“It’s a part of the history and culture of Phillips County. ABATE and The Queen are hoping to spur interest in the preservation of a very important historical site,” said Wayne Webb ABATE member and owner of The Queen of Clubs.
Phillips County has a highly regarded history and a local effort to preserve some of that history is in full swing as Arkansas Bikers Aimed Towards Education (ABATE) and The Queen of Clubs continues its efforts to restore and preserve the Confederate Cemetery.
Wayne Webb, president of ABATE and owner of The Queen, says the group has worked diligently to achieve goals at the historic site such as clearing away brush for a straight view of the Mississippi River and the valleys surrounding Crowley’s Ridge. They have erected road signs leading to the site and installed concrete benches. Plans to blacktop the road leading to the cemetery are still a goal and funds generated by the group are close to the needed amount.
“It’s a part of the history and culture of Phillips County. ABATE and The Queen are hoping to spur interest in the preservation of a very important historical site,” said Webb.
Webb says that the younger generation may need a reminder about The Battle of Helena and the historical significance Phillips County played in molding the nation.
“If we don’t preserve the history in our area, we’ll lose it for future generations,” said Webb as he explained why he took on the project.
“It came to me in a prayer,” Webb said emotionally.
He said he was praying and the thought just came to him.
“Maybe it’s a message from God,” said Webb.
On July 4, 1863, troops attacked Union fortifications on Crowley’s Ridge hilltops overlooking roads leading into Helena from the north and west. The assault was a belated attempt to relieve Union pressure on Vicksburg by recapturing the Mississippi River town from Federal forces that had occupied Helena in July 1862. They were using it as a supply depot for the siege of Vicksburg. Around 7,600 confederate troops attempted a four-pronged attack against the 4,100 Federals troops in Helena.
The main effort was launched southwest of town by three brigades against Union batteries atop the steep slopes of Hindman Hill and Graveyard Hill. The Federal soldiers successfully defended the battery. Federal forces in Fort Curtis repulsed a frontal assault and at 10:30 a.m. a retreat was ordered. The Federals reoccupied Graveyard Hill as the Confederates fell back to the Alan Polk Farm about 5 miles outside of town, using the residence as a hospital. The Federal troops used the Moore-Hornor House in town as a hospital during and after the battle.
Ironically, on the same day that the Confederates launched their ill-fated attack on Helena, Vicksburg surrendered. Many of the Confederate soldiers that fell on July 4, 1863 are buried in the Confederate Cemetery along with one of the seven generals from Helena, Patrick Cleburne.
In 1993, The Civil War Sites Advisory Commission designated the Battle of Helena as one of the Civil War’s 384 principal battlefields. Helena and Phillips County has more sites on the historic registry than any other city or county in Arkansas and deserves the dedication and preservation efforts of the local community, says Webb.
Inmates from Brickeys State Prison worked side-by-side with Bo Quarter, overseer of the cemetery, to clean the brush back. Members of ABATE along with H&M Lumber, Spakes Signs and numerous individuals have dedicated their time and donations to see the project goals fulfilled, said Webb.
Webb said that the clean-up and restoration effort has been noticed and visitors are even placing flowers of the soldiers’ graves.
“We’re going 100 percent full and this isn’t going on the back burner. It’s been neglected long enough,” said Webb.