The St. Charles Massacre
First a little history. The largest building in Pocahontas during the American Civil War was the two-story St. Charles Hotel, which occupied two-thirds of the east side of the town square. The St. Charles was the most famous hotel in northeast Arkansas. In 1862 it had been headquarters for all Confederate troops west of the Mississippi River. In 1863 its owner, William Evans, army recruiter for NE Arkansas, was assassinated in the lobby of the hotel.
That same year, Confederate General Jeff Thompson, known as the “Missouri Swamp Fox”, was captured at the hotel along with several prominent local Confederates. Later in 1863, most of downtown Pocahontas was burned by Union soldiers—but not the St. Charles. They saved the hotel so it could serve as Union Headquarters. It was still Union Headquarters in April, 1865 when a group of Confederate soldiers rode up to the hotel on horses.
The Civil War had just ended. The soldiers were part of the Arkansas 7th Infantry Brigade, Shaver’s Corps—known far and wide as the ‘Bloody Seventh’. Made up primarily of Randolph County men, the Seventh earned their nickname by routing the Yankees at the Battle of Shiloh. After fighting for almost five years in Arkansas and in Tennessee, they were returning from central Tennessee where they’d fought the bloody Battle of Franklin weeks earlier.
With the war finally over; they rode hundreds of miles to get back home. They came to Union Headquarters at the St. Charles Hotel to surrender and get back to their homes and families.
The men rode up, dismounted, and started to go into the hotel lobby. Before reaching the door the Union soldiers inside opened fire from the lobby and the hotel windows on the second floor. The soldiers inside said later they didn’t know the rebels had come to surrender—they thought it was an attack.
All the rebels fell shot on Bettis Street right in front of the St. Charles. Seven were killed immediately. Two more were wounded but lived. It was the bloodiest scene ever seen in Pocahontas.
The photo below shows the old St. Charles in later years, before it burned, along with the brick wing on the right end of the hotel, which remains as The St. Charles B&B. Click the photo to enlarge it for a clear view.