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Battle of Poison Spring

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Title: Battle of Poison Spring  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
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Subject: Arkansas in the American Civil War, Camden Expedition, Battle of Marks' Mills, William Lewis Cabell, John S. Marmaduke
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia

Battle of Poison Spring

The Battle of Poison Spring (April 18, 1864) was fought in Ouachita County, Arkansas as part of the Camden Expedition, during the American Civil War. The battle is infamous for the Confederates' slaughter and mutilation of black U.S. soldiers of the 1st Kansas Colored Infantry.


Dwindling supplies for his army at Camden, Arkansas forced Union Army Major-General Frederick Steele to send out a foraging party to gather corn that the Confederates had stored about twenty miles up the Prairie D’Ane-Camden Road on White Oak Creek. The party loaded the corn into wagons, and on April 18, Colonel James Williams started his return to Camden. Brigadiers-General John Marmaduke’s and Samuel Maxey’s Confederate forces arrived at Lee Plantation, about fifteen miles from Camden, where they engaged Williams.


The Confederates eventually attacked Williams in the front and rear, forcing him to retreat north into a marsh where his men regrouped and then fell back to Camden. During the fight, Williams positioned the 1st Kansas Colored Infantry, a regiment made up of mostly ex-slaves, between the wagon train and Confederate lines; these black troops repelled the first two offenses, but ran low on ammunition and were beaten back by the third. The Confederates refused to take the wounded black soldiers as prisoners, and instead brutally killed, scalped, and stripped them. In all, the regiment lost nearly half of its numbers. The Union lost 198 wagons and all the corn. Estimated casualties were 301 for Williams

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