At exactly 9:30 a.m. on July 4, 2013 cannon shots rang out from the new Fort Curtis in historic Helena.
“At exactly this moment 150 years ago, the first cannon shots were fired upon surging confederate troops,” commented re-enactor Ron Kelley, representing the 33rd Missouri unit of union troops. “And the Battle of Helena was underway.”
The cannon demonstration was part of several activities scheduled this Fourth of July to commemorate the battle of Helena, which left 239 Union soldiers dead and 1,614 Confederate casualties. The Union victory secured Helena and helped them gain control of transportation up and down the Mississippi River.
The day began with a first light viewing at Confederate Memorial Park at 4:30 a.m. This was in observance of the actual start of the battle, which was beset with confusion as to different interpretations of the attack at 'daylight” order.
Other activities during the day included an open house at the Moore-Hornor home, which included a tour and a slide presentation of the re-enactment of The Battle of Helena. Afternoon events included an opportunity for children to make bullets using coffee instead of gunpowder.
The events concluded with a presentation of the inspirational film “The Light of Freedom.”
Kelley also announced that Helena will become a Civil War training ground for living historians and re-enactors of all ages each Sunday during the months of July, August and September. All events, said Kelley, are family friendly and are free to participants and spectators.
During the summer months, the programs will be held from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. in or near Fort Curtis. When the weather cools, the programs will switch to 2 to 4 p.m.
The first Sunday of each month will focus on artillery training. Artillery instruction will take place at Confederate Memorial Park. On the second Sunday of each month, training will center on infantry drill and tactics. Muskets will be provided for the training. This training also will take place at Confederate Memorial Park. Please bring a campstool or lawn chair and bottled water.
The Civil War signal corps will take center stage on the third Sunday of each month. This includes the use of telegraphy and signal flags during Civil War combat. This is the only signal corps organization in Arkansas. Training will take place in Confederate Memorial Park.
Interpreting Civil War sites in Helena will take place on the fourth Sunday of each month. These sessions will be held at different Helena sites. Sessions will begin at 9 a.m. at Fort Curtis.
Those interested in attending any or all of the sessions should firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling Kelley at 870-572-0079.