The following is a little information on the Yankee artillery at the Battle of Poison Springs: On April 18, 1864, a combined southern force of Infantry, Cavalry and Artillery captured two units of federal artillery. The action took place on the Washington road twelve miles west of Camden, Arkansas in an area known as Poison Springs. A section of the Second Indiana Artillery commanded by Lieutenant Haines, consisting of two James Rifles, was in support of the First Kansas Colored Infantry. The First Kansas Colored Infantry, the Eighteenth Iowa Infantry, and the Sixth and Fourteenth Kansas Cavalry under the command of Colonel J. M. Williams were looking for food for the army. Two twelve-pound Mountain Howitzers commanded by Lieutenant Walker, supported the Sixth Kansas Cavalry.
When the battle commenced the two James rifles were moved forward. One was placed on the north and one was placed on the south of the road facing east. The two Howitzers were unlimbered facing south to protect the right flank. A very heavy artillery duel commenced at about 11:30 am. The two rifled pieces of the Second Indiana Artillery attempted to silence a six-gun rebel battery opposite them at about one thousand yards. Meanwhile, the two Howitzers exchanged shots with a four-gun battery at six to seven hundred yards Major Ward commander of the First Kansas Colored Infantry reported, "Although this was much the severest artillery fire that any of the men had ever before been subjected to, and many of the men were thus under fire for the first time, they were as cool as veterans and patiently awaited the onset of the enemy’s Infantry".
Just after twelve o’clock the confederate artillery fire slackened. Their Infantry attacked. After a heated encounter the southerners were forced to fall back. However, many of the Second Indiana gunners had been disabled. At one point one of the guns only had two men left to man it. The guns were ordered to withdraw. Just as one gun was being limbered, Private Alonso Hinshaw of the Second Indiana Artillery, single handedly double loaded the piece with canister and fired into an advancing column intent on capturing his gun. The effect of the double charge was terrible on the massed soldiers. The gun was able to withdraw and redeploy. The confederate forces continued the attack forcing the federal troops into a fighting retreat. The four union cannons could not be moved through the dense forest and swamp that was the only avenue of escape for the defeated force. The advancing confederates quickly captured these four pieces.
This battle proved very costly for General Steele’s army encamped at Camden. Three hundred and one men were killed, captured or wounded. Two rifled guns and two mountain howitzers, quartermaster’s stores, and one hundred ninety-eight teams and wagons were captured. Furthermore, the loss of the corn and food items in the wagons made the possibility of a starving army a very real worry for the Camden Expedition. Next month I will submit another installment of the story telling of the defeat of the union army in South Arkansas.