Civil War Helena

Helena’s unique history as an occupied Confederate city that became a refuge for freedom seekers, invites the exploration of the issues that defined the Civil War. It provides the opportunity to help students of all ages make a meaningful connection to the past and to foster an understanding of the war that changed our nation.

For generations, Helena’s Civil War history has focused on the seven Confederate generals from the town, most notably General Cleburne, and the July 1863 Battle of Helena. Three of these generals’ headstones can be viewed in Helena’s Maple Hill and Confederate Cemeteries. While this is an important part of the community’s history, in 2008 a Civil War Helena Interpretive Plan was developed that revealed that Helena had a much richer Civil War story than anyone had known.

The plan identified 25 sites throughout Helena that provided an opportunity for interpretation and exhibits. The community is currently in the process of developing all 25 sites, with 40 interpretive panels already in place throughout the downtown area at sites including Fort Curtis, a ¾ replica Union earthworks fort. These sites tell the stories of life under Union occupation, thousands of freed slaves, and the formation of United States Colored Troop regiments – in addition to continuing to tell about the Battle of Helena and the area’s Confederate generals.

Helena is one of the most compelling sites in the nation to learn about African American experiences during the war. General Curtis’ march from southern Missouri to Helena, Arkansas in 1862. Freedom Park is a site dedicated to interpreting these experiences and is the first location in Arkansas designated by the National Park Service as a National Underground Railroad Network to Freedom site.

160th Anniversary of the Battle of Helena

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  • Freedom Park

    Once the location of a Contraband camp, this park is dedicated to interpreting the African American experience during the war.…

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  • New Fort Curtis

    The original Fort Curtis was built soon after the Union army occupied Helena in 1862. New Fort Curtis allows visitors…

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  • Fort Curtis

    Reproduction of the Union Civil War fort in historic downtown Helena; a part of Helena’s Civil War multi-faceted heritage that…

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  • Statue of General Cleburne

    An outdoor exhibit featuring a life-size bronze describes Cleburne's life in Helena and the military career that ended tragically at…

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  • Battery D

    One of four earthen batteries erected by the Union army in 1862, it was attacked by the Confederates during the…

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  • Thad Kelly Courtyard

    Charming pocket park located on Cherry the footprint of building. Exhibits examine recruiting in Helena, why Freedmen chose to…

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  • Battery C

    One of four earthen batteries erected by the Union army in 1862. It briefly fell to the Confederates during the…

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  • Confederate Cemetery / Maple Hill Cemetery

    An exhibit near the Confederate Cemetery discusses seven high-ranking Confederate officers from Phillips County. Exhibits in the Confederate Cemetery interpret…

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  • Magnolia Cemetery

    This African American Cemetery was established before the Civil War. One of the first black Legislators of Arkansas, W. H.…

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