Our 45th Year
FOR THE MEETING TUESDAY, OCTOBER 27, 2009
Meets Fourth Tuesday; January-November
Founded March 1964
Second Presbyterian Church
600 Pleasant Valley Drive
Program at 7 p.m.
Jan Sarna, President
Rick Meadows, Editor
RMeadows@aaamissouri.com / email@example.com
Dues $20 Per Year
VISIT THE BATTLEFIELDS WHEN YOU CAN...
WHILE YOU CAN
The Battle of Helena
Community Outreach Director for the Arkansas Historic
Preservation Program, will be our featured speaker. A
frequent speaker at our Roundtable, his talk Tuesday
will be about the Battle of Helena, which occurred on
July 4, 1863. Discussion will focus on what the Union
did right and what the Confederates did wrong.
A native of Indiana,
Christ graduated from the University of Arkansas at
Little Rock in 1982. After working as a journalist
with the Commercial Appeal in Memphis and the Arkansas
Gazette, Christ returned to college and earned his
Master’s Degree from the University of Oklahoma in
2000. His thesis was on the Little Rock Campaign of
1863. Christ lives in Little Rock with his wife and
two children. Since 1990 Christ has worked for the
Arkansas Historic Preservation Program.
He has authored or
edited several books, which include:
Rugged and Sublime
Getting Used to Being Shot at:
The Spence Family Civil War Letters
All Cut to Pieces and Gone to
The Earth Shook and Trees
Trembled: Civil War Arkansas, 1863-1864
Sentinels of History:
Reflections on Arkansas Properties on the National
Register of Historic Places
Christ’s new work,
Civil War Arkansas, 1863: The Battle For a State,
will be published in 2010 by the University of
Battles on July 4th
Most Civil War
historians can name Gettysburg and Vicksburg as
critical campaigns that culminated in 1863 on July 4th
with Federal victories. Lee and the Army of Northern
Virginia were forced to return across the Potomac
River. In Mississippi, the surrender of Vicksburg soon
would grant Federal complete access to the Mississippi
River. Forgotten often is the critical Battle of
In June, Confederate
Generals Theophilus Holmes and Sterling Price met to
discuss a plan to regain control of Helena, which
Federal troops used to control trade and communication
in Southeast Arkansas. In addition, it was hoped that
action at Helena might relieve pressure on the
besieged city of Vicksburg which is located 230 miles
downstream. If a substantial number of Federal troops
would transfer north, perhaps Pemberton could break
out or Joseph E. Johnston could find a way to fight
through the siege lines at Vicksburg and bring relief
to the garrison and civilians of the town. As we heard
early this year from our friend Terry Winschel,
historian at the Vicksburg National Battlefield,
Johnston would not come to their assistance and was
quoted saying, “I am too late.” Three campaigns that
turned the tide that led to Federal victory.
Tom DeBlack writes,
“The Confederate plan called for Price’s infantry and
General John S. Marmaduke’s cavalry to move from
Jacksonport to the vicinity of Helena, where they
would unite with forces from Little Rock under the
command of Brig. Gen. James Fagan. Holmes would travel
from Little Rock, accompanied by Gov. Harris Flanagin,
to take personal command of the attack.” (PG 75
Rugged and Sublime). Could this be the
Confederate’s first tactical mistake?
Waiting among the
hills and ravines of the southern tip of Crowley’s
Ridge were Federal troops under the command of
Benjamin Mayberry Prentiss, a veteran of Shiloh. By
late June, Prentiss had his men fell trees on the
roads leading to Helena and had them on their posts by
2:30 A.M. DeBlack continues, “The town’s principal
defense was Fort Curtis, an earthen bastion on the
western edge of town. (high point downtown and away
from the low land near the river’s edge which was
prone to flooding.) To supplement this position,
Prentiss placed four batteries, protected by
breastworks and rifle pits, on four hills that formed
a rough semicircle around the town. He designated
these batteries, north to south, as A, B, C, and D.
Additional firepower was provided by the U.S.S.
Tyler, a paddlewheel steamer 180 feet long and 42
feet wide anchored off the river bank. The Tyler
was armed with one thirty-pound Parrott gun and six
eight-inch smoothbore cannon. These defenses were
formidable.” (PG 79).
According to the
Official Records: Holmes orders “The attack on Helena
will be made to-morrow morning at daylight, and as
Price, in command of McRae’s and Parson’s brigades,
will proceed by the best route, assume position,
assault and take Graveyard Hill at daylight. (Battery
Gen Walker, with his cavalry brigade, will, in like
manner, proceed to the Sterling road, where he will
hold himself in position to resist any troops that may
approach Rightor Hill; and when that position is
captured, he will enter the town and act against the
enemy as circumstances may justify.
Gen Fagan will proceed by the best route, assume
position, and take the battery on Hindman’s Hill at
daylight. (Battery D)
Gen Marmaduke will proceed with his command by the
best route, assume position, and take Rightor Hill at
daylight.” (O.R.Series I. Vol. XXII. PG 409-410)
When was daylight?
To some it was first light and others sunrise. A
coordinated attack was doomed at daylight. Mark Christ
will expand on the battle and the preparation by both
Confederate and Federals generals. Issues such as
reconnaissance, communication, command and control
will be addressed.
What if Robert E.
Lee had adapted Longstreet’s plan at Gettysburg?
What if Joseph E.
Johnston had relieved Pemberton at Vicksburg?
What if Walker had
supported Marmaduke at Helena?
What if the
Confederates had actually attacked at the same time?
What if Holmes’
order was more detailed?
