This week will see the commemoration of the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Helena. Though the battle was fought on July 4, 1863, this week marks the 150th anniversary of a Confederate attack on a Federal scouting party in the vicinity of the Polk Plantation situated outside the Helena city limits on May 25, 1863. General Polk was one of Helena’s seven Confederate generals.
On May 25, 1863, about 150 Federals from the 5th Kansas Cavalry and the 3rd Iowa under the command of Major Samuel Walker and Lieutenant Samuel McKee were scouting the countryside for any sign of the enemy when a Confederate contingent was reported in the area consisting of over 300 Rebs under the command of Colonel Francis M. Chrisman six miles out from the Delta community. As the skirmish began, the Federals drove the Confederates about a mile when the action became heated and Chrisman broke through the Federal line forcing the Yanks into a disorderly retreat.
As the battle continued, the Federal Army fell back and took up their positions at a bridge spanning a deep ravine on the Little Rock Road. According to “Chronicles of Arkansas- the Years of the Civil War”, “There was a desperate running fight all the way to the bridge, with the men fighting hand-to-hand part of the time.” As the skirmish continued, the Confederates eventually withdrew their forces to the surrounding countryside.
As Civil War reenactors and spectators amass in Helena this weekend for the commemoration of the 150th Battle of Helena, it will indeed be the 150th anniversary of the skirmish at the Polk Plantation. The battle this weekend will be one of the largest reenactments the state has seen and the fighting will occur on the original battlefield. The scenario spans over a mile and a half, terminating in a desperate final charge onto Fort Curtis. More info on the Battle of Helena 150 can be seen at www.DeltaCulturalCenter.com or arkansastoothpick.com.