Monday, September 6, 2010

Thomas Jefferson Bates and Susan Eleanor Pearson

Thomas Jefferson Bates was born 18 Mar 1836, the seventh child, and fifth son, of Zachariah and Lavina Bates. According to his Civil War Muster Card into the Union Army, Thomas was born in Carrell Co., Tennessee. This was misinterpreted by his descendants for years, who assumed that he was born in Carroll County. What we have found since, is that he was more likely born in Carroll, Madison County, Tennessee.

What we know about TJ's early life comes from discussions that my father, Jim Bates, had with Uncle Bon and Uncle Monte, sons of Thomas and Flora. Bon also sent a letter in 1971, which kind of got this whole family history search for our ancestors started.

Zachariah moved his family from York County, South Carolina, to Madison County, Tennessee, about 1830. He is the only member of John's family to go north. The rest went to Georgia or stayed near the homestead on Fishing River. From land records in Madison County, we find that John Bates bought some land in the 1820's. Could that be the reason that Zachariah went north? Anyway, they bought land near the Chickasaw Nation along the Big Hatchie River. They 'had about ever thing on it' according to Bon. They tried to raise tobacco and sell timber. The tobacco crop evidently did not work, as the ground was not well suited to it and eventually lost the farm.

In 1838, Zachariah had 3 children registered in Madison Co. schools. The 1840 census shows the following in their household: 1840 Madison Co., TN
Males Females
2<5, 2<10, 1<15, 1<20, 1<60; 1<10, 1<20, 1<40

It appears that in 1849 they were on the move. TJ's brother, John C., married Cecelia Chaplin in 1849 in Obion Co., TN. Obion County is located in the northwest portion of the state. Next they show up further west on the same trail, when Thomas Jefferson Bates married Susan Eleanor Pearson in 1855 in Johnson County, Arkansas. Others of the family show up in Johnson County as well. Zachariah M., John C., and Robert all bought land at the Clarksville land office in 1859. The lands they purchased were in Sebastian County, to the west.

However, Thomas and Susan moved north and west to Washington County. They purchased a farm near Prairie Grove. They appear on the 1860 census in Washington County with two sons and a daughter, Mary Melvina, David Henry, and John Calvin.

The next known event in their lives was the Civil War. Thomas joined his brothers, John, Robert and William, and enlisted in the Confederate Army. Thomas J. was mustered in Fayetteville into Company G of the 16th Arkansas Infantry on 5 Nov 1861. He enlisted as a private and made corporal in 1862. He was present on 31 Aug 1862. (BATES, THOMAS Pvt - Enl 5Nov1861 at Fayetteville, AR. Age 23. Appointed 4th cpl 28Jun1862. Present 31Aug1862).

While Thomas was off fighting to the east, his family was not left untouched by the ravages of war. My great grandfather, James Ragen Bates, was born in Prairie Grove on the second of November, 1862. Five weeks later, the Battle of Prairie Grove broke out. Our relatives in Arkansas told my father that Susan took her little family into the cellar and hid, while they could hear the cannons bellowing in the distance. Occasionally, dirt would fall from the roof and cover them.

A description of the battle can be found at: In short, it was one of the bloodiest battles fought west of the Mississippi. Here is an excerpt of what happened: "The two determined armies now faced each other along lines that stretched for miles along the curving ridge. The Confederates maintained their position at the top, while the Federals lined up at the bottom. As Hindman noted, the Battle of Prairie Grove evolved into a fierce stand-up fight:

...There was no place of shelter upon any portion of the field. Wounds were given and deaths inflicted by the enemy's artillery in the ranks of the reserves as well as in the front rank. During five hours, shell, solid shot, grape and canister,
and storms of bullets swept the entire ground. Many gallant officers, and many soldiers equally brave fell dead or wounded, but their comrades stood as firm as iron. Volunteers maintained their reputation. Conscripts rose at once to the same standard, and splendidly refuted the slanders put upon them by the class of exempts.

The battle raged back and forth until sunset. Federal troops would attack and be driven back. Confederates would then counterattack and, in turn, be driven back themselves. General Blunt, of the Union army, described the situation poignantly:

...The rattling of the musketry, uninterrupted for fully three hours, was terrific. The contending armies swayed to and fro, each alternately advancing and retiring. Some rebel sharpshooters, firing from the windows of a house situated in the edge of the wood and a little to my left, were evidently directing their compliments pecially to myself and staff. I directed Captain Rabb to open upon it with shell, and in a few moments the house was in flames.

