Historical Markers and War Memorials in Helena, Arkansas
Helena is the county seat for Phillips County
Helena is in Phillips County
Phillips County(94) ► ADJACENT TO PHILLIPS COUNTY Arkansas County(32) ► Desha County(14) ► Lee County(5) ► Monroe County(17) ► Bolivar County, Mississippi(52) ► Coahoma County, Mississippi(37) ► Tunica County, Mississippi(10) ►
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The nickname the 33rd Iowa Infantry gave Helena was hardly flattering. It came not from a hard fought battle but from miserable conditions in an overcrowded city made worse by the climate.
Soldiers Battled Malaria, Typhoid and More
Many . . . — — Map (db m51916) HM
"A Liberating Army"
In September 1861, Frederick Douglass, a former slave and
passionate and influential advocate for black rights, wrote,
"Let it be known that the American flag is the flag of freedom
to all who will . . . — — Map (db m108009) HM
The guns of the U.S.S. Tyler sent their last blast hurtling toward Graveyard Hill at 10:30 A.M. on July 4, 1863. The Confederates were retreating. Helena remained in Union hands.
The Battle of Helena, July 4 1863
The Tyler steamed into . . . — — Map (db m187654) HM
Conditions in Civil War Helena were horrible. Overcrowding, poor sanitation, contaminated drinking water, and mosquitoes led to typhoid, dysentery, malaria and other diseases. Tents, churches, barns, abandoned houses and business buildings housed . . . — — Map (db m51978) HM
The Civil War changed the lives of Southern women in ways they could not have imagined. They lived with anxiety, fear and loneliness. As the war ground on, many felt an increasing sense of desperation and depression. The lives they had known were . . . — — Map (db m107998) HM
The Death of General Patrick Cleburne
“If we are to die Govan, let us die like men,” Cleburne said to his friend, Daniel Govan, as he rode to his death.
Major General Patrick Ronayne Cleburne, Helena’s best-known Confederate . . . — — Map (db m107829) HM WM
Battery C sat directly above Helena and was the key to the city's defenses. The small earthen battery manned by the 33rd Missouri held two artillery pieces. A series of infantry trenches in front of the battery defended the approach. Union engineers . . . — — Map (db m107956) HM
Imagine this area covered in trees. Where you stand is a quiet
cemetery. It is the first burial ground for the city of Helena and
the resting place of some of the city's earliest residents.
Engineers and Battle Begin the . . . — — Map (db m107977) HM
The Confederate Memorial
In 1889, the Phillip County Memorial Association began raising funds to erect a grand memorial to honor all the Confederate dead.
The Association sent an appeal throughout the South and donations poured in. Not . . . — — Map (db m107834) HM
Thousands of refugee slaves came with the Union army into Helena and they continued to come. Helena became an island of freedom in a slave state.
The Union Army Recruits Freedmen
In the . . . — — Map (db m107912) HM
The Confederates Take Battery C
"Both brigades moved forward on the instant, rapidly, steadily
unflinchingly, and in perfect order under a storm of Minie balls,
grape, and canister, which poured upon them not only . . . — — Map (db m107958) HM
You are facing Battery D. One half-mile southeast of here, it was the closest of the fortifications on Crowley's Ridge to Battery C. During the Battle of Helena, Union troops at these batteries aided each other with artillery fire.
— — Map (db m107950) HM
The Union Army Takes Helena, July 1862
When General Samuel Curtis marched into Helena he was
not sure if he would remain. But the city's location on the
Mississippi River made it a valuable strategic resource . . . — — Map (db m107916) HM
The 2nd Arkansas of African Descent manned the earthwork located here during the Battle of Helena on July 4, 1863. The 2nd was a new regiment, organized in Helena just three months earlier. They had never experienced combat. . . . — — Map (db m107891) HM
Disease, death, the practice of separating slave families—all left
children with no one to care for them. Scores of orphaned black
children in Civil War Helena suffered from neglect and exposure.
General Napoleon Buford asked for help. In . . . — — Map (db m107999) HM
This boxcar and the gifts it carried are a reminder of American support of France during two world wars, and of France's gratitude for that support. Such gestures between peoples deserve a lasting place in our memories.
