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[180] General Smith gave his assert in a Caesarian dispatch, dated June 16, 1863: ‘Most certainly do it.’

General Holmes believed he could take it. Like another noble visionary, he would have accepted any challenge of emulation. He made investigations and based his opinion upon ‘information considered reliable,’ but he afterward confessed, ‘The place was very much more difficult of access and the fortification much stronger than I had supposed before undertaking the expedition, the features of the country being peculiarly adapted to defense, and all that the art of engineering could do having been brought to bear to strengthen it. The fortification consisted of one regular work heavily armed with siege guns, and four strong redoubts mounted with field pieces and protected by rifle-pits on suburban hills.’ This latter information he did not have when it might have been useful. He does not mention the gunboat Tyler, which lay in the Mississippi, opposite Hindman hill, the commander of which had surveyed the works and calculated his range to assist in defending them.

The Mississippi river, the main channel of which is more than two miles wide at Helena, runs south in front of the place, originally built on the west brink of the river. The town had grown gradually to extend back upon the uneven and elevated ridge of land known as Crowley's ridge, which, at its southern extremity, the great river cuts here, and was easily fortified against a force coming from the west. The ridge is broken into many elevations (with deep ravines between), and upon these had been constructed the breastworks and fort described by General Holmes. The heavy timber of the western slope of the ridge had been cut down to blockade the road and form an impregnable abattis for miles. A road, called the Sterling road, ran from the north, a little back from the river, into town, upon a lower plateau, above which frowned Fort Curtis. A little southwest of this fort was Graveyard hill, upon which the

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