During the late winter and early spring of 1864, there were several brutal raids that penetrated the Choctaw, Chickasaw and Creek country. Union troops from both Fort Smith and Fort Gibson inflicted widespread misery. In fact, Colonel William A. Phillips who commanded the column from Fort Gibson issued instructions at one point that his men were not to kill prisoners, but "I do not ask that you take prisoners. I do ask you to make your footsteps severe and terrible."
A column left Fort Smith on February 7, 1864 and marched across the Ouachita mountains in a plan to link up with a column led by Col. Phillips at Northfork Town. These men moved for about 10 days and inflicted heavy damage not just on military forces, but on homes and families along their route. They ultimately turned back because of a lack of supplies after only a minor skirmish. Phillips column, which moved south at the same time, was accused of widespread brutality. Colonel D.N. McIntosh, for example, wrote that he "took no prisoners but killed all without mercy."
In addition to destroying homes and killing men, these columns rounded up woman and children in the Choctaw, Chickasaw and Creek country and carried them back to their bases.
These actions infuriated the men of the Walker's Brigade and according to some sources they took out their fury on men from Fort Smith who fell into their hands at the Battle of Poison Spring in April.