Jesse Pearman Williams
8th Missouri Infantry (Mitchell’s) C. S.A.
Jesse Pearman Williams was born in Larue County, Kentucky on 01 November 1838 to Joel Williams and Delilah Pearman. He was the oldest of ten children, and his parents apparently had taken in another child. About 1848 the family moved to Phelps County, Missouri and settled in Blooming Rose, Missouri, near the Phelps and Texas County line. On 18 November 1859 he married Aseneth Brown. To this union were born three children, but War clouds loomed close by.
In 1861 Missouri Governor Claiborne Fox Jackson increased the State Militia, hoping to keep Missouri neutral in the upcoming conflict. The Missouri State Guard units were hastily formed and put under the control of former Governor General Sterling Price. Many of these units fought with the Confederate forces, and many of these men later joined the Confederate Army. Jesse Pearman Williams joined the Seventh Division, 1st Infantry under Colonel Edmund T. Wingo in the Summer of 1861. He participated in the "Bull Run of the West" Battle of Wilson’s Creek on August 10th, 1861 where General Nathaniel Lyon was killed. The Missouri State Guard went onwards to Lexington, Missouri where, using Hemp Bales as rolling breastworks, they captured the Federal Forces there. His unit went on to Dry Woods Creek, or Fort Scott, Missouri, where Jesse received his first wounds of the War. An artillery shell landed close by, and as Jesse stated; "I knew nothing for 36 Hours". His unit was disbanded in the summer of 1862, although several units participated in the Battle of Pea Ridge, Arkansas. It is unknown if Jesse was in that Battle.
On August 5, 1862 Jesse Pearman Williams enlisted as a Private in the Confederate Army at Thomasville, Missouri on the Eleven Points River. He was assigned to the Fifth Infantry; Later redesignated the Eighth Missouri Infantry, C.S.A. After a four-day march the new arrived at the Spring River in Arkansas. There, several recruits were enticed to join other units. Officer Commissions were usually given to those that gathered enough recruits for new units, therefore several units were competing for recruits. Colonel Mitchell moved his unit to Camp Bragg, near Batesville, Arkansas. There even more men were enticed away. The situation became so intolerable that Colonel Mitchell went to Little Rock to seek relief. Several in the camp believed he would not return. However, he returned on August 28, 1862, and moved his command to the Camp of Colonel William Coleman. Now training for War could take place.
On October 31, 1862 Jesse P. Williams was promoted to Color Sergeant. To him the honor of holding the Regimental Flag in battle was given. The flag of this unit was made by at least three women with the surnames of Casen, Denton, and Hinson. This was acknowledged in a letter by Colonel Mitchell, and printed in the Little Rock True Democrat on January 21, 1863. Although the exact type of flag is unknown, I believe that it was a "Missouri Battle Flag", described as a Blue flag, with a red stripe on the top, Bottom, and side opposite of the hoist, and with a white Latin cross, close to the Hoist.
On December 7, 1862 the 8th Missouri Infantry, C.S.A. received their baptism under fire at Prairie Grove, Arkansas. Marching from Van Buren, Arkansas on the 3rd of December, General T.C. Hindman mustered 9,000 Infantry, 2000 Calvary, and 22 pieces of Artillery. He did not take his entire forces available because some of his men lacked shoes, and weapons in which to fight with! This group included the Cherokee Indian Force under Colonel Stand Watie. Throughout the war the Confederate forces were plagued with inadequate food, worn-out shoes (or no shoes) and inadequate weapons. The Battle of Prairie Grove was no different. Breaking camp at 4 A.M., and marching 15 miles to the battlefield left many stragglers on the sides of the road. Horses pulling Artillery were played out. Yet, when called upon, the Missouri Forces fought valiantly. Waiting until the Federal forces were only 60 yards away, they opened up with shotguns, rifles, muskets, and fowling pieces. Upon breaking the Union Charge, the Confederates charged. After several charges, and counter charges, the Confederate were left in possession of the Battlefield. The Confederates suffered 164 Killed, 817 Wounded and 336 missing, capturing 275 Union prisoners. The 8th reported 0 killed, and only 20 wounded.
After the Battle of Prairie Grove, the 8th was assigned Garrison duty at Fort Pleasant, Arkansas. Garrison duty is boring, monotonous, and tedious at the best of times. Officers and men have little else to do, but engage in drinking, cards, and drill. Often there were drunken men, gambling, fights and disorderly conduct that brought no honor upon the men or units involved. After spending five months in Fort Pleasant, the 8th was ordered to Camp Bragg, Ouchita County, Arkansas. Later the unit was ordered to Camp Sumter, Lafayette County, Arkansas.
Their next battle came on April 9, 1864 at Pleasant Hill, Louisiana. The Confederates had the battle almost won when they were ordered to fall back, because the Arkansas troops were not keeping up with the Missouri troops. The 8th returned to Arkansas, to fight on April 30, 1864 at Jenkin’s Ferry, Arkansas. This was a Confederate Victory. From there the 8th moved into Camp Kirby Smith, in Arkansas.
As of May 1865the 8th was in Shreveport, Louisiana. This close to the end of the conflict the 8th was beset with mass desertions, and demoralizing news. The Confederacy had collapsed, the Trans-Mississippi Army was the last to surrender, doing so on 26 May 1865. While awaiting transportation to take them north, members of the 8th worked along side with former enemies to keep the peace in Shreveport and New Orleans, Louisiana.
On 19 June 1865 Jesse Pearman Williams signed an Oath of Allegiance to the United States. He was transported to Rolla, Missouri by railroad. His third daughter was born in 1866, but died within a month. His wife died shortly thereafter. He remarried in 1867, and he and his second wife had eight children. He was at one time a Justice of the Peace for Boone Township, Texas County, Missouri. He applied for a pension in 1913, and amended it in 1917. Jesse Pearman Williams died on 25 March 1924, aged 85 years, 3 months, and 23 days. He is buried in Mitchell Cemetery, Texas County, Missouri.