The gunboat U.S.S. Tyler gave the Union defenders a decided advantage in the
Battle of Helena. Her captain could move the gunboat and its heavy artillery
where it was needed most, and that is exactly what he did.
Pritchett Exploits the Tyler's Impressive Firepower
The U.S.S. Tyler arrived in Helena on July 2, 1863. When the battle
opened along the lower Little Rock Road south of Battery C two days
later, the Tyler's big guns silenced the Confederate artillery firing on
the Union troops east of Battery D.
As the battle raged, Lieutenant Commander James M. Pritchett moved the Tyler up and down the Mississippi, to wherever she could be most useful. When the Confederates captured Battery C, the gunboat turned her impressive firepower on the gray-clad soldiers on the ridge. When the Confederates ran down
Graveyard Hill to attack Fort Curtis, Pritchett redirected the Tyler's fire.
The Tyler's Fire is Awful in its Effect
A Union naval officer recalled the gruesome result. "The slaughter of the
enemy at times was terrible, and all unite in describing the horrors of that
hillside, and the ravines after the battle, as baffling description, the killed
literally torn to pieces by shell, and the
avenging fire of the gunboat..."
When the Confederates attacking Fort Curtis fell back, the Tyler again
turned her guns on Battery C. The Confederate offensive broke and the
Union troops regained the battery in no small part due to the Tyler's
support. The Secretary of the Navy, Gideon Wells, later presented a
commendation to Lieutenant Commander Pritchett for his actions during
the Battle of Helena.
"The slaughter of the enemy at times was terrible, and
all unite in describing the horrors of that hillside, and
the ravines after the battle, as baffling description..."
Lieutenant Commander James M. Pritchett