Arkansas In The Civil WarOne hundred and fifty years ago, the Federal forces in the port town of Helena were preparing for an imminent attack by the Confederate Army under the command of General T. Holmes. Federal commander General Benjamin Prentiss, heeding rumors of an attack took precautions in strengthening the fortifications and entries into Helena.

Among the fortifications Prentiss took a keen interest in reinforcing with more earthworks including rifle pits and breastworks were the hilltop artillery batteries surrounding Helena to the west, atop Crowley’s Ridge. Batteries A, B, C, and D were built a year previous to the July 4, 1863 battle but necessity dictated a stronger reinforced western approach.

To keep his soldiers ready for any predawn attack that might come in from the west, Prentiss issued orders for the entirety of the Federal garrison in Helena to be up and under arms by 2:30 A.M. every morning leading up to the attack. By July 1, the Federal commander learned of Confederate forces as near as fifteen miles distant.

As roads leading into Helena were off limits for citizen travel, the absence of traffic leading into the Delta town was a proverbial red flag that gave Prentiss reason to believe an attack was imminent; he was right. Confederates were amassing, the Delta was heating up, and the Federal army was in place to stave off any attack.