport by way of Washington. This city was 40 miles northwest of Camden in Nevada County and served as the present Arkansas Capitol. From his Shreveport HQ, the Trans-Mississippi Department Commander had seriously overestimated Steele’s ability.
`The Confederates had ringed Camden with a chain of strong earthworks the previous winter in anticipation of an advance by Steele’s army. Now most of the army supplies and public property had been removed. Many of the civilians had fled to Texas to avoid the paths of the two armies. Many others couldn’t leave because their wagons and teams had been pressed into service by the Confederate army.
From the onset of Gen. Steele’s expedition, small bands of bushwhacking irregulars occasionally harassed the Federals. Perhaps the first real fighting occurred the second day out from Arkadelphia. Gen. Shelby attacked the rear guard with a vengeance. Losses on both sides were heavy. On April 4, Gen. Marmaduke delivered a fierce mounted assault on the south side of the Little Missouri River, an easterly flowing stream that joined the Ouachita north of Camden.
On April 5, Price took to the field in person and assumed command of the army two days later. He had with him two small brigades of Arkansas cavalry including that of the unfortunate Gen. Dockery. Also on the 7, he found Marmaduke at Prairie D’ Ane (Prescott) drawn up behind a log and dirt breastworks covering the road to Washington where it was joined by a road to Camden. A mounted brigade commanded by Col. Richard M. Gano had reinforced Marmaduke from Indian Territory the previous day. This organization consisted of the Twenty-Ninth, Thirtieth, and Thirty-First Texas Cavalry Regiments. LT. Frank M. Gano’s Texas Company and Captain W. Butler Krumbaar’s Texas Battery. These Mounted troops were stationed in Indian Territory (Oklahoma) and were part of the cavalry division commanded by Brig. Gen. Samuel Maxey. (John L. Ferguson, Arkansas and the Civil War, no date. Albert Castel, Gen. Sterling Price and the Civil War in the West, LSU, 1968. Margaret Ross, Chronicles of Arkansas, Arkansas Gazette, March 3-4, 1964.)

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May 9-10, 2014

Arkansas In The Civil War

(Click picture above to go to Fort Lincoln's Facebook page! )

Confederate Memorial Park- Helena, AR

Arkansas In The Civil War

(click on picture for full size)

Because of the valiant support of dedicated individuals across the globe, the money has been raised for the purchase of Confederate Memorial Park in Helena, Arkansas.

We have taken a rare opportunity for the Sons of Confederate Veterans to own a core piece of battlefield and made it a reality! Located in Helena, Arkansas directly across from Fort Curtis and to the side of a Civil War era home (Moore-Hornor Home), both properties of which are maintained by the State of Arkansas (Delta Cultural Center) is approximately an acre of core battlefield that backs up to the site where General Price's troops made an attack on Fort Curtis on July 4, 1863.

On March 15, 2013 the General Executive Committee of the Sons of Confederate Veterans met in Biloxi, MS. At this meeting it was decided that the property will be donated to the SCV- This is a much-needed heritage victory in the Delta!

Your support is greatly needed!
Mail a check or money order today to:

Seven Generals Camp #135
PO Box 409
Helena, AR 72342

Your donation is tax-deductable!

Your donations are welcome for the maintenance of the property! Donate today!

ALL donations are tax-deductible!

The Arkansas Toothpick is the largest repository of Arkansas Civil War history and heritage. Observing the 150th Anniversary of the War Between the States is a task that the Toothpick does not take lightly, as we have posted original and exclusive articles on events in Arkansas on a weekly and chronological basis since 2010 (150 years after 1860). The purpose of the "150 Years Ago..." articles, written and researched by Ron Kelley and Don Roth, is to give a true reflection of the political, martial, and other aspects of Arkansas history leading up to and through the American Civil War.

The Arkansas Toothpick began over 25 years ago as a monthly hand-typed newsletter of the Spns of Confederate Veterans' Patrick R. Cleburne Camp #1433 in Pine Bluff, Arkansas. As the technology became available, the Toothpick was made available for the first time on the World Wide Web. Since, it's online presence has been overwhelming in the number of visitors searching our archives for a multitude of various topics.

Boasting of over ONE MILLION visitors, the Arkansas Toothpick has serves as a Civil War hub for historians and the general public. Our FACEBOOK page has nearly 1,000 FB Friends and counting, complete with live updates of

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Professional Geneologist

If you are looking for information on your ancestors or want to locate a lost relative and need a professional geneologist, the Arkansastoothpick reccomends:
Crystal Truman Batson
1120 Montana Dr
Pine Bluff, AR 72079
(870) 329-3264


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