The Battle of Poison Spring took place on April 18, 1864, during the Arkansas phase of the Union’s Red River Campaign; a questionable plan to seize control of the Red River valley from as far south as Texas to as far north as Shreveport, Louisiana.
Against General Ulysses S. Grant’s objections, the Union diverted large numbers of troops to create a pincer of two armies – one advancing north through Louisiana, up the Red River, the other headed south from Little Rock and Fort Smith – in the hopes of converging near Shreveport, LA to destroy or give chase to the outnumbered Confederate troops there.
The Confederate army proved more able than expected, however, driving the Louisiana arm of the Union’s troops back before the Arkansas troops had even gotten full underway. A supply train for a Union force hunkered down in Camden learned this the hard way when it met Confederate troops in Poison Spring, resulting in one of the most complete Union defeats of the war’s western front.
The Union force lost 4 pieces of artillery, 170 wagons, 1,200 mules, and 301 of their 1,160 troops were either killed, wounded, or missing. Confederates, meanwhile, lost only 14 men, 81 wounded. In what has remained a controversy, Confederate troops were accused of cruelly slaughtering the men of the 1st Kansas Colored Volunteers as they attempted to retreat from the battlefield.
Located on Highway 76, a short distance off Highway 24, about 10 miles northwest of Camden, Arkansas, Poison Springs Battleground State Park marks and preserves a small part of the site of the Battle of Poison Spring. Poison Springs Battleground State Park provides a view of the battlefield plus an interpretive shelter, markers, and monuments that expound upon and illustrate the course of this historic and controversial Civil War battle.
The park also provides picnicking space and the Poison Spring Nature Trail, which leads down to Poison Spring along a wooded, sandy trail including stairs and bridges, then loops back to the parking lot.
Poison Springs Battleground State Park
Ark Hwy 76, Camden, AR
For more information, be sure to visit: www.arkansasstateparks.com
Poison Springs Battleground State Park Lodging
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