Nicholas Bartlett Pearce
Nicholas Bartlett Pearce was born
on July 20, 1828, in Caldwell County, Kentucky, the son of Allen and Mary
(Polly) Morse Pearce. His early education included a stint at Cumberland College
in Kentucky. Appointed to West Point, he graduated in 1850 twenty-sixth in
a class of forty-four. Commissioned lieutenant in the 7th Infantry, Pearce was
stationed in western Arkansas and Oklahoma for the bulk of his army career. In
1858 he resigned from the army in order to go into business with his
father-in-law, a merchant in Osage Mills, Arkansas. He settled into his new
community very quickly and soon won election to colonel of the local militia.
In May, 1861, the Arkansas Secession Convention appointed Pearce brigadier general of Arkansas state forces, to command the 1st (Western) Division. One source has it that "no more unpopular appointment could have been made by the convention," for Pearce, an opponent of secession, had "heaped abuse" on Governor Rector and "every prominent man in the state who favored secession."' His short tenure as general was controversial. In July, 1861, Pearce led a brigade of militia, 2,200 strong, into Missouri to help drive back a Union army nearing the Arkansas border. At the August 10, 1861, Battle of Wilson's Creek, Pearce's brigade performed valiantly, repulsing the Union diversionary attack and then helping to defeat the main Union army. After the battle, Arkansas authorities attempted to transfer his brigade to Confederate service. Pearce resisted the transfer, and in August furloughed the men to their homes. The unit was disbanded; Pearce's combat role in the war was at an end. On December 13, 1861, Pearce was appointed a major in the Confederate Commissary Department. One week later he was assigned to duty as chief commissary of western Arkansas and the Indian Tenitory. By 1863 he was chief commissary of the District of Texas. In this post suspicious observers charged that Pearce was too intimate with war profiteers. Pearce also served on the Texas Military Board and as chief quartermaster at San Antonio, Texas. On June 21, 1865, Major Pearce was paroled at Houston, Texas.
After being paroled Pearce traveled to Washington, D.C., and obtained a pardon from President Andrew Johnson. In 1867 Pearce returned to Osage Mills, rebuilt his residence, mill, and store, and resumed his business career. In 1872 he joined the mathematics faculty at the University of Arkansas. In 1874 he resigned his teaching post and returned to Osage Mills. From 1870 to 1884 he was employed by a wholesale house in Kansas City. Later he was employed as an expert land examiner in Texas (where he had moved because of his wife's health). General Pearce died on March 8, 1894, in Dallas, at the home of his daughter-in-law, and is buried in Whitesboro, Texas.
SHSP, Heitman, Cullum, and Wright all list Pearce as a general. The latter two allege a Kirby Smith appointment. However, SHSP, which says Pearce's general rank was by state authority only, seems to be correct.
Reference: More Generals in Gray. Bruce S. Allardice. A companion volume to Generals in Gray. Louisiana State University Press. Baton Rouge. LA.