Bloody Fireworks on the Fourth of July
From where you are standing, you would have had a ringside seat for the battle of Helena.
On a brutally hot July 4, 1863, Confederate General Theophilus Holmes launched a three-pronged attack on the small Union garrison at Helena. Union defenses centered around Battery A north of here, Battery B northwest of here, Battery C due west of where you are standing, and Battery D southwest of here. Fort Curtis, an earthen fortification was within Helen's city limits northwest of here and the U.S. gunboat Tyler on the Mississippi River behind you provided crucial support in defeating the Confederate assault.
More than 7,600 Confederate soldiers mainly from Arkansas and Missouri, attacked the 4,000 Union defenders of Helena. Only the attack against Battery C succeeded, but it was broken by Union counterattacks and the terrible shells of the Tyler. The Confederate attackers lost 1,636 men killed, wounded and missing or captured. Union forces lost only 239 men.
"The ground at this point was impassible - an old road and a deep ravine full of timber, which scattered our men and it was impossible to keep in line; but we succeeded in getting through after remaining in the timber and hollows nearly two hours under a heavy fire, and made a charge when the enemy giving way, we entered the rifle pits. Here many of our men fell, perfectly exhausted from over heat."
Dennis Bahen 37h Arkansas Infantry Regiment, C.S.A
"The rest of the batteries got range of them, and the gunboats began to shell them. They were mowed down by hundreds by grape Shot and Shell. It makes the cold chills run over me as I think of the dreadful Scene I witnessed on the battlefield, men lying in heaps in some of the ravines, four and five deep."
Charles O Musser, 29th Iowa Infantry Regiment, U.S.A