Jesse Richardson Pratt
© by: Ronnie Warren
Rev. Jesse Richardson Pratt was born 13 January, 1804 in Tennessee. Jesse was first and foremost a pioneer. He was a religious man with true spirit of adventure. He enlisted in Captain Dunn's Company, 2nd Regiment, 1st Brigade, Illinois Mounted Volunteers as First Sergeant on June 16, 1832, in Randolph County, Illinois for service in the Blackhawk Indian War. He was discharged at Dixons Ferry, Illinois on August 12, 1832. His brother, Matthew Young Pratt, was in the same Company. I have not read of specific actions this unit participated in but did read that Captain Dunn was seriously wounded by one of his own sentries in an accidental shooting. Captain Dunn survived the war and signed Jesse Pratt's discharge.
Jesse Pratt moved to Missouri sometime after the Blackhawk War probably in 1837 or 1838. He settled in what was then Washington County but is now part of Reynolds County near present day Black, Missouri. According to James Bell, author of "History of Black, Missouri", Jesse became minister of the Black River Church in the late 1830's. Soon, his ministry was known far and wide and one great revival after another came about in the late 1830's and early 1840's attracting some of the great ministers in Southeast Missouri. He writes that people came and camped all over the river bottoms near the church often staying two or three weeks. Jesse served the Black River Baptist church from 1838 till 1842 and from 1851 to 1858. Jesse became the first minister of the newly formed Baptist church in Ironton, Missouri in 1858 and served there until the beginning of the Civil War.
Jesse Pratt, probably because of his Southern birth, joined the Confederate Army. No exact date of his enlistment has been found but we know he was active very early in the war. Ironton, Missouri was the southern terminus of the Iron Mountain railroad out of St. Louis, so the Union army occupied Ironton very early in the war. General Grant received his promotion to General in Ironton in 1861. He was only here for a couple of weeks but he may have written an order for Jesse's arrest. He stated in this order that a "preacher from this place has been taking information to the enemy camp and I have ordered his arrest upon his return." Jesse is the only minister from Ironton that I have found to have served in the Confederate Army, so I am assuming that General Grant was writing about Jesse.
Jesse was a leader of a squad of "irregulars" and harassed Union forces in the Ironton area. At some point, Jesse became Captain of Company N, 15th Missouri Cavalry which was made up of mostly Reynolds County residents. His son, Robert Gibson Pratt was 1st Lt. of the same company and his grandson, Jesse Gibson was also in this company. Jesse's Company is believed to have captured and burned the Reynolds County Courthouse on December 22, 1863, and took the entire Union garrison prisoner with no loss of life. The prisoners were taken to Ripley County closely followed by Major James Wilson of the Union 3rd Missouri Militia. When Jesse and his company arrived in Ripley County, the entire 15th Regiment was camped for a Christmas holiday with their wives and children. Colonel Timothy Reeves was the Regimental Commander and himself a Baptist minister from Ripley County. While dinner and religious services were being conducted, Major Wilson attacked and killed and wounded over 100 people many of them women and children. This became known as the "Wilson Massacre". Later, during the Missouri Campaign of 1864, Major Wilson was captured during the Battle of Pilot Knob. He was tried and convicted, then executed by members of the 15th Missouri Cavalry along with six of his troopers.
Jesse Pratt remained active till the end of the war and several mentions of him by Union Officers in official correspondence are in evidence. Jesse surrendered along with the rest of the 15th Missouri on May 11, 1865, and was paroled at Jacksonport Arkansas on June 5, 1865. He remained in Arkansas in the Warm Springs area till his death in 1888.
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