Helena in Phillips County, Arkansas — The American South (West South Central)
Who Built Fort Curtis
Thousands of escaped slaves, known as Contraband, followed the Union army to Helena in July 1862. Within weeks, the army put hundreds of Contraband to work building Fort Curtis.
Hard Labor in Hot Weather
African American laborers moved tons of earth, cut trees, milled lumber and did everything else required to build Fort Curtis. Imagine moving enough dirt to build this fort with only shovels, picks and wheelbarrows. Then imagine doing this backbreaking work in the hottest months of the year. The men who came to Helena seeking freedom did just that, building a fort larger than this reconstruction in three months.
Seized and Set to Work
Parties of Union soldiers seized African American men, including those working for the army in other jobs, and set them to work on Fort Curtis. General Eugene Carr, an advocate for the Contraband, complained to General Curtis, writing."It would be better to send the orders through the proper channels than to send parties to gather them Contraband] wherever they may be found!" Carr felt that the Union army's actions sent the wrong message about freedom saying," . . . there is no security for those [who] in good faith have engaged in labor in our service."
Middle left portrait: General Eugene A. Carr
Bottom right: In spite of being forced to labor on the fort many of the men who built Fort Curtis enlisted in the Union army the following spring.
Erected 2013 by Arkansas Civil War Sesquicentennial Commission.
Location. 34° 31.55′ N, 90° 35.507′ W. Marker is in Helena, Arkansas, in Phillips County. Marker is on York Street east of Beech Street, on the right when traveling east. Touch for map. Located near entrance to Fort Curtis. Marker is at or near this postal address: 701 York Street, Helena AR 72342, United States of America.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. Fort Curtis, 1862-1867 (here, next to this marker); Defending Helena (here, next to this marker); The New Fort Curtis (here, next to this marker); U.S.C.T. in Helena (within shouting distance of this marker); Flags over Fort Curtis (within shouting distance of this marker); Life Under Union Occupation (within shouting distance of this marker); The Guns (within shouting distance of this marker); The Battle of Helena (approx. 0.2 miles away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Helena.
More about this marker. An Arkansas Civil War Sesquicentennial site
Also see . . . Encyclopedia of Arkansas History & Culture on Fort Curtis. (Submitted on September 6, 2017, by Mark Hilton of Montgomery, Alabama.)
Categories. • Forts, Castles • War, US Civil •
Credits. This page was last revised on September 6, 2017. This page originally submitted on September 6, 2017, by Mark Hilton of Montgomery, Alabama. This page has been viewed 69 times since then and 6 times this year. Photos: 1, 2, 3, 4. submitted on September 6, 2017, by Mark Hilton of Montgomery, Alabama.