The battle of Helena is one of those battles where the attacker failed because they just couldn't quite execute their plan. In this case it had a lot to do with the Confederates being unable to coordinate attacks and then when things did go their way being uncertain how to follow it up (due to the lack of coordination).
The battle of July 4, 1863 was intended to relieve pressure on Vicksburg, but they did not know that Pemberton had surrendered that very day. A Confederate victory at Helena would have meant very little along the Mississippi River as Grant would have quickly sent men to retake the city. The Confederates also wanted to recapture Helena as it would be a logical base for a campaign against Little Rock, which ended up happening a few months later.
Touring Helena is a little difficult. There was a nice museum downtown that had some Civil War exhibits but there really was no driving tour. I got a map that the staff member drew some directions on, which took us to a marker for Battery C but there seemed to be no way to get on the ridge where the battery actually was. I've since seen some pictures of people by markers on the ridge so apparently things have improved. Maybe back then they did not expect someone wanting to see all of the entrenchments.
During the war Helena was a big deal. Seven Confederate generals came from Helena, the most well known being Patrick Cleburne. My next posts will show the beautiful cemetery in Helena and some of the graves of those generals.
Preview – Horn: “The Siege of Petersburg”
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