If you’re anywhere near Helena-West Helena on Saturday and you hear the sounds of cannons firing, don’t be alarmed!
On Saturday, beginning at 9 a.m., the city will host a variety of events tied to the announcement of their Civil War Interpretive Plan. A day of activities has been planned around the announcement of the interpretive plan that focuses on the town’s vast Civil War history. All events are free and open to the public.
The opening ceremonies will take place at 9 a.m. at the Helena River Park, located east of the Mississippi River levee in historic downtown Helena (signs will be posted and people will be located throughout the area directing visitors). The opening ceremonies will feature the 12th United States Colored Heavy Artillery of Camp Nelson, KY and Bankhead’s Battery, Company B, 1st Tennessee Light Artillery Regiment, CSA, of Memphis, TN. This is a great opportunity for people to experience the life of a Civil War soldier, both black and white. Soldiers will give demonstrations throughout the day.
At 9:30 a.m., Bankhead’s Battery, Company B, 1st Tennessee Light Artillery Regiment, CSA, will move to the Mississippi River levee in historic downtown Helena. Firing of the cannons of the two groups will take place every 30 minutes.
From 9:30 to 11 a.m., two historic Civil War homes will be open to the public. Estevan Hall, located at 653 S. Biscoe St., was built in the 1820s and used by the Union Army during the occupation of Helena. It is believed to be one of the oldest structures in Phillips County. The Moore-Hornor House, located at 323 Beech St., was built in 1859 and played a major part in the Battle of Helena. On that day, the backyard of the Moore-Hornor House became a battlefield. Graveyard Hill, which was the site of one of the bloodiest battles during the Battle of Helena, is located directly behind the house and slopes down to join the yard. During the skirmishes, Confederate forces were behind the Moore-Hornor House firing at the Gunboat Tyler, located to the east on the Mississippi River. During the chaos, two rifle shots went through the windows of the parlor, where they lodged in the sliding parlor doors. The bullet holes can still be seen in the doors today. Both houses are listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Refreshments will be served at both locations.
Beginning at 11 a.m., Joe and Maria Brent of Mudpuppy and Waterdog, Inc. will officially present the Civil War Helena Interpretative Plan at the Malco Theater, located at 422 Cherry Street in historic downtown Helena. Immediately following, Mark Christ of Arkansas Historic Preservation Program will provide an overview of the Arkansas Civil War Sesquicentennial Commission and show a short film focusing on the statewide celebrations slated to begin in 2011. Robert L. Bell, vice president of the United States Colored Troops Living History Association and a member of the Reactivated 12th Regiment: United States Colored Heavy Artillery, will speak on the role of African American soldiers in the Battle of Helena. All presentations will be held at the Malco Theater, 422 Cherry St., in downtown Helena.
At noon, Jack Myers, Delta Cultural Center education coordinator, will make a presentation on the gunboat USS Tyler at the Delta Cultural Center Visitors Center, located at 141 Cherry St. The timberclad was on the river near Helena during the Battle of Helena on July 4, 1863. After the battle at Helena, the gunboat was moved to the White River, where she would patrol for virtually the remainder of the conflict. The Tyler also played a major part in the rescue efforts of the SS Sultana, a steamboat carrying 2,400 passengers that exploded near Marion, AR, on April 27, 1865. Many of the nearly 1,800 passengers who perished were Union soldiers and former P.O.W.’s. The Sultana accident became America’s greatest maritime disaster.
The day’s activities will conclude with the opportunity for visits to historic Helena’s other Civil War-related attractions. The Helena Confederate Cemetery, located within Maple Hill Cemetery on North Holly Street in historic Helena, was established in 1869 and is the final resting place for many Confederate soldiers who died or fought in the Battle of Helena. Confederate major general Patrick Cleburne, who died at the Battle of Franklin in 1864, was re-interred in the cemetery in 1870. In 2004, the remains of six Confederate soldiers were found at Helena’s Battery D. The soldiers, who died during the Battle of Helena, were believed to be members of General James F. Fagan’s Division. Confederate General Thomas Hindman is buried in Maple Hill Cemetery, just below the Confederate Cemetery. The Phillips County Museum, located at 623 Pecan St., offers a variety of Civil War-related artifacts from the seven Confederate generals from Phillips County, including the bullet that mortally wounded General Hindman in 1868. The museum also features a detailed diorama of the Battle of Helena. The Delta Cultural Center Depot’s second floor is dedicated to Helena and Phillips County’s Civil War history, including detailed maps of the Battle of Helena, a variety of artifacts, and a model of the USS Tyler. The Helena Confederate Cemetery and the Phillips County Museum will be open to visitors until 4 p.m. The Delta Cultural Center Depot and the Delta Cultural Center Visitors Center, located at 141 Cherry St., will be open until 5 p.m.
For More Information
To learn more about the July 18 Civil War activities in historic Helena, visit www.deltaculturalcenter.com/calendar/ or contact the Phillips County Chamber of Commerce at 870-338-8327. All events are free and open to the public. To read the entire media release on the historic Helena Civil War event, click here.