People to People . . . — — Map (db m107797) HM
Union forces entrenched on this hill held off repeated assaults by Confederate troops under CSA General Marmaduke on the morning of July 4, 1863, in their attack on Helena. CSA General Marsh Walker's Cavalry Brigade, consisting of the 5th Arkansas . . . — — Map (db m107784) HM
Union guns emplaced on this hill defended Old St. Francis Road, the approach used by CSA General Marmaduke's Division, consisting of the 1st Brigade under Col. Shelby and Col. G.W. Thompson and the 2nd Brigade under Col. Colton Greene, in their . . . — — Map (db m107787) HM
Four maps drawn during the Civil War show Battery C. On each, the size and
shape of the battery is different. Archaeological investigations conducted in
2011 and 2013 uncovered some surprising facts about this battery.
— — Map (db m107964) HM
Hindman Hill, southernmost of four positions fortified by Union Forces in June, 1863, was attacked by the 35th, 37th, and Hawthorn's Arkansas Infantry Regiments under General Fagan, CSA at daybreak, July 4, 1863. Thwarted by the strength of the . . . — — Map (db m107791) HM
Confederate General Theophilus Holmes wanted to regain control of Helena, an island of Union control in Confederate Arkansas. His attack failed. Miscommunication, lack of information, and the determined resistance of the Union troops, who vowed not . . . — — Map (db m107941) HM
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 . . . — — Map (db m107884) HM
In the first months of 1861 many Phillips County men joined militia companies supporting the Confederate cause. In February 1861, they marched on Little Rock to take the Federal arsenal. Most joined the Confederate army that spring.
A Divided . . . — — Map (db m51979) HM
You are facing Battery A, which stood on Rightor Hill, a high spot on Crowley's Ridge. Defended by the 29th and 36th Iowa and the 33rd Missouri, it anchored the north end of the Union line, approximately one and one-quarter mile northeast of here. . . . — — Map (db m107973) HM
Shortly after the capture of Helena in July 1862, the Union army took
measures to protect the city. Engineers designed a large earthen fort,
which African American laborers completed in October 1862. General
Benjamin Prentiss named the heavily . . . — — Map (db m108033) HM
Flooding, a long-feared natural phenomenon, is a very real concern throughout the region. Water has spilled from the banks of the Mississippi many time over the years, causing widespread fear and devastation. The Great Mississippi Flood of 1927, the . . . — — Map (db m107819) HM
The Mississippi River defines Helena
The Mississippi River has for centuries been the backbone of life in Helena; fertilizing its soil, supporting its farms and businesses, connecting people and cultures. Despite this rich history, there is . . . — — Map (db m107810) HM
During the Battle of Helena on July 4, 1863, constant fire from Union cavalry and artillery near the levee helped stall the Confederate advance on Battery A.
The Union Troops at the Levee . . . — — Map (db m107930) HM
Freedmen Fill Two Regiments
Within days of Lorenzo Thomas' speech in
Helena on April 6, 1863, enough Freedmen
enlisted to fill a regiment—1,000 men. Many
were already in Helena. Others came in . . . — — Map (db m108014) HM
When the Union army built Fort Curtis in 1862, the 34-star flag flew over the fort.
The day the Battle of Helena was fought, July 4, 1863, the 35-star flag became the official U.S. flag. The new star represented West Virginia, admitted to the . . . — — Map (db m109134) HM
In August 1862 the Union forces occupying Helena erected on this site a redoubt of earth and timbers to serve as the key to the city’s defenses. Fort Curtis, named for the Union general in command at the time of construction, was one of five . . . — — Map (db m51919) HM
The Confederates tested Fort Curtis once, during the Battle
of Helena on July 4, 1863.The battle ended in a decided
Union victory. For the rest of the war, Fort Curtis stood over
Helena, a symbol of the power of the Union army.
— — Map (db m108036) HM
The Emancipation Proclamation
"...all persons held as slaves within any State or designated
part of a State, the people whereof shall then be in rebellion
against the United States, shall be then, thenceforward, . . . — — Map (db m107885) HM
Hawthorn's Regiment advanced from the south, that of Bell from the north, King massed on Hawthorn's right. They charged at daybreak, clambering over fallen timber, and took the first line of rifle pits. Battery C not yet engaged by Price, caught . . . — — Map (db m107796) HM
"I am with the South in life or death, in victory or defeat."
