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Mosby Monroe Parsons: Major General, Murder Victim Bill J. Gurley (This is the second of a two-part biographical essay on Mosby Monroe Parsons. The first appeared in volume 1 of Confederate Generals in the Trans-Mississippi.) Spring 1864 ushered in one of Mosby Parsons’s most arduous campaign seasons . On March 20, the Missouri and Arkansas brigades broke up their winter quarters in southwest Arkansas and began a ninety-mile march south to Shreveport, Louisiana, headquarters of the Trans-Mississippi Department. There they would assist Major General Richard Taylor, commander of the District of West Louisiana, and his harried forces as they attempted to impede Union Major General Nathaniel Banks and his thirty-thousand-man army and sixty-vessel flotilla advancing up Red River toward Shreveport. As Parsons and his Missourians tramped southward, they did so at a livelier pace, secure in the knowledge that at least one incubus had been removed from their ranks: Lieutenant General Theophilus Holmes. Four days earlier Holmes had tendered his resignation and department commander General Edmund Kirby Smith accepted it. In turn, Kirby Smith handed the reins of the District of Arkansas, somewhat grudgingly, over to Major General Sterling Price.1 Reaching Shreveport on March 24, the newly arrived infantry brigades, at the behest of Kirby Smith, underwent a major reorganization, becoming an army corps of two divisions. Here Brigadier General Thomas Drayton was relieved of command, and his brigade together with Parsons’s formed an all Missouri division. The two Arkansas brigades composed a separate division under Brigadier General James C. Tappan. As the senior brigadier, Parsons would lead the Missouri division while Colonel John B. Clark Jr. headed up Drayton’s old brigade constituting the 8th and 9th Missouri Infantry Regiments along with Captain Samuel Ruffner’s battery. Colonel Simon P. Burns, Bill J. Gurley 192 filling the vacancy left by Parsons’s elevation to division command, would handle the 10th, 11th, 12th, and 16th Missouri Infantry Regiments, Major Lebbeus Pindall’s 9th Battalion Missouri Sharpshooters, and Captain Alexander A. Lesueur’s 3rd Missouri Battery. Reacting to the organizational change, Major General Price recommended Parsons for promotion to the rank of major general on March 26, 1864, citing that “by his tact, good sense, skill, and military ability he has always kept his Brigade in the highest state of discipline and efficiency, and has at this time the very best Brigade in the service within this District.”2 On April 5, the new “corps” under the command of Brigadier General Thomas J. Churchill moved twenty-five miles south to Keachi, Louisiana, as support for Taylor’s vastly outnumbered force currently falling back before Banks’s massive column. Three days later, in one of the most decisive battles in the Trans-Mississippi, Taylor routed Banks at Mansfield, Louisiana, although the Missouri and Arkansas troops reached the battlefield too late that evening to contribute to the victory. Salvaging the wreckage of his 13th and 19th corps, Banks withdrew fifteen miles south to Pleasant Hill, where his trailing 16th Corps provided an anchor upon which to rally.3 Recognizing a signal opportunity to vanquish Banks, Taylor ordered Churchill to push his fresh corps forward to Pleasant Hill, while the divisions of Major General John G. Walker, Brigadier General Camille Armand Jules Marie, Prince de Polignac, and Brigadier General Thomas Green followed. Parsons and his twenty-two-hundred-man division vigorously marched in pursuit and reached their destination late in the afternoon of April 9. “We passed over the battlefield of the 8th which was strewn with dead and dying ,” noted Lieutenant James T. Wallace of Pindall’s sharpshooter battalion. “The road was strewed with every species of plunder imaginable, we constantly passed squads of prisoners going to the rear. We marched very hard all day between 25 & 30 miles.” Directed to position his corps southwest of town so as to roll up the left flank of Banks’s seemingly panic-stricken army, Churchill brought his force onto the field about half a mile short of his strategic objective. Parsons, whose division formed the extreme right of the Confederate battle line, was notified of the positional error and urged by Colonel William P. Hardeman, whose three Texas cavalry regiments were screening the Missourians’ flank, to sidle his men farther to the right. Believing he had reached the assigned jumping-off point, Parsons informed Hardeman that Churchill had personally placed the division and “as he placed them they will be fought.” Parsons’s obstinacy would prove costly...


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