Marks' Mills State Park

Location: Cleveland County

Size: 6.2 acres

Marks Mills’ State Park, in Cleveland County on the old Camden-Pine Bluff Road, commemorates a Civil War action that was part of the Camden Expedition of General Frederick Steele. The park contains interpretive exhibits and a picnic area.

The park is named for John H. Marks, who in 1834 constructed a sawmill and flour mill at this location. The mills were still operating during the Civil War, making them landmarks for both Union and Confederate troops.

In March 1864, General Steele led approximately 14,000 soldiers out of Little Rock (Pulaski County) to join in the Union army’s Red River Campaign. The goal of this campaign was to join General Nathaniel Banks’s troops in northern Louisiana and invade Texas. Steele and his troops seized Camden (Ouachita County) on April 15 but did not proceed to Louisiana or Texas. Instead, threatened by Confederate actions and running short of supplies, Steele chose to return to Little Rock. Needing supplies, especially after the disastrous rout at Poison Spring, Steele was relieved to receive a shipment of food from Pine Bluff (Jefferson County) on April 20. He dispatched Lieutenant Colonel Francis Drake with more than 1,200 soldiers, several pieces of artillery, and 240 wagons to procure more supplies. These forces were joined by civilians and by cavalry troops from Pine Bluff. Drake’s supply train was ambushed by General James F. Fagan, resulting in approximately 1,500 Union casualties, compared to only 293 Confederate casualties. Following this Confederate victory, Steele—hearing rumors of the approach of a larger Confederate force—abandoned Camden and retreated successfully to Little Rock by May 3.

Act 164 of 1961 by the Arkansas General Assembly created Marks Mills’ Battleground State Park. One of three parks that commemorate the Camden Expedition, the site is also a Red River Campaign National Historic Landmark. The park, maintained by the Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism, includes interpretive exhibits and a picnic area. The 6.2-acre park is located southeast of Fordyce (Dallas County) at the junction of Arkansas Highways 8 and 97.

For additional information:

Arkansas State Parks–Marks’ Mills. http://www.arkansasstateparks.com/marksmills/ (June 9, 2014).

Christ, Mark K., ed. Rugged and Sublime: The Civil War in Arkansas. Fayetteville: University of Arkansas Press, 1994.. Fayetteville: University of Arkansas Press, 1994.

DeBlack, Tom. With Fire and Sword: Arkansas, 1861–1874. Fayetteville: University of Arkansas Press, 2003.. Fayetteville: University of Arkansas Press, 2003.

Steven Teske
CALS Encyclopedia of Arkansas

Last Updated: 06/09/2014