Mosby Monroe Parsons

Mosby Monroe Parsons served as a Confederate officer throughout Arkansas during the Civil War. Parsons saw action at Prairie Grove (Washington County), Little Rock (Pulaski County), and Helena (Phillips County), and he faced off against General Frederick Steele in the Camden Expedition. He also participated in General Sterling Price’s Missouri Raid in 1864.

Mosby Monroe Parsons was born on May 21, 1822, in Charlottesville, Virginia, to Gustavus Adolphus Parsons and Patience Monroe Parsons; he had seven siblings. He moved to Cooper County, Missouri, in 1835. Parsons began studying law at St. Charles College in St. Charles, Missouri, in 1844, and he was admitted to the bar in 1846.

During the Mexican-American War, Parsons commanded the First Regiment, Missouri Volunteers, Company F. Promoted to the rank of captain in June 1846, Parsons accompanied Colonel Alexander Doniphan’s Expedition to Chihuahua, Mexico. Parsons and his men were engaged in battles at Brazito on December 25, 1846, and Sacramento on February 28, 1847. Parsons was wounded at Brazito, and Colonel Doniphan commended him for his efforts at Sacramento.

He married Mary Wells on September 18, 1850. The two had a son and a daughter.

Parsons was very active in the Democratic Party. He served as attorney general of Missouri from 1853 to 1857 and was elected to the State Senate of Missouri in 1858. Parsons allied himself with Governor Claiborne Fox Jackson in his attempt to force the state of Missouri to join the Confederacy.

When the Civil War came, Parsons cast his lot with the South. He was appointed commander of the Sixth Division, Missouri State Guard (MSG), which consisted of 500 men, on May 21, 1861. He was engaged in battles at Carthage, Wilson’s Creek, and Lexington. At Carthage on July 4, 1861, Parsons forced Colonel Franz Sigel to break off and return to Springfield, Missouri. At Wilson’s Creek, he led an attack on Bloody Hill on August 10, 1861, after which he was commended for gallant conduct. Parsons was part of General Price’s successful siege of Lexington in September 1861.

His division of MSG was at the Battle of Pea Ridge on March 7–8, 1862, but he was absent, as he made a trek out to Richmond, Virginia, to ask for a higher command. Parsons’s division played an integral part in General Price’s flanking maneuver east of Elkhorn Tavern and moving to the west on March 7, 1862. Parsons was commissioned brigadier general on November 5, 1862. At the December 7, 1862, Battle of Prairie Grove, Parsons attacked Union general James G. Blunt, and his men earned high praise from Confederate general Thomas C. Hindman “for doing their duty ably.”

Parsons participated in the Arkansas campaigns of 1863. He led an infantry attack on Graveyard Hill and Fort Curtis at the Battle of Helena to relieve pressure on Vicksburg, Mississippi, on July 4, 1863. He was commended by General Price. Parsons was engaged near Little Rock when General Price abandoned the city in the wake of the Federal advance in September 1863. Parsons’s health declined as the year progressed.

The following April, Parsons was recommended for promotion to major general by General Edmund Kirby Smith, commander of the Trans-Mississippi Department, but President Jefferson Davis did not approve his promotion. He was involved in the Red River Campaign, under General Richard Taylor, beginning on March 25, 1864. He was present at Pleasant Hill, thwarting Major General Nathaniel P. Banks’s Red River Campaign, on April 9, 1864. Parsons’s division then returned to Arkansas under Smith in an attempt to destroy General Frederick Steele’s Union army at the end of the Camden Expedition and suffered heavy casualties in the Engagement at Jenkins’ Ferry. In late September–October 1864, he participated in Sterling Price’s ill-led and ill-equipped Missouri Raid. The failure of Price’s Missouri Raid ceased any serious Confederate operations in Arkansas. Thus, the fate of Confederate Arkansas was sealed along the banks of a small creek in southeastern Kansas, at the Battle of Mine Creek, on October 25, 1864.

Parsons surrendered his command to Union authorities at Shreveport, Louisiana, on May 26, 1865. After being paroled, Parsons and other Confederate officers traveled to Mexico with the hope of offering their services to both the Imperialist forces and the Republican irregulars. Parsons was surprised, cut off, and murdered on August 15, 1865, near China, Mexico. He and his comrades were buried nearby. Much controversy remains regarding the circumstances behind his killing, and much remains in doubt.

The Parsons family brought suit against the Mexican government through the United States and Mexico Claims Commission Convention, winning a judgment of nearly $50,000 in gold.

For additional information:
Banasik, Michael E. Embattled Arkansas: The Prairie Grove Campaign of 1862. Wilmington, NC: Broadfoot Publishing, 1996.

Bearss, Edwin C. Steele’s Retreat from Camden and the Battle of Jenkins’ Ferry. Little Rock: Democrat Printing and Lithographing Company, 1967.

Christ, Mark K., ed. Rugged and Sublime: The Civil War in Arkansas. Fayetteville: University of Arkansas Press, 1994.

Hess, Earl J., Richard W. Hatcher III, William Garrett Piston, and William Shea. Wilson’s Creek Pea Ridge, and Prairie Grove: A Battlefield Guide, with A Section on the Wire Road. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2006.

Hinze, David C., and Karen Farnham. The Battle of Carthage: Border War in Southwest Missouri, July 5, 1861. Greta, LA: Pelican Publishing, 2004.

Johnson, Ludwell H. Red River Campaign: Politics and Cotton in the Civil War. Kent, OH: Kent State University Press, 1993.

Kennedy, Frances H., ed. The Civil War Battlefield Guide, 2nd ed. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Co., 1998.

Mosby Monroe Parsons Papers, 1847–1869. Missouri Historical Society Archives, St. Louis, Missouri. Finding aid online at https://mohistory.org/collections/item/resource:104032 (accessed July 8, 2020).

Peterson, Richard C., James E. McGhee, Kip Lindberg, and Keith Daleen. Sterling Price’s Lieutenants: A Guide to Officers and Organization of the Missouri State Guard, 1861–1865. Independence, MO: Trails Publishing, 2007.

Pushankin, Jeffrey S. A Crisis in Command: Edmund Kirby Smith, Richard Taylor and the Army of the Trans-Mississippi. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 2005.

Shea, William. Fields of Blood: The Prairie Grove Campaign. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2009.

Sifakis, Stewart. Who Was Who in the Confederacy: A Biographical Encyclopedia of More Than 1000 Confederate Participants. New York: Facts On File, 1988.

Warner, Ezra. Generals in Gray: Lives of Confederate Commanders. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 2000.

Winters, John D. The Civil War in Louisiana. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1963.

Kerry King Jones
Fayetteville, Arkansas

Last Updated: 07/08/2020