A Civil War Biography

Mosby Monroe Parsons

Parsons, the son of Thomas Jefferson's last personal secretary, was born 21 May 1822 in Charlottesville, Virginia. When Parsons was 13 the family moved to Cooper County, Missouri. By 1840 they had moved to Jefferson City, Missouri where his father established a brickyard. Mosby Parsons worked in the brickyard to finance his education at St. Charles College. He also studied law with Judge James W. Morrow and was admitted to the Missouri bar in 1846. With war looming with Mexico Parsons raised a volunteer company, the Cole County Dragoons, of which he was captain. The company became Company F, 1st Missouri Mounted Volunteers and took part in the Sante Fe expedition. Parsons, after seeing action at Albuquerque, Brazito, Chihuahua, and Sacramento was back in St. Louis, Missouri on 30 June 1847. He established a law practice in Jefferson City and took an interest in politics. He served as state attorney general from 1853 until 1857 and represented Cole County in the state house of representatives. In 1858 he was elected to the state senate where he was an ardent supporter of states' rights. He tried in 1860 to garner the Democrat's nomination for lieutenant governor on a ticket with Hancock Jackson but lost the nomination to the eventual winning ticket of Claiborne Jackson and Thomas C Reynolds. On 5 January 1861 Parsons introduced a bill in the Missouri Senate calling for arming of troops to repel the expected Federal invasion. On 12 January 1861 he urged Missouri to secede stating that the Union was already dissolved. The only question was which way Missouri would go and he supported joining the Confederacy.

On 10 May 1861, Governor Jackson having already turned down Abraham Lincoln's call for troops to invade the South following the firing on Fort Sumter, Federal troops commanded by Nathaniel Lyon demanded the surrender of a gathering of the Missouri Militia camped just outside St. Louis. As Federal troops were marching on either side of militia prisoners, some witnesses claimed provoked by the taunts of the gathering crowd the Federal troops opened fire, in what became known as the Camp Jackson Massacre, killing as many as 30 civilians. Immediately hearing of this the legislature passed the bill first introduced by Parsons. He was named commander of the 6th division of the Missouri State Guard. He led his troops against Federals commanded by Franz Sigel at Carthage, Missouri on 5 July 1861. Many at the time, including the New York Times, considered this the first major engagement between North and South. Parsons and his troops saw action at Oak Hills, Drywood Creek, and Lexington. He attended a special session of the Missouri general assembly on 18 October 1861 at Neosho, Missouri then on 31 October 1861 at Cassville, Missouri where he introduced a bill to encourage reenlistment in the state guard. He was reluctant to transfer his troops to Confederate control figuring they would be moved away from Missouri. He was appointed commander of the Missouri State Guard by Governor Jackson on 8 April 1862 replacing Sterling Price who had accepted a commission in the Confederate army. Following the loss of Forts Henry and Donelson, Parsons took his troops east of the Mississippi River but arrived too late to see action at Shiloh. He was engaged at Corinth, Mississippi then moved to Tupelo, Mississippi. He commanded Sterling Price's Missouri division while the latter was in Richmond conferring with Jefferson Davis. When Parson's Missouri State Guard was released from duty in Mississippi, Parsons took his troops to Arkansas where he reported to Thomas C. Hindman. On 26 October 1862 Governor Jackson turned over control of the Missouri State Guard to the Confederate authorities. Parsons received his commission as a brigadier general in the Confederate army on 5 November 1862. While still in Arkansas he commanded his troops at Prairie Grove and Helena. In early 1864 he commanded the Missouri division during the Red River campaign seeing action at Pleasant Hill and Jenkin's Ferry. He was promoted to major general in April 1864 by Kirby Smith but even with the urging of Smith, Sterling Price, and J.P. Johnson, the inspector general of the Confederate army, the Confederate Congress never took action on the promotion. In February 1865 Parsons was named commander of the District of Arkansas. He remained in command until relieved by Federal troops following the Confederate surrender at Shreveport, Louisiana.

In July 1865 Parsons, along with Aaron Conrow, a member of the Confederate Congress from Missouri, Austin Standish, a member of Parsons' staff and his brother-in-law, and others from his command left San Antonio, Texas where other Confederate generals were attempting to join up with Joseph O. Shelby's forces, and crossed into Mexico. Although not completely clear, it is believed Parsons joined the Imperialistic forces and on 15 August 1865 was captured and killed by Juaristas, Republican irregulars, near Chino, Mexico. Although it is not certain where he is buried, a marker in Maplewood Cemetery in Charlottesville, Virginia bares an inscription in memory of Parsons.

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