Patrick Cleburne, May 1861
A Brilliant and Beloved Commander
Patrick Cleburne was a brilliant military tactician and one of
the . . . — — Map (db m109146) HM
"The steamer Warren brought news... of the loss of the steamboat Monmouth, and the death of at least one-half of her infamously crowded passengers. This fatal, and most appalling, accident arose from a collision between these two boats; but from the . . . — — Map (db m52028) HM
At this site on the southern tip of Crowley’s Ridge, Indians of the Hopewell Culture lived about 500 B.C. Evidences of their settlements still remain in mounds nearby. In 1541 when Hernando De Soto crossed the river near here, he found the Casqui . . . — — Map (db m51910) HM
"Helena occupies one of the prettiest situations on the river", wrote Mark Twain in Life on the Mississippi, and is rich in history and culture. Hernando DeSoto crossed the Mississippi near Helena in 1541, finding a thriving native culture. . . . — — Map (db m51928) HM
Thousands of freedom seekers came with the Union army when it occupied Helena in July 1862. They had no place to live, no food and no way to support themselves.
Under the Army's Care
It was up to . . . — — Map (db m107877) HM
This sculpture, erected in 1927, is one of the best-known outdoor sculptures in the nation. Named Spirit of the American Doughboy, it depicts a World War I soldier attacking across the "no man's land" between the trenches. Created in 1920 . . . — — Map (db m107933) HM
Soon after the Union army occupied Helena in July 1862, preparations
began for a Confederate attack. The army built four earthworks on
Crowley's Ridge. Fort Curtis sat below the ridge, in town. . . . — — Map (db m107887) HM
Jacob Trieber served as United States District Judge for the Eastern
District of Arkansas from 1901 to 1927. He was the first Jewish judge
ever to serve on the federal bench. Trieber was born in Prussia in
1853, immigrated with his parents to St. . . . — — Map (db m107824) HM
The music of the Arkansas Delta is the music of America. With roots in gospel or "church music,"
the blues, jazz, country, and rock n'roll flowed from the rich, fertile landscape bordering the lower Mississippi River and spread out across the . . . — — Map (db m51908) HM
After the Union army arrived in July 1862, Helena was no longer part of the Confederacy. It was in Union hands and the Union commander made law and policy. The Moore-Hornor Home across the street was one of many in Helena seized by the Union army. . . . — — Map (db m108030) HM
Traveling road shows, vaudeville, dog-and-pony shows, mind
readers, magicians, bell ringers and boxing matches-they all
appeared live at Helena's Grand Opera House. In the days before
radio, movies and television live entertainment was king. . . . — — Map (db m107996) HM
While the vast majority of Helena's white population favored secession, there were also men and women loyal to the Union in Phillips County.
White Unionists Rally in Helena
Not only fugitive slaves, but white . . . — — Map (db m107991) HM
Patrick Cleburne found a home, friends and a profession in Helena.
When the Civil War began, he supported his adopted state, writing
to his brother, Richard, "I am with Arkansas in weal and woe."
— — Map (db m109144) HM
Patrick Ronayne Cleburne,
Major General, C.S.A.
Born in County Cork,
March 17, 1828;
Killed at Battle of
November 30, 1864.
Dulce et decorum est
Pro patria mori.
Shiloh . . . — — Map (db m86787) WM
The First County Seat of Phillips county was ordered in the Act of 1820 which created the county, to be located in the Town of Monticello, which place has since been identified as the original name of the present Town of Helena. — — Map (db m51918) HM
The election of Abraham Lincoln in 1860 broke the nation apart. In May 1861, Arkansas became the ninth
state to join the new Confederate States of America.
The Union Army Occupies Helena . . . — — Map (db m107917) HM
Phillips County lies in what is known as the Mississippi alluvial plain, also called The Delta. The earliest known inhabitants were native Indians, noted for building large earthen mounds for ceremonial purposes and to bury their chiefs.
By the . . . — — Map (db m51929) HM
Quick to Volunteer
Between 1861 and 1865, several hundred men— one-third of
the able-bodied men in Phillips County — joined the
Confederate army. Most enlisted in the opening weeks of the
Civil War. The volunteers joined . . . — — Map (db m109136) HM
Lorenzo Thomas at Fort Curtis
Adjutant General Lorenzo Thomas spoke in Helena on
April 6, 1863. About 4,000 soldiers stood in formation in
Fort Curtis. They heard Thomas, their commanding
officer, the district . . . — — Map (db m108013) HM
“It is hoped that the younger generations, which have witnessed their unselfish devotion will emulate their virtues.”
