One hundred fifty years ago, as many soldiers on both sides were remembering their fallen comrades during the 1st anniversary of the Battle of Helena, military actions in the Delta in early July kept the Union garrison in Helena on edge.
Lieutenant-Commander S.L. Phelps sent a dispatch to the U.S.S. gunboat Hastings in the White River noting that there were eight steamers in a convoy with the gunboat. Convoys were the recommended means of navigating the hostile waters on the White River. The report continued, “About noon we were fired upon a little above St. Charles by rifle-men, who, for a short time, kept up a brisk fire, but were driven away by the fire of the gunboats.”
Independence Day in 1864 was celebrated in a rather unusual means for Phelps. “I had been at loss to know how we should celebrate the Fourth, being underway and having so much of a convoy in charge, but this attack occurring about noon furnished the opportunity of at once punishing the enemy and celebrating the day by firing cannon.”
Phelps noted that the Union convoy did not sustain much damage. “Although the first volley was fired into us at a distance not greater than 25 yards, and a number of persons were exposed about deck, no one was hit and no damage was done other than a slight injury to woodwork and furniture.”
Other military actions that took place in Arkansas this week one hundred and fifty years ago include a skirmish near Benton on the 4th; a skirmish in Van Buren on the 6th; a skirmish neat Huntersville on the 7th; a skirmish near Little Rock on the 8th; a skirmish on the Arkansas River near Petit Jean and a skirmish in Montgomery County on the 10th; a skirmish in Caddo Gap on the 11th; and a skirmish near Brownsville on the 12th. For a complete list of over 700 military actions that took place during the Civil War in Arkansas, go to www.arkansastoothpick.com