The final action of the day came on the western end of the field, when Confederates swept across open ground in a final effort to shatter the Union lines. Driven back by a storm of shot and shell, they resumed their positions on the ridge and darkness mercifully brought the battle to a close."

Although the battle ended in a draw, it helped decide the fate of the war in northwestern Arkansas. As to whether or not the Battle of Prairie Grove had any impact on Thomas or his brothers is not known. However, it was not long afterward that all 4 deserted the Confederate cause. Thomas and Robert enlisted with the Union Army in early 1863. John and William were both injured and were no longer involved. In a later deposition, John C. told army investigators that he was always a union sympathizer, only joining the Confederate army because he was conscripted.

Here is the information from his enlistment card:

B 1 Ark

Thomas J. Bates
Co. A, 1 Reg't Arkansas Inf.
Appears on
Compay Descriptive Book
of the organization named above
Age 25 years; height 5 feet 8 inches.
Complexion fair
Eyes Blue ; hair dark
Where born Carell Co. Tenn.
Occupation Farm
When Feb 14 , 1863
Where Fayetteville
By whom Capt. R Smith ; term 3 yrs.
Remarks: Was in the Battle of Fayetteville on
the 18th of April 1863. Was in Campaign through
the Nations to Fort Smith. Was in the Compaign
from Fort Smith to Camden and back to Fort Smith
and done his duth throughout as a principal
musician. (detailed as (over)

According to the rest of the record, he was promoted to principal musician on 1 Nov 1863.

Life in the Union Army must not have all been peaches and cream, however. Thomas was promoted to sergeant and then demoted back to a private.

After the war, Thomas and Susan remained in Prairie Grove for a few years. In 1868, they sold their land to Richard Venable and bought land next to his brother Robert in southern Sebastian County. Their life after the war was filled with turmoil. Apparently, there was hard feelings against the family for switching sides during the war. Thomas and his family had to flee occasionally for safety. The birthplaces of their remaining children reflect that. Alexander Clayton was born in 1868 in Arkansas; Martha Marena was born in Texas in 1870; and finally, Robert Hansferd was born in 1873 in the Cherokee Nation, Oklahoma. Things must have settled down a bit later, as the family shows up in the 1890 census in Sebastian County. They lived near 4 Miners Wash, Huntington, Sebastian County. They appear to have been members of the Valley View Church of Christ. Robert donated the land for the church.

Susan's and Thomas' lives were filled with heartbreak. Together, they had eight children. Sadly, Susan, who died at the age of 58, outlived all but two. Mary Melvina married Andrew Bullard and moved to Illinois. David died in 1869 at the age of 12. John died in 1872. He was also 12. William Thomas only lived a year, passing away in 1862. Alexender Clayton died in 1886. He was 18. Marena married George Givens in 1890 and moved to Oklahoma. She died a year later at the age of 21. Robert Hansferd was thrown off a horse in 1882 and died. He was only 9.

Since Melvina had moved to Illinois, that left only James as their only child living nearby. One can only imagine the heartbreak they felt from losing their children. Susan lived only a couple of years after Marena died, passing away in 1893 at the age of 58. A year later, James moved his family west to Oregon. They said it was to get away from the 'fever'. Thomas stayed for a few years and remarried soon afterward to Flora Snow.


  1. Wonderful Bill. I love this history. When I print your articles out they are alright, but having blogger do a book is much nicer. It is even hardbound. When you get enough information on here about the Bates family I will have a book printed off. I appreciate all the information you are obtaining. It is a great blessing to the family. I hope everyone reads these articles that you are doing. I know that I am going to encourage my kids to read them. Thanks for posting this on facebook as all my kids don't blog, but they are all on facebook and can easily access your blog by the link you have on there. Also, we are getting som many relatives on facebook who might just read them and get some of our history.....Thanks again for sharing and for taking the time to research out the history. I will try to help you more now that I am more settled.

  2. By the way....Can you get me copies of the pictures of Susan Eleanor Pearson and Thomas Jefferson Bates. I will send you the money to have them made. They are wonderful pictures. How did you find them? I have pictures of James Ragen Bates and Victoria Parrish, but I don't have any of anyone else. Let me know if you will make me some copies.

  3. PS.....It looks like our Bates ears come from Susan.....LOL. I love those pictures.