Meanwhile, Lt. Col. Drake and the 36th Iowa had been ordered to take 40 wagons to Britton’s Mill six miles southeast of Camden to run and guard the only remained steam-driven grist mill in the area, along with 10 hand mills to grind corn for the much needed forage, as the Confederates had destroyed all the rest. But following the disastrous defeat at Poison Spring, Drake and his men were recalled back to Camden on April 18 under cover of darkness to meet with Gen. Steele. The food and forage situation for Steele’s army was becoming day by day even more desperate.
It was decided that a large heavily armed supply convoy wagon train of about 240 six-mule wagons was to be sent back 70 miles to Pine Bluff for food and supplies. Lt. Col. Francis Drake was placed in command, as titular commander Col. Charles W. Kittredge of Ottumwa was listed as sick, along with about 40 men of the 36th Iowa. Five hundred men of the 36th Iowa were sent to guard the wagon train, along with 400 men of the 77th Ohio and 500 men of the 43rd Indiana regiments. Also with them were a light artillery battery and 240 troopers, portions of the 1st Indiana and 7th Missouri cavalries led by Major Mark McCauley. This reinforced brigade was to include about 1,800 men to guard about 240 wagons, each drawn by six mules.
The 36th Iowa Infantry still had about 200 Appanoose County men available including Col. Drake, Capt. Thomas Fee of Company G from Centerville and Capt. Joseph Gedney of Company I, the Bellair Rangers from the Bellair — Numa area. Capt. William Vermilion of Company F was just returning from Appanoose County following a recruiting trip. The regimental surgeon, Sylvester H. Sawyer of Unionville, had been promoted to Major and was head of the Division Medical Department.