Lewis Baldwin Parsons

Lewis Baldwin Parsons was born April 5, 1818, in Perry in western New York State. When he was ten the family moved to St. Lawrence County. After he was graduated from Yale in 1840, he conducted a school in Mississippi for a time, but returned North in order to study law at Harvard. He began his practice in Alton, Illinois, but moved to St. Louis in 1854, where he soon became chief executive officer of the Ohio & Mississippi Railroad (now a segment of the Baltimore and Ohio system). He resided in Cincinnati for several years as a consequence of this position, returning to St. Louis in 1860. The following year he served as volunteer aide to Frank Blair upon the occasion of the capture of the pro-Confederate Missouri militia camp under General D. M. Frost, and in October he was made an assistant quartermaster of volunteers with rank of captain. Parsons' entire contribution to the Union cause, and it was a most significant one, was as a master of transportation. Initially he had charge of all military river and rail transport in the vast Department of the Mississippi, which stretched from Montana to Pittsburgh and south to New Orleans. He remained in St. Louis until in August, 1864, he was given charge of all river and rail transportation in the armies of the United States with headquarters in Washington. Parson's services were invaluable—-one of his exploits was the transfer of John M. Schofield's entire Army of the Ohio, with its artillery and trains, in January, 1864, from Mississippi to Washington in an average time of eleven days in an era when railroading was in its infancy. On May 11, 1865, he was commissioned brigadier general of volunteers, and on April 30, 1866—the day he was mustered out—he was brevetted major general. In 1875 General Parsons took up residence on a farm near Flora, Illinois, but in the next quarter-century was active as a director of several railroads and industrial corporations and as president of a bank in St. Louis. In 1880 he was the Democratic candidate for lieutenant governor of Illinois. General Parsons died in Flora on March 16, 1907, and was buried in Bellefontaine Cemetery, St. Louis.

Previous Page

Reference: Generals in Blue. Lives of the Union Commanders by Ezra J. Warner. Louisiana State University Press. Baton Rouge.