Marks' Mills Battleground State Park
Marks' Mills Battleground State Park commemorates the battle that took place here on April 25, 1864. The Battle of Marks' Mills was the second of three Civil War battles that took place in the state of Arkansas as part of the larger Red River Campaign led by the Union Army. After the Union loss here, Union General Steel started to plan his retreat to Little Rock, eyeing Jenkins' Ferry as his escape route. The historic site for this battle is located at the junction of Ark. 97 and Ark. 8.
Backstory and Context
The site of the battle was founded as a saw and flour mill in 1834 by John H. Marks in present day Cleveland County in southern Arkansas and occurred at the homesite along the Camden-Pine Bluff Road on April 25, 1864. The battle at Marks’ Mills was the second of three Civil War battles that took place in the state of Arkansas as part of the Union’s Red River Campaign. All three battles in this state took place in the spring of 1864. The other two battles that occurred here was first, the battle of Poison Springs and last, the battle at Jenkins’ Ferry. The battle of Marks’ Mills was also the second part of the campaign focused on stealing Texas from the Confederate army.
A 150-wagon supply train arrived from Pine Bluff for the Union army’s use on April 20, 1864. Union General Steel discovered that the Confederate Army, now including General Edmund Kirby Smith’s troops from Louisiana, passed downstream through the Ouachita River in the south. Because of this, Steele thought it was okay to send the train and 60 other wagons to the north towards Pine Bluff for further supplies. With the train and wagons, Steel sent over 1,200 troops, with 240 Cavalry and 6 artillery parts for protection. The men would not be able to carry out this plan.
While the Union troops were attempting to make their way to Pine Bluff they were plagued with trudging through nearly impenetrable mud. At the same time, General Smith gathered over a thousand troops to prepare an attack on the Union troops and met them on April 25. The Confederate troops surrounded the Union army, who refused to back down without a fight. Despite their resilience, almost all the Union troops who were not killed were taken as prisoners. Following this loss, the Union army turned its attention away from confiscating Texas and instead focused on a retreat route from Camden to Little Rock. The one safe route General Steel was aware of was Military Road that led to Princeton and Jenkins Ferry, where the last of these three campaign battles took place.