St. Charles Massacre – Part 2
I wrote a while back about the St. Charles Massacre, a story that has come down through the generations here from the end of the American Civil War. If you follow the link and read that prior post you’ll learn the local folk-lore of a group of seven rebels who, returning to this area just after the war ended, mistaken for warriors still on duty, were gunned down on Bettis Street by northern troops stationed inside the St. Charles Hotel, which was being used as Union headquarters at the time.
A couple of weeks ago Pocahontas Mayor and local history buff Frank Bigger and my brother Bill followed up a lead by driving to Cowan Cemetery, just north of Poplar Bluff, Missouri. Frank had heard that a marker there told the story of the men who were shot down in front of the St. Charles.
It seems the massacre story is true, although worse than a case of mistaken identity, and the bodies were transported to Cowan for burial after their death on the streets of Pocahontas. Apparently they were seven residents of southern Missouri. In the war Missouri was a border state. While they didn’t leave the Union, most of the southern half to the state, including seven young men from Cowan, sided with the Confederacy in the war.
Here’s my brother’s description of what they found in Missouri:
We understood from the History of Wayne County book that the victims were buried at Cowan Cemetery in Wayne County because they were from up there. We finally found the cemetery. It dates back to 1819. Near the center is a tall marble, four-sided monument. It has the names of seven men and their date of births on three sides. The fourth side had this inscription: “In memory of our brothers who were murdered in May 1865. Tied, blindfolded and shot by Union soldiers after they had surrendered.” They were ages 22 to 27 when they died. Beside the monument are seven small, old, unmarked headstones.
We figure there must be more to this than meets the eye. Surrendering soldiers surely weren’t shot, especially so near the end of the war (considered to have ended April 9, 1865, last shot, June 22, 1865). Maybe the Union forces were also from Wayne county and knew the Confederates? I seems an odd thing to happen.
The investigation will continue. Imagine. The streets of Pocahontas were dirt then. The blood of those men is still in that soil in front of my St. Charles, now protected by concrete and asphalt, but still there. A good CSI scientist could surely find it!