"such a slaughter was never greater on any battlefield west of the Mississippi" Sgt. Henry S. Carroll, 33rd Missouri
A Strong Position
Fort Curtis sat on the brow of a low ridge above Helena, in
the shadow of Crowley's Ridge. Fort Curtis mounted seven
heavy guns and was the Union army's last line of defense.
On the morning of July 4, 1863, fog shrouded the ridge,
making it impossible for the fort's gunners to see their
targets. When the fog lifted they tried to stem the hard-
charging Confederates at Battery C. They failed and the
Confederates took the battery.
General Salomon Prepares a Defense
General Frederick Salomon ordered Lt. Col. Thomas Pace's
1st Indiana Cavalry and the Dubuque Battery to Fort
Curtis. Infantry summoned from the levee and fleeing
soldiers from Battery C joined the cavalry. Watching the
Confederates gather for the attack Sergeant Henry Carroll
recalled, "They seemed to think they had gained the day but
they were woefully mistaken.
The Confederate Attack Fails
The chaplain of the 28th Wisconsin saw the attack, later
writing, "They charged down the hill toward the town in a
very brave manner but were met by a most destructive fire
of grape & canister as
well as by volley of musketry."
Their officers urged the hard-hit Confederates forward, but
it was futile. They fell back, fighting all the while. Finally
the guns of Fort Curtis and the Union counterattacks were
simply too much. Many Confederates were killed and
wounded in the assault, hundreds more surrendered.
Top right: Above: The interior of Fort Curtis. Left: General Frederick C. Salomon, U.S.A.
Bottom left: Second Lieut. Orlo H. Lyon, 3rd Iowa Battery. The 3rd Iowa Battery manned the guns at Fort Curtis during the Battle of Helena.