A Civil War Biography
Lewis Baldwin Parsons
Parsons was born 5 April 1818 in Perry, New York. He was educated in
the local schools and for two years taught in the country schools.
He entered Yale and graduated in 1840. He then attended Harvard Law
School graduating from there in 1844. He then moved to Alton,
Illinois where he established a law practice. He served as city
attorney from 1846 until 1849. In 1854 he moved to St. Louis and
went to work for the Ohio and Mississippi Railroad of which he
eventually became president.
When the war started Parsons volunteered as an aide to Francis Blair
Jr. Parsons participated in the capture of Camp Jackson, Missouri.
George McClelland procured Parsons a commission as a captain and
assigned him to the quartermaster corps. Although he sought field
command Parsons remained in administrative noncombatant duties
throughout the war. In December he was placed in command of river
and rail transportation in the Department of the Mississippi. In
February 1862 he was promoted to colonel and assigned as a aide to
Henry Halleck. Parsons also remained in charge of transportation in
the West until 1864 when he was sent to Washington and given command
of all transportation for the Union armies. He was promoted to
brigadier general on 11 May 1865 and was brevetted major general 0n
30 April 1866, the day he mustered out of the army having remained
to see to the transportation needs of the discharged soldiers.
Following the war Parsons traveled abroad for two years then
returned to St. Louis in 1869. He founded Parsons College in
Fairfield, Iowa in 1875 hoping to establish the Harvard of the West.
He bought a farm in Flora, Illinois and worked as an executive in
the railroad business. He ran unsuccessfully as a Democrat for
lieutenant governor of Illinois in 1880. Parsons died 16 March 1907
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