Memorializing the Confederate Dead
Immediately after the Civil War, Southern women began efforts to care . . . — — Map (db m107831) HM
Seasons change, as they do, birds and other wild animals migrate from one place to the next to find food. Many birds follow the twists and turns of the Mississippi River as they journey from the northern United States to their winter breeding . . . — — Map (db m107814) HM
This lot and dwelling at No. 625 Perry Street was given by will of Mrs. Florence B. Russwurm to the First Baptist Church of Helena, Arkansas as a memorial to her late husband, Dr. W.C. Russwurm and herself. Dr. and Mrs. Russwurm were long time . . . — — Map (db m51920) HM
In 1858 a boarding school and convent was established on this site in the former residence of Col. Henry L. Biscoe by four Sisters of Mercy who came from Ireland with Bishop Andrew Byrne. The school was in the middle of heavy fighting during the . . . — — Map (db m51905) HM
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. . . . — — Map (db m107828) HM
Seven men from Phillips County, all of them immigrants to Arkansas, became high ranking Confederate officers. They served with honor in the Army of the Tennessee and in the Trans-Mississippi, participating in many decisive battles and campaigns. . . . — — Map (db m51981) HM
Seven Phillips Co. men served as generals in the Confederate army. Patrick Cleburne, perhaps the most acclaimed Arkansas general, led an Army of Tennessee division and proposed freeing slaves if they would fight for the . . . — — Map (db m107716) HM
This was the site of St. Catherine Convent and Academy. When it
opened in 1858, it was one of two Roman Catholic schools in
Arkansas. Opportunities for a classical education were rare in
Arkansas and the school founded by the Sisters of Mercy . . . — — Map (db m108055) HM
During the Battle of Helena on July 4, 1863, less than 300 men with two cannon held this battery for several hours against 3,000 Confederates.
Infantry Mans the Guns
The 33rd Missouri Infantry (U.S.) defended Battery . . . — — Map (db m107966) HM
Richard L. Kitchens Post No. 41 of the American Legion
World War I veterans founded the American Legion, a charitable organization, in 1919. That year, Helena's veterans founded Richard L. Kitchens Post No. 41. The name honors a . . . — — Map (db m108000) HM
The gunboat U.S.S. Tyler gave the Union defenders a decided advantage in the
Battle of Helena. Her captain could move the gunboat and its heavy artillery
where it was needed most, and that is exactly what he did.
— — Map (db m107975) HM
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 . . . — — Map (db m52026) HM
Confederate General Theophilus Holmes wanted to regain control of Helena, an island of Union control in Confederate Arkansas. His attack failed. Miscommunication, lack of information, and the determined resistance of the Union troops, who vowed not . . . — — Map (db m107937) HM
Helena has played a vital role in blues history for artists from both sides of the Mississippi River. Once known as a “wide open” hot spot for music, gambling, and nightlife, Helena was also the birthplace of “King Biscuit . . . — — Map (db m51907) HM
The Civil War affected everyone, and St. Catherine Convent and
Academy was no exception. The Union army appropriated convent
property. Dead and dying men covered the grounds after the Battle
of Helena. The school lost most of its students. When . . . — — Map (db m108054) HM
"such a slaughter was never greater on any battlefield west of the Mississippi" Sgt. Henry S. Carroll, 33rd Missouri
A Strong Position
Fort Curtis sat on the brow of a low ridge above Helena, . . . — — Map (db m107938) HM
Battery C, perched atop Graveyard Hill, commanded the city and
the rugged landscape to the west. Confederate General Theophilus
Holmes believed it was the gateway to Helena. He sent General
Sterling Price's Infantry Division, his strongest force, . . . — — Map (db m107953) HM
The muzzles of six 24-pounders and one 32-pounder extended over the fort walls. The "pounder" designation meant that the cannon fired 24 or 32-pound balls respectively.
These large guns were usually found at coastal forts, where they provided . . . — — Map (db m109133) HM
African Americans Exercise Their Rights
In the decades following the Civil War, former slaves in
Arkansas saw African Americans elected to local, state and
national offices. Henderson B. Robinson was elected . . . — — Map (db m107892) HM
Built in 1961, the Helena bridge is about a mile long and 28 feet wide. It stretches across the Mississippi River, linking Helena with the town of Lula, Mississippi via US 49.
