Camden Expedition

The Camden Expedition was the final campaign conducted by the United States Army against the Confederate States Army in Arkansas, during the American Civil War. The offensive was designed to cooperate with Maj. Gen. Banks' movement against Shreveport; the U. S. War Department, under the direction of Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton, had developed a strategic goal to reassert Union control over Arkansas and Texas; this was part of a much larger effort to move against Confederate forces in a number of theaters. Separate Union columns were to destroy the remaining Southern troops in southern Arkansas and northern Louisiana join together for an all-out push into Texas ending the war in that region; the Arkansas phase of this Red River Campaign was entitled the Camden Expedition, an effort endorsed by Lieut. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant; the plan called for Maj. Gen. Frederick Steele's force to march to Shreveport, where it would link up with an amphibious expedition led by Maj. Gen. Nathaniel P. Banks and Rear Admiral David D. Porter.

Steele would garrison Shreveport while Banks forged ahead into northeastern Texas. But the two pincers never converged, Steele's columns suffered terrible losses in a series of battles with Confederate forces led by Maj. Gen. Sterling Price and Gen. E. Kirby Smith. Steele led a combined 8,500-man Union force of infantry and cavalry from the Little Rock Arsenal on March 23, 1864, with the objective of joining forces with Maj. Gen. Banks at Shreveport. Confederate forces in Arkansas were directed from Washington, where the Confederate government of the state relocated after the fall of Little Rock. Confederate Maj. Gen. Sterling Price ordered Brig. Gen. John S. Marmaduke to harry the Union column and to prevent it from crossing the Little Missouri as it moved toward Washington; as a supporting effort, to help fix Confederate forces at Monticello, prevent them from opposing Steel's march to Camden, Col. Powell Clayton conducted a raid on Longview, Arkansas, a port on the Saline, southwest of Monticello.

Clayton's cavalry force crossed the Saline at Mount Elba, after sweeping aside a small guard force. Clayton divided his forces and sent part to establish a blocking position to the west near Marks Mill. One hundred picked men under Lieutenants Greathouse and Young were dispatched to destroy the Confederate pontoon bridge at Longview. On March 29, the lieutenants surprised and captured 250 soldiers belonging to Brig. Gen. Thomas P. Dockery's brigade at Longview. Confederate forces in the area were now alerted to the presence of Clayton's raiders in the area and attempted to cut off Clayton's command by attacking their bridgehead at Mount Elba on March 30, 1864. Clayton was successful in re-crossing the Saline, defeating Confederate forces at the Battle of Mount Elba and returned to Pine Bluff, with over 260 prisoners; the first Union actions of the Union expedition was a complete success, but the reset of the expedition would not go as planned. Steele's route was through a thinly populated wilderness with little provisions.

He hoped to occupy a port city on the Ouachita to re-supply. As all the bridges on the Little Missouri were impassable, the Union troops had to ford the muddy river. Steele's men reached Elkin's Ferry before the Confederates, but on April 3, they were attacked by Brig. Gen. Joseph O. Shelby's cavalry; the following day, Marmaduke's cavalry attacked the Union forces as they were trying to cross the river. The Federals were able to fend off both of these attacks and cross the river; the outnumbered Confederates were forced to withdraw, Maj. Gen. Price established a defensive position fortified by earthworks, on the road between Elkin's Ferry and Washington at the western edge of the sparsely-populated Prairie d'Ane, a circular area of prairie surrounded by woodlands. After waiting for the arrival of reinforcements, Maj. Gen. Steele advanced on April 9, but was stopped at Prairie D'Ane, a series of encounters that ended on April 12. Price's Confederates returned to Prairie D'Ane on April 13, falling upon Steele's rearguard under Thayer.

After a four-hour battle, Price disengaged, Steele's column continued to Camden. Steele made a feint toward Washington, but withdrew to Camden, in order to resupply his army, on half-rations. Price had stripped Camden of personnel in order to defend Washington, the Union forces occupied the city on April 15 against no significant opposition, but found no supplies awaiting him. After a two-day wait, Maj. Gen. Steele sent out foraging parties into the countryside and awaited news from Banks. However, Banks was in retreat, having been defeated at the Battle of Mansfield, now more of Smith's forces were heading into Arkansas to intercept Steele. Dwindling supplies for his army at Camden forced Steele to send out a 1,200-man foraging party to gather corn that the Confederates had stored about twenty miles away. After loading the corn into over 200 wagons and proceeding about 5 miles on April 18, Col. James M. Williams's party was savagely attacked by Marmaduke's and Brig. Gen. Samuel B. Maxey's Confederates at the Poison Spring.

Williams was forced to retreat northward into a marsh, where his men regrouped and fell back to Camden, minus the wagonloads of much needed corn. Steele was relieved on April 20. One week the Battle of Marks' Mills resulted in the capture of 2,000 more of Steele's men and many more wagons. Steele decided to abandon Camden under the cover of darkness and retreated to Little Rock o

Payette National Forest

The Payette National Forest is a U. S. National Forest located in central western Idaho, in parts of Valley, Idaho and Washington counties; the land area consists of 2.3 million acres of federally managed lands. It is bordered by Hells Canyon National Recreation Area and the Hells Canyon to the west, Salmon-Challis National Forest to the east, Boise National Forest to the south, the Nez Perce National Forest to the north; the Payette National Forest is a part of the Intermountain Region. It is under the jurisdiction of a forest supervisor in McCall and is divided into five ranger districts: McCall, New Meadows and Weiser; the Payette provides the largest component of the Frank Church-River of No Return Wilderness, the second-largest designated wilderness area outside Alaska. 790,000 acres of it is within the wilderness, comprising one-third of its total acreage. It provides the third-largest component of the Hells Canyon Wilderness; the Forest Reserve Act of 1891 helped the creation of the Weiser Reserve in 1905 and the Idaho Reserve in 1908.

A merger of these two reserves on April 1, 1944 created the official Payette National Forest. It is named for François Payette, a French-Canadian fur trapper and the manager of Fort Boise for the Hudson's Bay Company from 1835-1844, he was one of the first white men to settle in the area, venturing east from Astoria, Oregon in 1818. A large and amiable man, he was regarded for being helpful to travelers, he returned to Montreal in 1844 and the remainder of his life is a mystery. The Payette National Forest is located above the Idaho Batholith, the largest granitic body of rock in the United States. Glacial activity as as 15,000 years ago shaped the character of the forest providing lakes and granite outcrops; the forest is made up of eight species of conifer trees, 300 species of mammals and birds, a number of fish species protected under the Endangered Species Act, a wide variety of wildflowers. Streams and lakes drain into the Salmon or the Snake. List of largest National Forests List of largest wilderness areas in the United States Official Site of Payette National Forest