This episode of Pocahontas and the Civil War tells the story of the capture of Confederate General Jeff Thompson, known as “The Swamp Fox of the Confederacy”, in the St. Charles Hotel in downtown Pocahontas. This is the report of Colonel Richard Woodson, who ordered the capture. A future blog post will offer the amazing first hand report of Captain H. C. Gentry, who actually carried out the capture of General Thompson.
AUGUST 17-26, 1863
Expeditions from Cape Girardeau and Pilot Knob, Mo., to Pocahontas, Ark.
Report of Colonel Richard G. Woodson, Third Missouri State Militia Cavalry.
SIR: In obedience to orders from Colonel Livingston, of August 17th (he then commanding the post of Pilot Knob), I moved with a detachment of my regiment from this point on August 18th for Greenville, to form a junction with a battalion from Cape Girardeau. I arrived at Greenville at noon on the 20th, and had to remain there till the evening of the 21st for the troops from the Cape, when they joined me on the marching on Thursday, the 22nd.
I moved with the whole force, about 600 strong, for Pocahontas, by as rapid marches as the extreme heat of the weather and the condition of my stock would permit, and arrived at Pocahontas, Ark., on Saturday evening, August 24th. When I was within 4 miles of Pocahontas, I ascertained that Brigadier General Jeff Thompson was there with little or no forces.
My column was then scattered over several miles, from the extreme rapidity of my march. Being very desirous to capture him, and knowing that I had to act with promptness or fail in that object, I ordered Captain [H. C.] Gentry, of the Second Missouri State Militia Cavalry, to move toward with all possible dispatch, with the advance, and surprise and capture the general, and that I would support him as soon as I could get the column up.
So thoroughly and efficiently did Captain Gentry obey this order that General Thompson, sitting quietly in his office, and having a map of Southeastern Missouri, as he though, in absolute security, had no idea of any Federal force within 100 miles of him, until Captain Gentry, having occupied all the passes out of town, rode up to the window of the office and demanded General Thompson. [General Thompson’s headquarters office was on the ground floor of the St. Charles Hotel on the Pocahontas court square.]
Captain Gentry deserves the highest credit for this capture, it depending mainly, if not entirely, upon his promptness and efficiency in obeying my order move forward of the column and surprise him. I remained in Pocahontas about six hours.