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Helena Confederate Cemetery

The Helena Confederate Cemetery is located in the southwestern corner of Maple Hill Cemetery in Helena-West Helena (Phillips County). The cemetery contains the graves of Confederate soldiers, two memorials, and the grave of Major General Patrick Cleburne. The cemetery lies on Crowley’s Ridge overlooking the downtown area of the city.

The cemetery was created in 1869 by the Phillips County Memorial Association when the bodies of seventy-three known and twenty-nine unnamed Confederate soldiers were moved into a one-acre portion of Maple Hill Cemetery. Most of these men died at the Battle of Helena on July 4, 1863, or from wounds shortly after. The body of Cleburne was moved to the cemetery and re-interred in 1870. A prewar resident of Helena, he was killed at the Battle of Franklin in Tennessee on November 30, 1864, and was originally buried in Ashwood, Tennessee.

After the initial interments were made, the Phillips County Memorial Association began to raise money for two monuments to be placed at the site. After years of fundraising, the association dedicated a monument in the cemetery to Cleburne in 1891. Known as the Cleburne Memorial, it is a marble shaft with a concrete base. The monument stands next to his grave and contains a mixture of Confederate and Irish symbols. It also lists a number of the battles in which Cleburne participated and offers some biographical information (including an incorrect birth date of March 17 rather than March 16, 1828). A monument to all of the soldiers in the cemetery was dedicated on Decoration Day in 1892. It is constructed from granite and is also a shaft. At the top of the pillar stands a marble statue of a Confederate soldier. Inscriptions on the monument list several battles in which Arkansas troops saw action during the war.

A number of former Confederate soldiers were buried in the cemetery after the war. The latest interments were made in 2005 when the remains of six Confederate soldiers uncovered near Battery D were re-interred. No Union soldiers are buried in the cemetery, as all of the bodies of the Federal soldiers who lost their lives in Helena during the war were transferred to national cemeteries in the 1860s and 1870s.

Each spring, a celebration of Cleburne and the other soldiers interred in the cemetery is held. The cemetery was added to the National Register of Historic Places on May 3, 1996.

For additional information:
Christ, Mark. “Helena Confederate Cemetery.” National Register of Historic Places registration form. On file at Arkansas Historic Preservation Program, Little Rock, Arkansas. Online at http://www.arkansaspreservation.com/National-Register-Listings/PDF/PH0200.nr.pdf (accessed September 27, 2017).

David Sesser
Henderson State University

Last Updated 9/27/2017

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