Helena in Phillips County, Arkansas — The American South (West South Central)
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 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
"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
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.
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. Touch for map. Located within Freedom Park. Marker is at or near this postal address: 700 Biscoe Street, Helena AR 72342, United States of America.
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 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.
Categories. • African Americans • War, US Civil •
Credits. This page was last revised on September 1, 2017. This page originally submitted on September 1, 2017, by Mark Hilton of Montgomery, Alabama. This page has been viewed 69 times since then and 12 times this year. Photos: 1, 2, 3. submitted on September 1, 2017, by Mark Hilton of Montgomery, Alabama.