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Helena

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Lt. Gen. Theophilus Holmes, Confederate commander in Arkansas, sought to relieve Union pressure on Vicksburg, Mississippi as the army of Maj. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant besieged that strategic city. Holmes won approval for a plan to assault the Union-held river town of Helena, Arkansas, 170 miles north of Vicksburg, with a combined force of about 7,600 men. About 4,000 Union soldiers were in Helena under the command of Maj. Gen. Benjamin Prentiss. Four artillery batteries defended the town, surrounded on the land sides by breastworks and rifle pits. Steep hills faced the town on three sides. Holmes planned three attacks against the town's defenses: the largest, main attack from the west and other attacks from the north and south to immobilize possible Union reinforcements. Early on the morning of July 4th, Holmes's columns struck the Federal defenses. The north and south attacks were not coordinated well and failed due to poor timing, bad communications between the attacking elements and lack of artillery support. In the center, the main attack column struck the Union artillery position on Graveyard Hill and achieved a breakthrough. Union defenders from other parts of the line pushed the attackers back and sealed the breach. By 11:00am the fighting was over and the Confederates withdrew. Helena continued to be an important Union post in the Trans-Mississippi theater and served as a base for the expedition that captured Little Rock, Arkansas later in 1863.

Battle Facts

Result

Union Victory
COMMANDERS
Forces Engaged
11,775

Union

4,129

Confederate

7,646
Total Estimated Casualties
1,842

Union

206

Confederate

1,636