Helena, AR

Date(s): July 4, 1863

Location: Please click on link below for map.

Helena, Arkansas, United States

Campaign(s): Grant’s Operations against Vicksburg [1863]

Battles in Campaign:


  • Maj. Gen. Benjamin M. Prentiss, in command of the District of Eastern Arkansas, was headquartered at Helena with approximately 20,000 troops.

  • Brig. Gen. Frederick C. Salomon had been placed in charge of the forces manning the defenses of Helena, a Mississippi River port town at the terminus of Crowley's Ridge and was ringed by steep hills cut by heavily thicketed ravines.

  • Four artillery batteries with breastworks and rifle pits were placed in a semi-circle around the town.

  • In addition, the USS Tyler, a "timber-clad" gunboat was assigned to support Prentiss.

  • Right before the battle, a large number of troops were transferred to Vicksburg to strengthen the siege around that city. This transfer left only about 4,000 Union soldiers to protect the Federal enclave at Helena.

  • Lt. Gen. Theophilus H. Holmes, commander of the Confederate District of Arkansas, planned a coordinated attack from three sides on the formidable Federal fortifications surrounding Helena in order to relieve pressure on Vicksburg and to prevent Helena being used as a base to attack further into Arkansas.


  • Union: Maj. Gen. Benjamin Prentiss

  • Confederate: Lt. Gen. Theophilus H. Holmes

Principal Forces:

  • Union: District of Eastern Arkansas

  • Confederate: District of Arkansas


  • Lt. Gen. Theophilus Holmes’ Confederate troops attacked Helena in an attempt to relieve pressure on Vicksburg.

  • Holmes' forces captured some of the fortifications, however outmanned Union troops under Prentiss were able to repel them.

  • Helena continued as an important Union position in the Trans-Mississippi theater and was the base for the expedition that captured Little Rock.

Slide Presentation: None

Classification2: B


  • Union: 206

  • Confederate: 1,636

Results: Union Victory

Battlefield Websites:

Lodging and Restaurants: Arkansas Tourism

Recommended Resources:

1 National Park Service summary.

2 Classification:

  • A - having a decisive influence on a campaign and a direct impact on the course of the war

  • B - having a direct and decisive influence on their campaign

  • C - having observable influence on the outcome of a campaign

  • D - having a limited influence on the outcome of their campaign or operation but achieving or affecting important local objectives

3 Casualties are someone killed, injured, wounded, captured or missing.

Revised 03/22/2013