Camden Expedition Facts

March 23–May 2, 1864

Key facts about the Camden Expedition, a fruitless foray into southwestern Arkansas that cost Union forces 2,750 casualties but did nothing to end Confederate control of the area.

Portrait of Frederick Steele

Union Major General Frederick Steele led the failed Camden Expedition into southwestern Arkansas in 1864.

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Date:

  • March 23 to May 2, 1864

Location:

  • Clark County, Arkansas
  • Cleveland County, Arkansas
  • Grant County, Arkansas
  • Nevada County, Arkansas
  • Ouachita County, Arkansas

Campaign:

Major Battles:

Principal Union Commanders:

  • Major General Frederick Steele
  • Brigadier General Frederick Salomon
  • Brigadier General John Milton Thayer
  • Brigadier General Eugene Asa Carr
  • Brigadier General Samuel Allen Rice

Principal Confederate Commanders:

  • Lieutenant General Edmund Kirby Smith
  • Major General Sterling Price
  • Brigadier General James Fleming Fagan
  • Brigadier General John S. Marmaduke
  • Brigadier General Samuel B. Maxey
  • Major General John George Walker
  • Brigadier General Thomas J. Churchill
  • Brigadier General Mosby M. Parsons

Union Forces Engaged:

    • VII Corps (Department of Arkansas)
      • Third Division
      • Frontier Division
      • Cavalry Division

Confederate Forces Engaged:

    • District of Arkansas
      • Fagan’s Cavalry Division
      • Marmaduke’s Cavalry Division
      • Maxey’s Cavalry Division
      • Walker’s Division
      • Arkansas Division
      • Missouri Division

Estimated Union Losses:

  • 2,750 human casualties (killed, wounded, and captured or missing)
  • 635 wagons
  • 2,500 animals
  • eight artillery pieces
  • two steamships

Estimated Confederate Losses:

2,300 human casualties (killed, wounded, and captured or missing)

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Result:

  • Confederate Victory

Significant Events:

  • March 17,  1864: Major General Frederick Steele ordered Brigadier General John F. Thayer’s Frontier Division to leave Fort Smith with 3,600 Union troops and rendezvous with him at Arkadelphia, Arkansas on April 1.
  • March 21, 1864: Brigadier General John F. Thayer’s Frontier Division departed Fort Smith.
  • March 23,  1864: Major General Frederick Steele marched 6,800 Union soldiers out of Little Rock, headed south toward Arkadelphia.
  • March 29, 1864: Major General Frederick Steele arrived at Arkadelphia but found little food or forage.
  • April 3, 1864: Major General Frederick Steele reached the Little Missouri River and decided to cross at Elkin’s Ferry.
  • April 3–4, 1864: Major General Frederick Steele’s forces scored a Union victory at the Battle of Elkin’s Ferry (aka Engagement at Elkin’s Ferry).
  • April 7, 1864: Major General Sterling Price marched Confederate forces from Camden, Arkansas to stop Major General Frederick Steele’s offensive and defend the Confederate capital.
  • April 9, 1864: Brigadier General John F. Thayer’s force rendezvoused with Major General Frederick Steele’s soldiers and the combined Union force continued on toward Prairie D’Ane.
  • April 9–13, 1864: Major General Frederick Steele’s forces scored a Union victory at the Battle of Prairie D’Ane (aka Skirmish at Prairie D’Ane, Battle of Gum Springs, or Battle of Moscow).
  • April 15, 1864: Major General Frederick Steele’s forces occupied Camden, Arkansas, unopposed.
  • April 17, 1864: Major General Frederick Steele ordered Colonel James M. Williams to lead a train of 198 empty wagons, accompanied by roughly 1,000 soldiers back toward Washington to confiscate provisions.
  • April 18, 1864: Brigadier General John S. Marmaduke’s cavalry scored a victory over Colonel James M. Williams’ foraging detachment at the Battle of Poison Spring.
  • April 18, 1864: After the Battle of Poison Spring, Confederate soldiers murdered and mutilated wounded and captive soldiers from the 1st Kansas (Colored) Regiment.
  • April 23, 1864: A Union wagon train left Camden, Arkansas, headed for Little Rock, hoping to secure supplies for federal soldiers occupying Camden.
  • April 25, 1864: Brigadier General James F. Fagan’s cavalry captured a Union wagon train headed for Little Rock hoping to secure supplies for federal soldiers occupying Camden at the Battle of Mark’s Mills.
  • April 25, 1864: At the Battle of Mark’s Mills, Confederate forces captured “a large number” of blacks and pro-Union Arkansans accompanying the column who they subsequently “inhumanly butchered.”
  • April 26-27, 1864: Major General Frederick Steele’s forces abandoned Camden, Arkansas.
  • April 30, 1864: Brigadier General Samuel Rice’s rearguard held back a superior Confederate force long enough for Major General Frederick Steele’s forces to cross the Saline River at the Battle of Jenkins’ Ferry.
  • May 2, 1864: The defeated remnants of Major General Frederick Steele’s invading force limped back into Little Rock, Arkansas.

Aftermath:

The Camden Expedition was a Union catastrophe that accomplished nothing. Major General Frederick Steele’s soldiers never reached Shreveport for the planned rendezvous between the two federal forces involved in the Red River Campaign. The Union suffered roughly 2,750 casualties (killed, wounded, and captured or missing). and lost 635 wagons, 2,500 animals, eight artillery pieces, and two steamships. By comparison, the Confederacy suffered a similar number of casualties (roughly 2,300) but lost few supplies or armaments. Most importantly, when Steele returned to Little Rock, Lieutenant General Kirby Smith’s Rebels still maintained a firm grip over southwestern Arkansas and Texas.

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Citation Information

The following information is provided for citations.

  • Article Title Camden Expedition Facts
  • Coverage March 23–May 2, 1864
  • Author
  • Website Name American History Central
  • Access Date November 29, 2022
  • Publisher R.Squared Communications, LLC
  • Original Published Date
  • Date of Last Update April 26, 2022

Camden Expedition Facts is Part of the Following on AHC

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