Mississippi and starve the enemy out at Vicksburg. Oh, we enjoyed the prospect, for we outnumbered the garrison at Helena two to one. The city of Helena lies in the lowlands on the Arkansas shore. Its water front was guarded by the gunboat dyler, famous at Forts Henry and Donelson. On the land side there was an unbroken chain of fortifications extending from the river bank above the town to the bank below. The western front of the city was about half a mile in length and just outside the limits, nearly opposite the centre, was a heavy earthwork, mounting siege guns. I give you these details to show that the contract was a good-sized one. Yet there was a heap in our favor. The Yankees had but 4,000 men in Helena, and although they had plenty of cannon they lacked the trained artillerists to handle them. The gunners that day were green hands detailed from the 33d Missouri Infantry, and the way they handled the pieces made us wish we had met another kind. But we knew very little of the actual situation until we struck it all of a sudden about daylight on Independence Day. Our three columns, Marmaduke's, Price's, and Fagan's, told off in storming parties and reserves, moved against the batteries and intrenchments lying across our paths. There were six roads from the interior to the town, and the defenders, being ignorant as to the particular one or ones we would use, were compelled to watch them all. Our brigade attempted to take along some field artillery, but about a mile out from the lines we found the road obstructed, and on both sides of it the country was cut up into ravines, making it impassible for cannon. Our officers were obliged to dismount and leave the horses behind, and our men, with free use of limb, barely made their way through the labyrinth of obstructions in time to meet the engagement. We were the first to open the ball, and as soon as the straggling line could pull itself together it moved forward in battle order. Here a gorge intervened; there a steep hillside loomed before us, and the thicket and trenches in front were alive with sharpshooting riflemen. The three regiments of the brigade charged on both sides of the road, and soon after daylight had carried four lines of rifle pits. But there had been no attack at any other point. The day was frightfully hot, and our poor fellows soon began to drop from heat and exhaustion as well as from Yankee bullets. The guns on Graveyard Hill were abreast of us, and poured their shots among our scattered men. It was with relief that we saw Price's line march to the assault of that battery, and as they did so we rallied for one more
This text is part of:
Table of Contents:
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License.