The Battle of Marks' Mills (sometimes referred to as the Battle of Marks' Mill) occurred on April 25, 1864, in Cleveland County, Arkansas as part of the Camden Expedition of the American Civil War. Confederate troops under Maj. Gen. James F. Fagan overwhelmed a small Union detachment commanded by Lt. Col. Francis M. Drake, leading to Union abandonment of their position in Camden, Arkansas.
Following the Union defeat at the Battle of Poison Spring on April 18, 1864, Union Maj. Gen. Frederick Steele retained possession of Camden, Arkansas, while Confederate Maj. Gen. Sterling Price continued his ad hoc siege upon Camden from the countryside. As the Federal provisions diminished, the arrival of much-needed supplies from Pine Bluff convinced Steele that more could be obtained using the Camden-Pine Bluff Road. Steele ordered Lt. Col. Francis M. Drake with over 1,400 infantrymen, artillery and cavalry support, and 240 wagons to obtain supplies from Pine Bluff. Reinforced on the morning of April 25, 1864, by some 350 additional troops, Drake's command contained approximately 1,800 combatants. Additionally, an unidentified number of white civilians and approximately three hundred African Americans accompanied the column.
James Fagan detected the movement and positioned four thousand cavalrymen along the intersection of the Camden-Pine Bluff Road and Warren Road to ambush Drake's column. Confederate Brig. Gen. William L. Cabell's division opened the attack, stopping Drake's advance, while Brig. Gen. Jo Shelby's division launched a crushing assault on the Union left. The overwhelming Confederate numbers forced Drake, who had been seriously wounded in the fighting, to capitulate. The Confederates captured all of the empty Federal supply wagons.
The Confederates estimated 41 killed, 108 wounded, and 144 missing. The Federal numbers are more difficult to determine because the entire column was captured and approximations range from 1,133 to 1,600. Additionally, the Confederates seized 150 African Americans and were accused of killing at least 100 others during the assault.
The loss of additional men and wagons as well as the further depletion of Union supplies in Camden seriously challenged Steele's position. Coupled with the increasing number of Confederates near Camden (due to the arrival of Lt. Gen. Edmund Kirby Smith's command), Steele abandoned Camden on April 26, 1864, and marched northward toward Little Rock.
A Federal soldier in the 35th Iowa commented that, "The Rebs robbed nearly every man of us even to our chaplain. They stripped every stitch of clothes, even their shirts, boots and socks, and left the dead unburied and the woods on fire. Clothing was also pulled from the wounded as they begged for mercy. No respect was given for persons rank or age. Old Captain Charles W. Moss of the 43rd Indiana Infantry was marched bareheaded with his bald head and white locks and beard in the burning sun."
A portion of the original battlefield is preserved as Marks' Mills State Park in Cleveland County near New Edinburg, Arkansas.