Battery C park has interpretative markers that cover nearly every aspect of the Battle of Helena and provides visitors with a bird’s eye view of the battlefield. This panel interprets the general overview of the July 4, 1863 Battle of Helena. Theophilus Holmes tried and tried again to convince himself and his army that Helena would be an easy attack- with only a little fighting with the Union, the Confederates would enjoy an easy Confederate victory. Perhaps the Rebs in Helena could help save Vicksburg from inevitable Union hands.
As visitors at Battery C walk from the parking lot to the interpretative section of the park, they are greeted with a general overview of the battle. Notice the church steeple in the lower right corner of the photo. First Baptist Church in Helena is the historic site of the original Fort Curtis.
July 4, 1863
Confederate General Theophilus Holmes wanted to regain control of Helena, an island of Union control in Confederate Arkansas. His attack failed. Miscommunication, lack of information, and the determined resistance of the Union troops, who vowed not to be beaten on Independence Day, resulted in a decisive Union Victory.
The Battle Begins
The roar of the signal gun at Fort Curtis woke Helena well before dawn- the Confederates were advancing. They faced formidable defenses. Fort Curtis’s powerful guns protected the city. Four earthworks- Batteries A,B,C, and D- crowned Crowley’s Ridge. The gunboat U.S.S. Tyler patrolled the Mississippi River.
The Confederate Plan Unravels
Confederate General Holmes ordered his commanders to attack at daylight. General James F. Fagan and General John S. Marmaduke swung into action at first light. Fagan’s Arkansas Brigade scrambled up the edge of the ridge to Battery D. Felled trees, heat, and fierce Union resistance stalled their attack by midmorning. Marmaduke’s artillery hit the Federal line while his men attacked Battery A, but the terrain and a dogged Union defense also halted his assault.
A Union Victory
The sun was up and the assaults on Batteries A and D had failed before General Sterling Price attacked Battery C. The gunboat Tyler and Fort Curtis drove Price’s Confederates back twice, but after three costly assaults they took Battery C. As Battery B and the U.S.S. Tyler poured shot and shell on Battery C, Confederate infantry rushed down the slope and attacked Fort Curtis. The attack was a disaster. By noon, the battle was over and the defeated Confederates were retreating.
Battery C Park, maintained by the Delta Cultural Center, is open daily from 9am-5pm. A map of the park is below.