Key facts about the Battle of Helena.
Date and Location
- July 4, 1863
- Phillips County, Arkansas
Principal Union Commanders
- Major General Benjamin Prentiss
Principal Confederate Commanders
- Lieutenant General Theophilus Holmes
- Major General Sterling Price
- Brigadier General John S. Marmaduke
Union Forces Engaged
- Union garrison at Helena
Confederate Forces Engaged
- Combined forces from the District of Arkansas
Number of Union Soldiers Engaged
- Roughly 4,000
Number of Confederate Soldiers Engaged
- Roughly 7,000
Estimated Union Casualties
- 239 (killed, wounded, captured/missing)
Estimated Confederate Casualties
- 1,696 (killed, wounded, captured/missing)
- Union victory
- Following the Union victory at the Battle of Pea Ridge (March 6–8, 1862), Federal troops occupied Helena, Arkansas, on July 12, 1862.
- Located on the west bank of the Mississippi River, between Memphis, Tennessee, and Vicksburg, Mississippi, Helena, Arkansas served as a Union base of operations during Major General Ulysses S. Grant’s Vicksburg Campaign in 1863.
- In 1863, the size of the Federal garrison at Helena swelled to roughly 20,000 soldiers before being reduced to about 4,000 men.
- On June 18, 1863, Lieutenant General Theophilus Holmes, commander of the Confederate District of Arkansas, met with Major General Sterling Price, his field commander, and Brigadier General John S. Marmaduke to develop plans to wrest Helena from Union control.
- The three-pronged Confederate plan of attack against Helena called for Price’s 3,000 infantrymen to attack from the west, Marmaduke’s 2,780 cavalry troopers to advance from the north, and Brigadier General James Fagan to lead a column of 1,770-foot soldiers from Little Rock and approach Helena from the south.
- Inclement weather delayed the Confederate assault against Helena from late June to early July 1863.
- On July 3, 1863, the Confederate leaders held a final council of war where they agreed that the coordinated attack would begin at “daybreak” the next morning.
- Misunderstandings about the term “daybreak” caused the Confederate assault on Helena to be disjointed.
- By 10:30 a.m., on July 4, 1863, Lieutenant General Theophilus Holmes determined that the Confederate attack on Helena had failed and signaled a retreat.
- The failed attempt to capture Helena was the last major Confederate offensive launched in Arkansas during the war.
- The Union victory at the Battle of Helena remains relatively obscure because it shares the date—July 4, 1863—with the surrender of Vicksburg, and with the beginning of Robert E. Lee’s withdrawal from Pennsylvania following the pivotal Union victory at the Battle of Gettysburg the previous day.
Timeline of the Vicksburg Campaign
These are the main battles and events of the Vicksburg Campaign in order.
- December 26–29, 1862 — Battle of Chickasaw Bayou
- February 3–April 8, 1863 — Yazoo Pass Expedition
- March 11–18, 1863 — Battle of Fort Pemberton
- April 29, 1863 — Battle of Grand Gulf
- May 1, 1863 — Battle of Port Gibson
- May 12, 1863 — Battle of Raymond
- May 14, 1863 — Battle of Jackson
- May 16, 1863 — Battle of Champion Hill
- May 17, 1863 — Battle of Big Black River Bridge
- May 25–July 4, 1863 — Siege of Vicksburg
- July 4, 1863 — Surrender at Vicksburg
- July 4, 1863 — Battle of Helena