Sunday, July 1, 2007

Helena, Arkansas - July 4th, 1863

I thought it would be helpful to make an entry near the historical date of a battle so as to better remember the sacrifices of the 8th Missouri Cavalry. So in commemoration, in just a few days, on July 4th, 144 years ago, the 8th Missouri and other Confederate forces under supervision of General Holmes and General Price, suffered at great and crippling defeat in Helena, Arkansas.

For a pretty good narrative of the battle, check out this link: Just make sure you scroll down the page a bit for the account of the battle.

One of the neat quotes in this story demonstrates the sentiments of a Confederate officer that was badly wounded that day.

Years later, a Confederate officer who had lost both hands on Graveyard Hill to a shell from the Tyler wrote, "Since that day at Helena I tell the boys I would rather buck against a voodoo than to try to down Old Glory on the Fourth of July... Yes, the union is good enough for me on the Fourth of July and every other day in the year, and I don't regret the price I paid for finding out!"

Strong words from that veteran. Surely it is a lesson we all can learn, but hopefully keep all our body parts intact in the process!

Here are some quotes of some Union soldiers who surveyed the damage later that day.

A Wisconsin soldier who visited the area around Graveyard Hill shortly after the battle wrote, "The battlefield is no pleasant place to visit, covered with men wounded in all ways-some with brains exposed, others shot through the body with grape shot, or a larger ball still sufficient to nearly cut the body in twain. But if there is anything that calls on the sympathy of a man it is to look upon a wounded man, with deathlike and pale face, groaning and wreathing with the greatest possible pain." Another Wisconsin soldier wrote to his father, "[J]ust to see the rebels lying in piles where they charged up the hill. it was awful. I never want to spend another such a Fourth of July."


Nathaniel said...

Yep, wasn't exactly a good week for the Confederacy.

CSA Brent said...

Yea, it pretty much sealed the deal. It was shear guts at the point for the next year and half or so, for the Confederacy. I think it demonstrates the will of the average American when they get behind something they believe.

CSA Brent said...

I mean Gettysburg, Vicksburg and Helena battle losses...

Anonymous said...

Pictures displaying this type of carnage makes one wonder how any educated, sane person could ever suggest that the War Between the States was fought over slavery. Would these men have willingly died like this to preserve slavery? I don't believe that assertion. A higher cause had to be the guiding light for these men. Great story and link though.

Anonymous said...

Of course the Civil War was fought over slavery. Even the Secessionist Commissioners said in their declaration of secession "We are thoroughly identified with the institution of slavery". The book Apostles of Disunion by Charles B. Dew explains it all if you want to know more.

CSA Brent said...

Hello there Anonymous! Thanks for the post. I see your name on the blog sites a lot across the vast internet. You must be quite busy!

I respectfully submit that your quote is taken out of context. If for no other, Pres. Lincoln stated all along up through 1864 that slavery would be allowed to continue if only the states who seceded would return to the Union.

To be 'thoroughly identified with the institution of slavery' does not mean that the "Civil War was fought over slavery".

Another fact that shoots the idea behind your comment down that men from northern states fought to free slaves and that men from southern states fought to keep the black man in chains...well, to put it simply, read a short book called "What They Fought For" by James M. McPherson. It is based on analysis of actual letters from men of all ranks and all regions during the War. It has direct quotes of them that fought and died in that day - free of times' tarnishing powers.

Long story short, most men, on either side, were NOT motivated by slavery, one way or the other, to fight and die. They fought to preserve the rights of their families and the protection of homes & property.

Basically, this is the same thing that drives men today to fight in defense of their nation. While the plight of others ifrom other nations does stir the soul, at the end of the day, men and women serve the Nation today to protect the American way of life and their families.

We are not so different today from our ancestors. And while your comment has truth in it regarding the political scene of the day, it does not do justice to the view of the fighting man of that day. Hence, the sentiment in my father's comment.

Thanks again for your comment. It is good to debate these things as this is one of the purposes of this blog.

Unknown said...

I have been doing my husbands genealogy and found that one of his great great uncles lost his life at the Battle of Helena on that the 4th of July. He is buried in Knoxville Iowa, and his name was William F McKern. a few years ago we went to Helena to check it out. The emotions flew high. I only wish we could have found a photo of him to add to the images I already have.

Civil War was to unite the states, thus The United States. Slavery was a way to make it happen.

CSA Brent said...


Thanks for the comments. I'd very much like to visit Helena myself. I've been to Gettysburg and Vicksburg, but not Helena. I'll get there some day. I'm glad you got to visit an area where your ancestor fought for his rights (whether Union or Confederate).

Yes, the issue of slavery rights was central to the cause of the Civil War. I think anyone who honestly studies history can see that this concept was deeply rooted in political power. And again, if they are being honest will note that the Union army was not meant to free slaves, nor was the Confederate army organized to preserve slavery. But indeed, slavery as it applied to political power was the cause of the split and then the move of the United States of America to send an invasion force of troops into those sovereign states who citizens chose to secede from the prior agreement of ratification of the Constitution of united States of America.