The Battle of Helena was long over by this week one hundred and fifty years ago, but the Mississippi River port town was perhaps the most important city in the logistics of the Federal army. While the Confederate attack failed on July 4, 1863, Helena was now the proverbial back door the Yankees used to flood into Arkansas and begin their plan to take the capitol city and prepare the state for readmission to the Union. Following Pemberton’s surrender to Grant at Vicksburg on July 4, Grant released a division to Helena “to move after General Price…I will send other troops to Helena to release that entire garrison to go after Price.”
Confederate General Sterling Price, one day following Grant’s orders, was given command of the Rebel troops in Arkansas. Following the Battle of Helena, General Holmes was in poor health and was embarrassed by his complete failure in the humiliating failed attempt to remove the Federal forces from Helena:
“The condition of General Holmes’ health entirely prevents hope of his being able to take the field in person at this time. If the reports contained in the inclosed letters be correct, they disclose a state of affairs that will render immediate and energetic action necessary. He directs me, therefore, to say that he relies upon you [General Price]to take such measures as, in consultation with General Marmaduke, you may find necessary to meet the threatened advance of the enemy, in whatever direction it may come.”
The direction they came from was Vicksburg. The target: Little Rock.