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Helena in Phillips County, Arkansas — The American South (West South Central)
 

Seizing Freedom

 
 
Seizing Freedom Marker image. Click for full size.
Photographed By Mark Hilton, August 25, 2017
1. Seizing Freedom Marker
Inscription.  Imagine watching a four-mile-long parade of soldiers, horses, wagons and artillery pieces pass your house. The soldiers in blue were supposed to be the enemy, but they offered the chance for something you thought you'd never have—freedom.

A Chance of Freedom
Thousands of African Americans seeking freedom joined the column as General Samuel R. Curtis's Army of the Southwest marched across Arkansas in the late spring and summer of 1862. Called Contraband by the Union army, these men, women and children risked everything for freedom. It could not have been an easy decision.

Courage and Fierce Determination
Leaving the life they had known with only a hope of freedom and a better life took tremendous courage. Their freedom was not guaranteed, not even their safety. Severe punishment awaited those who were recaptured. But leave they did. By the time the Union army reached Helena, over 2,000 freedom seekers followed it. The continued to come into the city for months afterward.

Freeing Slaves Hurt the Confederacy
General
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Curtis, unlike many other Union generals, protected the fugitive slaves. He was against slavery, but he also had military reasons for his actions. Taking slaves away from Confederate sympathizers took manpower from the enemy.

"The Negroes are flocking to the army from every direction, there are about fifty, big and little in our company."
General E. Flanders, 5th Kansas Cavalry
General Curtis's Union army


Photo caption
Top right: The scene above, an African-American family coming into the Union army's line, was repeated throughout the South. Thousands of slaves followed the General Samuel Curtis's Union army across Arkansas to Helena. Thousands more came into the city seeking the army's protection in the years that followed.

 
Erected 2013 by Arkansas Civil War Sesquicentennial Commission.
 
Topics. This historical marker is listed in these topic lists: African AmericansWar, US Civil. A significant historical year for this entry is 1862.
 
Location. 34° 30.732′ N, 90° 35.61′ W. Marker is in Helena, Arkansas, in Phillips County. Marker can be reached from the intersection of Biscoe Street (Business U.S. 49) and Little Rock Road, on the right when traveling north. Located within Freedom Park.
Seizing Freedom Marker as part of a display in Freedom Park. image. Click for full size.
Photographed By Mark Hilton, August 25, 2017
2. Seizing Freedom Marker as part of a display in Freedom Park.
Touch for map. Marker is at or near this postal address: 700 Biscoe Street, Helena AR 72342, United States of America. Touch for directions.
 
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. Helena's Contraband Camps (within shouting distance of this marker); The Hard Road to Equal Rights (within shouting distance of this marker); Freedom in Helena! (within shouting distance of this marker); Becoming Soldiers (within shouting distance of this marker); Holding the Little Rock Road (about 400 feet away, measured in a direct line); African American Troops Held This Ground (about 400 feet away); The Union Army Marches Into Helena (approx. half a mile away); General J.F. Fagan's Attack (approx. half a mile away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Helena.
 
More about this marker. Once the location of a contraband camp, this park is the first location in Arkansas designated as a National Underground Railroad Network to Freedom site. It's also part of Arkansas Civil War Discovery Trail.
 
Marker is under the shelter in Freedom Park. image. Click for full size.
Photographed By Mark Hilton, August 25, 2017
3. Marker is under the shelter in Freedom Park.
 
 
Credits. This page was last revised on September 1, 2017. It was originally submitted on September 1, 2017, by Mark Hilton of Montgomery, Alabama. This page has been viewed 195 times since then and 5 times this year. Photos:   1, 2, 3. submitted on September 1, 2017, by Mark Hilton of Montgomery, Alabama.

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Mar. 2, 2024