Before the bridge
Until the early 1960s, there was no bridge in . . . — — Map (db m107818) HM
Patrick Ronayne Cleburne, the son of Dr. Joseph and
Mary Anne Ronayne Cleburne, was born March 17,
1828. At the age of twenty-one he immigrated to the
United States. He settled in Helena in 1850.
The Son of . . . — — Map (db m109138) HM
The Mississippi River has for centuries been the backbone of life in Helena; fertilizing its soil, supporting its farms and businesses, connecting people and cultures. Helena, built at the base of Crowley’s Ridge, finds itself in a unique location . . . — — Map (db m107811) HM
Mr. Ronnie Nichols, then-director of the Delta Cultural Center,
first proposed building a reconstruction of Civil War Fort Curtis
in 1992. Twenty years later, his vision was realized. New Fort
Curtis was dedicated on May 11, . . . — — Map (db m108040) HM
The State of Arkansas is Dissolved
In 1867, the state of Arkansas ceased to exist. It was dissolved, as were all states still in rebellion when the Confederate government surrendered in 1865. Readmission to the Union required that the states . . . — — Map (db m51927) HM
Among our nations’s most valuable treasures: a web of inland waterways that winds its way through America’s heartland to the Mississippi River. Boats carrying people and freight use these well-traveled “marine highways” to travel from . . . — — Map (db m107817) HM
Jet aircraft began replacing propeller-powered planes in the late 1940s. Differences in handling resulted in a high accident rate among pilots unused to the new aircraft. Lockheed developed this plane, the T-33 Shooting Star, to help pilots make the . . . — — Map (db m108005) HM
On July 12, 1862, the Union army occupied Helena. Over two thousand fugitive slaves seeking the army's protection followed. For two days, the long line of soldiers and freedom seekers filed into Helena.
Curtis Marches toward Helena
Most . . . — — Map (db m116437) HM
You are facing Battery B, the only battery on Crowley's Ridge the Confederates did not attack during the Battle of Helena. The men at Battery B, which was about three-quarters of a mile north of here, watched events unfold at Battery C and then . . . — — Map (db m107970) HM
"I have no more land, I am driven away from home, driven up the red waters, let us all go, let us all die together and somewhere upon the banks we will be there." - Sin-e-cha's Song, heard on several removal boats along the Trail of . . . — — Map (db m52027) HM
The Delta represents a “melting pot” of diverse cultures. And most of them got here by canoe.
Canoeing is the oldest form of water transportation on the Mississippi River-at least 2,000 years old! In the Quapaw tribal history, they . . . — — Map (db m107816) HM
On April 6, 1863, Adjutant General Lorenzo Thomas made a speech at Ft. Curtis seeking to enlist former slaves into the U.S. army. The next day, hundreds of black men joined the 1st Arkansas Infantry (African Descent). Later designated U.S. Colored . . . — — Map (db m107825) HM
Guard, Garrison and Fatigue Duty
The United States Colored Troops (USCT) in Helena were part
of the Union garrison holding the city. Their duties were much
the same as those of white troops. Like all Union . . . — — Map (db m108015) HM
The City of West Helena was a vision in the early nineteen hundreds of Edward Chaffin Hornor and John Sidney Hornor, cousins. Their plans for the creation of West Helena on the western slope of Crowley's ridge was accomplished with the filing on . . . — — Map (db m51931) HM
Found in the floodplains of rivers and streams, these wetland communities depend on water. Unlike a swamp where (water is always present), bottomland hardwood forests experience seasonal flooding.
Before the arrival . . . — — Map (db m113255) HM
The impact of stormwater runoff on the Mississippi River is an environmental concern.
The quality and quantity of water in all of our streams, rivers, lakes, aquifers, and oceans is diminishing. We can reverse this negative trend by becoming . . . — — Map (db m113256) HM
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 . . . — — Map (db m108032) HM
William Patterson was the first known Methodist to set foot on Arkansas soil. He came from Kentucky in 1800 and cut the cane, where the city of Helena now stands, to build a warehouse for river traffic. He became a Methodist Minister and in 1804 was . . . — — Map (db m51921) HM