Uninformed Helena-West Helena and Phillips County residents just might mistake this Memorial Day weekend for the Fourth of Day as the sounds of gunshots from the reenactment of The Battle of Helena resonate throughout the community. The event will mark the 150th anniversary of the historical event, which in reality took place on the Fourth of July 1863.
Beginning this Friday (May 24), the Arkansas Civil War Commission, Delta Cultural Center and the Helena Advertising and Promotion Commission are sponsoring a three-day commemoration of the Battle of Helena.
“The Battle of Helena, fought on July 4, 1863 was one of the key battles of the war in Arkansas,” said Tom Dupree, ACWSC chairman. “This commemoration will honor the bravery of the soldiers who fought here and give visitors an idea of the events of that tragic day while highlighting the many historic resources available in Helena.”
The event will feature two battle re-enactments, a series of lectures, tours of historic properties, musical performances, living history demonstrations and vendors.
According to historical accounts, the Battle of Helena began at dawn. It was a brief battle that ended around 11 a.m. Some coordination issues doomed the Confederate attack on the Union-occupied Helena. The union remained in control of the city following the battle.
Most Helena residents are familiar with the history of the battle but the rest of Arkansas and the country are not. The Battle of Helena was overshadowed by a couple of other battles on that date – Vicksburg and Gettysburg. Helena historians hope the re-enactment will help spread the word about a piece of history in east Arkansas.
The event is expected to attract visitors from Kansas, Mississippi, Missouri and Texas as well as Arkansas. As many as 200 to 300 re-enactors are expected to participate and as many as 300 living history participants also will be involved in the activities.
Visitors will be able to get a glimpse of the camp life of Civil War soldiers, ask questions of the re-enactors and witness actual artillery demonstrations.
Here is a schedule of events:
Friday, May 24: Spectators are encouraged to visit the camps during the day.
All Day – Re-enactor, artillery and vendor set up
9 a.m. to 5 p.m. – Participant registration open at Delta Cultural Center Depot
Noon to 7 p.m. – Vendors open at Cherry Street Pavilion
Noon to 5 p.m. – Moore-Hornor Home open for tours
Noon to Sunset – Camps open for visitors
5 p.m. – After-hours viewing of “Lincoln: The Constitution and the Civil War Exhibit”
7 p.m. – Battle briefing at Beth El Heritage Hall (Open to re-enactors and the public)
Saturday, May 25: Designated areas will be provided for viewing the assault on Fort Curtis. Some activities are restricted to registered re-enactors only. Spectators will hear distant gunfire moving closer to the town as the morning progresses and the activity nears the fort.
Page 2 of 2 - Battle of Helena re-enactment event:
9 a.m. to sunset – Camps open for visitors
8 a.m. to 10 a.m. – Participant registration open at the DCC depot
9 a.m. to noon – Moore-Hornor Home open for re-enactment tours
Living history and Civil War hospital interpretation
9 a.m. – Confederate Army begins march through Crowley's Ridge toward Helena
9 a.m. to 11 p.m. – Skirmish atop the ridge road toward Battery C
10 a.m. to 9 p.m. – Vendors open at Cherry Street Pavilion
10 a.m. – First shots of Battle of Helena (Confederates start driving in Federal pickets)
11 a.m. to 1 p.m. – Spectators witness the Battle of Helena 150 reenactment at designated viewing area near Fort Curtis
11 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. – Skirmish on historic Battery C
11:30 a.m. to noon – Attack on Battery C and Fort Curtis (Federal retreat from Battery C to Fort Curtis – Confederates pursue
Noon to 5 p.m. – Moore-Hornor Home open for regular tours
Noon to 1 p.m. – Final charge onto Fort Curtis
1 p.m. – Battle of Helena reenactment concludes
3 to 7 p.m. – Artillery training in Fort Curtis ( Registered re-enactors only)
Battle of Helena 150 lectures:
The reenactment will be followed by a series of Civil War lectures at Beth El Heritage Hall, 406 Perry Street in Historic Downtown Helena. The lectures are free and open to the public
2 p.m. – Music by Harmony
3 p.m. – Dynan Bohnert: “Food and Medicine of the Civil War and Before”
4 p.m. – Mark Christ: “The Battle of Helena”
5 p.m. – Music by Harmony
6 p.m. – Jack Myers: U.S.S. Tyler”
Downtown evening events: Spectators are encouraged to attend the artillery demonstration and free outdoor concert.
Sunset – Artillery demonstration on levee near Cherry Street Pavilion
8:30 p.m. – Civil War concert and dance at the Cherry Street Pavilion
The Battle of Helena re-enactment is part of Arkansas Heritage Month during the month of May.