Before the Civil War began, Battery C was called Graveyard Hill. The ridge towers over Helena about 100 feet and was an excellent rural area to bury the city’s dead. When the Battle of Helena began, what was one a resting place for the founding residents of Helena became a battle site.
Imagine this area covered in trees. Where you stand is a quiet cemetery. It is the first burial ground for the city of Helena and the resting plane of some of the city’s earliest residents.
Engineers and Battle Begin the Destruction
The peace of this place was shattered in the spring of 1863. Union army engineers decided that Graveyard Hill, as they called it, was the perfect location for one of the four batteries they planned to construct on Crowley’s Ridge. Soon, the thud of axes and scrape of saws filled the air as soldiers felled trees to provide clear lines of fire. They dug a ditch and mounded earth over graves to form the battery’s walls. More destruction too place during the Battle of Helena. The rush of troops dislodged sones and intense artillery fire directed at Battery C leveled monuments and cratered the ground.
Nature Continues what War Began
After the war, natural forces continued the destruction. No longer anchored by tree roots and vegetation, the soil eroded away, exposing graves. The cemetery, no longer used or maintained, deteriorated. Relatives moved the remains of loved ones elsewhere, many to the new cemetery north of town, now Maple Hill Cemetery. The remains of those with no one to care for them were left to their fate. At one time, it was not uncommon to see headstones and bones washing out of the hillside into the deep gullies that scored the sides of Graveyard Hill.
This hilltop was leveled in the 1970s, removing any vestige of the former burial site. Archaeological investigations of Battery C conducted in 2011 and 2013 found no trace of the old city cemetery.