A Union force that included the First Kansas Colored Volunteer Infantry Regiment, consisting largely of former slaves, left Camden, Arkansas on April 17, 1864, to gather food from the surrounding countryside. They camped along White Oak Creek and began their return to Camden the next day. Confederate cavalry blocked the road and ambushed the train at Poison Spring.
Due to their reputation for fierce fighting, Colonel Williams positioned the 1st Kansas Colored Infantry to face the heaviest Confederate onslaught. They successfully repulsed two enemy attacks, but with heavy losses. Without reinforcements, they gave way on the third attack. The 1st Kansas suffered a high proportion of dead to wounded: 117 killed, 65 wounded.
According to Colonel James M. Williams of the First Kansas Colored Infantry, "The conduct of all troops…was characterized by true soldierly bearing, and in no case was a line broken except by an overwhelming force, and then falling back only when so ordered. The gallant dead…all (showed) the most heroic spirit, and died the death of true soldiers."
The unstaffed commemorative state park is on the battle site and open daily. Six wayside exhibit panels tell the story of the Camden Expedition, a National Historic Landmark, and the Battle of Poison Spring.
Visitor Information: Currently open to public.
Location: Highway 76 West, Bluff City, Ouachita, 71722
National Park Unit: No
Ownership: Arkansas State Parks, managed by nearby White Oak Lake State Park
Location Type: Site
People/Organizations Associated with the site: Civil War United States Colored Troops