Imagine you are a Confederate soldier. You have just completed a 100 mile march in the Delta summer. You are hungry and worn out and on your way to Helena for what could be your last few moments on earth. The fighting had begun and you have just completed your third and final charge on the Union works on Battery C 100 feet above the town. You are now caught in a crossfire of artillery coming in from every direction and you are given the order to attack Fort Curtis.
The photo above is the view you would have seen as that soldier. If you look closely, you will see a large church steeple in the distance. This is First Baptist Church, the original location of Fort Curtis. This is the angle you would have stepped off the battery from and began your final assault for the day.
Coming to the Aid of Fort Curtis
You are facing Battery A, which stood on Rightor Hill, a high spot on Crowley’s Ridge. Defended by the 29th and 36th Iowa and the 33rd Missouri, it anchored the north end of the Union line, approximately one and one-quarter mile northeast of here.
The Confederate Assault on Battery A Stalls
You are standing on Crowley’s Ridge, the series of hills that surrounds old downtown Helena. To capture the city, the Confederates had to go over or around the ridge. Battery A covered both Sterling Road, which came in from the north, and Old St. Francis Road, less than a mile to the west.
The Confederates attacked Battery B several hours before attacking Battery C. The assault began under cover of an early morning fog. The Iowa soldiers north of the battery clearly heard the Confederate soldiers cursing as they clambered over felled trees in front of Battery A. When the fog lifted and the Confederates came into view, the gunners of 33rd Missouri Infantry (US) unleashed a volley of shot and shell. The Confederates stalled, unable to move forward or around the battery. By noon they were withdrawing from their position in front of Battery A.
Battery A’s Force Defends Fort Curtis
By the time the Confederates retreated from Battery A, another Confederate force was attacking Battery C. Batteries B and D assisted the Union defenders here with artillery fire, but Battery A was too far away for its guns to be effective.
Anticipating a Confederate assault, General Fredrick Salomon moved troops and artillery from Battery A to Fort Curtis. When the Confederates attacked the fort from Battery C, the men and artillery from Battery A were ready. The attack failed miserably, the Confederates suffering heavy losses. Soon afterward, they retreated from the battlefield.