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Parsons, Lewis B.

Born: 1818-04-05 New York

Died: 1907-03-16 Flora, Illinois

Lewis B. Parsons was a teacher, lawyer, railroad executive, and Union Army general. He spent his early years in his father's general store in St. Lawrence County, New York. Parsons graduated from Yale College in 1840. After graduation, he taught for two years in Mississippi before entering Harvard Law School, from which he graduated in 1844. In March 1844, Parsons moved west, arriving first at St. Louis before settling in Alton, Illinois, where he commenced a law practice in partnership first with Newton D. Strong, and later with Henry W. Billings. From 1846 to 1849, Parsons served as city attorney for Alton. In 1853, Parsons left Alton to become the legal advisor for the St. Louis banking house of Page & Bacon, which was financing the construction of the Ohio & Mississippi Railroad. When Page & Bacon failed in 1855, the Ohio & Mississippi Railroad retained Parsons as the general manager of the western division. He spent the 1850s dividing his time between St. Louis and Cincinnati serving the Ohio & Mississippi in various capacities. He resigned from his position with the railroad in 1860 to rest and undertake a tour of Europe, but the onset of the Civil War prompted him to cancel his trip and volunteer for military service. In October 1861, he received a commission as captain of volunteers and assistant quartermaster. Parsons became aide-de-camp to General Francis P. Blair, Jr., of the Missouri Militia. From December 1861 to March 1862, he directed rail and river transport in the Department of Missouri. In February 1862, Parsons received a commission as a colonel in the regular army and became aide-de-camp for General Henry W. Halleck. He was in charge of rail and river transport in the Department of Mississippi, from March to September 1862. Parsons became aide-de-camp to General Samuel R. Curtis in September 1862, and he directed rail and river transport in the Army of the Tennessee, from September 1862 to December 1863. In July 1863, Parsons became aide-de-camp to General John Schofield, and he organized and directed transportation in the Military Division of Mississippi, from December 1863 to August 1864. Parsons received appointment as colonel, quartermaster, in August 1864, and he directed river & water transport in the Department of the Ohio, from January 1865 to the end of the war. In March 1865, President Abraham Lincoln recommended Parsons' promotion, and in May, President Andrew Johnson appointed him brevet brigadier general of volunteers, an appointment the U.S. Senate confirmed in February 1866. After the war, Parsons toured Europe for two years before moving back in Illinois, where he worked as a banker and officer of the Ohio & Mississippi Railroad.

Genealogy of the Family of Lewis B. Parsons (St. Louis: Pervin & Smith, 1900), 17; History of Clay and Wayne Counties Illinois (Chicago: Globe, 1884), 200-204; The St. Louis Directory for the Years 1854-5 (St. Louis: Chambers & Knapp, 1854), 146; Mark R. Wilson, The Business of Civil War: Military Mobilization and the State, 1861-1865 (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2006), 59; John H. Eicher and David J. Eicher, Civil War High Commands (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2001), 417, 726; Gravestone, Bellefontaine Cemetery, St. Louis, MO.