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“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
Helena in Phillips County, Arkansas — The American South (West South Central)
 

Becoming Soldiers

 
 
Becoming Soldiers Marker image. Click for full size.
By Mark Hilton, August 25, 2017
1. Becoming Soldiers Marker
Inscription.
As soon as the Civil War began, black men volunteered to serve in the United States Army. They were denied. In the spring of 1863, the Federal government finally began enlisting Freedmen. Within months, thousands in Helena had enlisted.

"Willing and Desirous to Fight"
The black men who joined the Union army, like all men in all wars, enlisted for different reasons. Robert Houston remembered, "I went into the Union service very willingly... my actions feeling and sympathies have all the time been for the success and maintenance of the Union cause and all the time willing and desirous to fight or do anything else in my power on that behalf."

Freedom for all African Americans
Some men enlisted because army pay enabled them to provide for their families. Some men were coerced. Many black men who enlisted felt every black man should enlist, and pressured those who did not. The army also made forays into the county to collect recruits. But most men enlisted because they wanted to fight for their continued freedom and the freedom of all African Americans.

John Harris, 2nd Arkansas A.D.
The story of John Harris is probably typical: "When the Yankees
Becoming Soldiers Marker with bronze statue of a U.S.C.T soldier. image. Click for full size.
By Mark Hilton, August 25, 2017
2. Becoming Soldiers Marker with bronze statue of a U.S.C.T soldier.
Full size bronze statue of a United States Colored Troop by sculptor Roy W. Butler.
came through, I went to Helena, Arkansas, where I enlisted on May 21, 1863."
Harris enlisted in Co. B, 2nd Arkansas Infantry of African Descent. He was wounded in the Battle of Helena in July 1863.

Arkansas contributed 5,526 black men to the Union effort between 1863 and 1865.

Eighty-five percent were from the Delta region.


{Photo Caption}
In the spring of 1863, thousands of men like the teamsters above left civilian jobs to enlist in the U.S. army.

 
Erected 2013 by Arkansas Civil War Sesquicentennial Commission.
 
Location. 34° 30.766′ N, 90° 35.58′ 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. 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. Freedom in Helena! (a few steps from this marker); The Hard Road to Equal Rights (within shouting distance of this marker); Holding the Little Rock Road (within shouting distance of this marker); Helena's Contraband Camps
Located within Freedom Park, marker and statue are on extreme left. image. Click for full size.
By Mark Hilton, August 25, 2017
3. Located within Freedom Park, marker and statue are on extreme left.
(within shouting distance of this marker); African American Troops Held This Ground (within shouting distance of this marker); Seizing Freedom (within shouting distance of this marker); General J.F. Fagan's Attack (approx. half a mile away); Battery D (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, Freedom Park includes five major exhibits that explore the African-American experience in Civil War Helena. The exhibits follow the journey of the African-Americans from fugitive slave to freedom; and for some, enlistment in the Union Army and participation in the Battle of Helena on July 4, 1863.

Freedom Park is the first site in Arkansas to be designated for inclusion on the National Park Service's National Underground Railroad Network to Freedom program and is part of Arkansas Civil War Discovery Trail.
 
Categories. African AmericansWar, US Civil
 
 
Credits. This page was last revised on September 4, 2017. This page originally submitted on September 3, 2017, by Mark Hilton of Montgomery, Alabama. This page has been viewed 61 times since then. Photos:   1, 2, 3. submitted on September 3, 2017, by Mark Hilton of Montgomery, Alabama.
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