What if Prentiss
hadn’t been prepared?
What if the Tyler
was at Vicksburg? (She inflicted many casualties
at Battery D)
Your editor spent 3
days early in October at Gettysburg on a tour led by
noted historian Ed Bearss. The Tour featured The
Second Day at Gettysburg. Friday night lecturers were
Jeff Wert, Dr. Richard Sauers and Dr. Mark Snell.
Saturday and Sunday were spent with Ed Bearss. On the
Confederate left, we walked with Gen. James Longstreet
on his Flank March. Dodging shot and shell, we stormed
Devil’s Den with the Third Arkansas. Without canteens
of refreshing water we stood with Col William Oates
and the 48th Alabama as they charged Little
Round Top only to be repulsed by Gen Joshua
Chamberlain and the 20th Maine.
On the Confederate
left, we struggled thru the timber with Gen Jubal
Early at Culp’s Hill. It was here that breastworks,
ordered by Brig Gen George S Greene, were first used
in the Civil War. Just as important as the stand made
by the 20th Maine, Col. David Ireland and
the 137th New York played an equal role in
saving the Federal right flank from being overwhelmed.
Bearss suggests that Ireland possibly would have been
as popular as Chamberlain if he had survived the war.
Unfortunately, he died of dysentery in 1864 during the
One final bit on
knowledge that I gained on this trip, I did not know
that the Confederate forces led by Gen Wright’s
Brigade of Georgians, almost accomplished what Lee
planned for the Third Day. After the Georgians crossed
the Emmitsburg Road, they captured two guns belonging
to Lt. Gulian Weir’s 5th US Battery just in
front of Cemetery Ridge. There was a gap in the
Federal lines! But without adequate support from
Posey, Wright’s attack stalled at 7:00 P.M. at a clump
of trees made famous the next day with Picket’s
Charge. What if…….?
information on Ed Bearss leading a tour to Vicksburg
in June 2010 by the Smithsonian Institute. Is anyone
ready for a short hike? Bearrs, who is in his mid
80’s, will put any tender foot to shame with his
Bill Meadows, myself (Rick Meadows), and Ed Bearss. In
the background in a small white house used by Meade
for his HQ.
Civil War Conference
Historic Ft. Negley
Park, one of the only remaining fortifications in
Nashville, will be the setting for the upcoming Civil
War Conference. This educational event will be held on
Saturday, November 21st from 8:30 A.M. to
4:30 P.M. The scheduled speakers are:
The Roots of the Civil War: How Our
Forefathers Passed the Buck
Storm Clouds on the Horizon: Nashville in the
Decade Before the Civil War
Spies, Scouts and Guerrillas: Irregular Warfare in
Finding Peace: Reconstructing Middle Tennessee
Appomattox: The Place of Lee’s Surrender and a
Cost is only $40. Payable to
BONPS, C/0 Ft. Negley Visitors Center
1100 Ft. Negley Blvd
Nashville, TN 37203
For additional information contact Gregg Biggs:
John Bell Hood
While in Nashville,
you may wish to visit the Carnton Plantation in
historic Franklin. The new Fleming Center hosts the
John Bell Hood Exhibit with features artifacts from
Confederate Gen. John Bell Hood, commander of the Army
of Tennessee in the Franklin-Nashville Campaign of
1864. The exhibit includes swords, his uniform, frock
coat, a saddle, documents, flags and more.
Meeting Room Change
We are hoping to
able to move our meeting room across the hall for
where we have been meeting. The new room is larger,
quieter, and has better lighting.
Wednesday, November 11, 7:00 p m - The Dilemma of
General Robert E. Lee portrayed by Al Stone
Al Stone will present a one-hour monologue on the
dilemma facing Lee in early 1861 as President Lincoln
asked him to lead the U.S. Army against the seceded
states of the newly-formed Confederacy. He will discuss
what led Lee to refuse the offer and join his native
NOTE: This program will occur at the Old State House
Museum in the 1836 House of
Representatives Chamber (the chamber from which
legislators voted to secede in May 1861). This event
is FREE, but seating is limited to 150 persons.
Call 501-324-8663 and make reservations.
Thursday, November 12, 5:00 - 7:00 p m - Preview
Reception for Lee
and Grant at the
Museum of Arkansas Military History
Join us for a preview of the exhibit and the chance to
mix and mingle with Generals Robert E. Lee and Ulysses
S. Grant , debate moderator Paul Greenberg, as well as
our program sponsors .
Tickets for this event
are $250 for one ticket admitting two persons
and include a heavy hors d'oeuvre reception,
full bar and reserved seating at the Lee/Grant debate
following the reception. This event is part of the
museum's biennial fundraiser.
Thursday, November 12, 7:30 - 8:30 p m
Lee and Grant Debate moderated by Paul Greenberg
was to be performed at the
Children's Theater at the Arkansas Arts Center but has been moved to
the Holiday Inn. This event is FREE
to the public, but seating is limited. Call
501-376-4602 to make reservations. NOTE: Reserved seats
for the debate are included in the price for admission
to the Lee and Grant reception.
Call the museum at 501-376-4602 and speak with
Stephan McAteer if you have any questions.
William Shea is coming
Our speaker for November’s meeting will be Dr.
William Shea from the University of Arkansas at
Monticello. His talk will be “What really happened at
Prairie Grove?” This talk is based on his new book:
Fields of Blood: The Prairie Grove Campaign published
by the University of North Carolina Press. Mark Tuesday,
November 24 on your calendar. Hope to see you this
Tuesday with Mark Christ and The Battle of Helena!