The Union Army Takes Helena, July 1862
When General Samuel Curtis marched into Helena he was
not sure if he would remain. But the city's location on the
Mississippi River made it a valuable strategic resource that
the Union command did not want to give up. The decision
to stay in Helena made, the Union army fortified the city.
The Confederate Attack Fails, July 1863
The day that Vicksburg surrendered, July 4, 1863, the
Confederates launched an attempt to retake Helena. They
faced formidable defenses. Five earthen fortifications
protected the city: Batteries A, B, C and D on Crowley's
Ridge, and Fort Curtis just below them. The gunboat Tyler
patrolled the Mississippi River.
The assaults on Batteries A and D
failed, but the Confederates took
Battery C and then rushed Fort
Curtis. Union forces repulsed the
attack. By noon the Battle of
Helena was over. The rugged ridge
and its Union defenders ravaged
the Confederate army, leaving
Helena firmly in Union hands.
A Base for Union Offensives
Throughout the war, Helena served as a staging area for
expeditions down the Mississippi and into Confederate
Arkansas. Thousands of troops from Helena participated
in the Vicksburg Campaign, including
the Yazoo Pass
Expedition in 1863.
General Frederick Steele led an army of 6,000 from
Helena to Little Rock, capturing the city on September
10, 1863. Troops from Helena participated in
engagements at Cotton Plant, Clarendon, St. Francis
L'Anguille, De Valls Bluff, and Big Creek.
Top right: General Samuel Curtis, U.S.
The interior of Fort Curtis
Middle: The U.S.S. Tyler
Bottom left: General Frederick Steele, U.S.
Bottom right: Dozens of regiments were assigned to Helena for varying lengths of time during the Union occupation.