|Plan for the Red River Campaign|
The state of Arkansas did not see much fighting during the Civil War, compared to states like Virginia and Tennessee, but one battle was fought there 150 years ago today. The Union plan for the Red River campaign was for two forces to converge on Shreveport, Louisiana. One army under Nathaniel Banks coming up from New Orleans, and another under Richard Steele coming down from Arkansas.
Steele began his movement from Little Rock on March 23, 1864 with about 8,500 men under his command. The march was not easy. The Federals were moving through barren country and had to ward off attacks from Confederate cavalry. Nonetheless they pressed forward, and reached Camden, Arkansas on April 15. He found no supplies there, and a few days later received the news that the campaign was in shambles. Banks had been defeated at Mansfield and was in retreat, and Confederate forces under Kirby Smith were moving to cut off Steele's retreat.
The Federals were running low on supplies, so Steele sent out 1,200 men under Colonel James Williams to forage the area for supplies. They had completed their mission, and were returning with 200 wagons full of food, when Confederates attacked. Two Confederate divisions under John Marmaduke and Samuel Maxey struck the Federal column in the flank and rear at Poison Spring. The Federal party was driven into a swamp, loosing 300 men and the supplies they had gathered. This was just the beginning of the disaster which awaited Steele's expedition.