REVEREND JESSE R. PRATT
Submitted by Ron Warren
The Reverend Jesse R. Pratt was minister of the Baptist church in Ironton, MO, when the war between the states broke out. He and his family would become deeply involved in the conflict. Three of his sons fought for the South and three of his sons fought for the North. Parson Pratt also fought for the South. Family legend has it that "he fought like the devil during the day, and preached the Gospel at night."
Because Pilot Knob was the terminus of the Iron Mountain Railroad , this area was occupied very early in the war by Union troops. In August of 1861, General U.S. Grant sent a message to headquarters stating that he has ordered the arrest of a "preacher of this place" stating that he had given information to the enemy. Parson Pratt was probably the preacher he was speaking of. T.P. Russell of Ironton also wrote that a group of Union troops were dispatched to Gum Spring to capture "Parson Pratt and his group of irregulars." - They did not find them.
At some point during the war, Parson Prqtt became Captain of Company N of the 15th MO Cavalry Regiment. The 15th was commanded by Colonel Timothy Reeves and the reat of the 15th, along with some family members were gathered for Christmas services.
Major Wilson, with the 3rd MO State Militia Calvary, was dispatched from Pilot Knob to attemp to retrieve the Union captives. He surprised the camp and attacked. Many soldiers of the 15th as well as some women and children were killed. This became known in southeast Missouri as Wilson's Massacre. When General Price raided Missouri in 1864, the 15th MO accompanied his army and acted as guide. During the Battle of Pilot Knob, Major Wilson was captured along with other Union prisoners. Confederate authorities singled out those prisoners who had committed atrocities with the 3rd MO Cavalry. Major Wilson and six of his troopers were tried and executed for their crimes in southeast Missouri.
Jesse Pratt and all but one his sons survived the war. Milton Pratt was killed by Union troops near Pilot Knob while trying to come home to see his family. Jesse Pratt's home near Ironton was robbed and burned by Union troops toward the end of the war. He moved his family to Randolph County, Arkansas, where he was active in the church till his death in 1888.
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