Charles E. Phelps

Charles Edward Phelps (May 1, 1833 – December 27, 1908) was a colonel in the Union Army during the Civil War, later received a brevet as a brigadier general of volunteers, served as a city councilman, a U.S. Congressman from the third district of Maryland, and received the Medal of Honor. In later life, he was professor of equity at University of Maryland Law School, and served for many years as Judge of the Circuit Court of Baltimore.

Charles Edward Phelps
Hon. Charles E. Phelps, Maryland - NARA - 527033.jpg
Member of the
U.S. House of Representatives
from Maryland's 3rd congressional district
In office
March 4, 1865 – March 3, 1869
Preceded byHenry Winter Davis
Succeeded byThomas Swann
Member of the
Baltimore City Council
In office
Personal details
Born(1833-05-01)May 1, 1833
Guilford, Vermont
DiedDecember 27, 1908(1908-12-27) (aged 75)
Baltimore, Maryland
Resting placeWoodlawn Cemetery, Baltimore, Maryland
Political partyKnow Nothing (1850s)
Unconditional Unionist (1861–66)
Conservative (1866–69)
Spouse(s)Martha Woodward
Alma materPrinceton University
Harvard University Law School
Military service
Branch/service United States Army (Union Army)
Years of service1861–1864
RankUnion Army colonel rank insignia.png Colonel
Union Army brigadier general rank insignia.svg Brevet Brigadier General
Unit7th Maryland Infantry Regiment
Battles/warsAmerican Civil War
*Battle of Spotsylvania
AwardsMedal of Honor


Charles Edward Phelps was born in Guilford, Vermont, on May 1, 1833. His father was John Phelps, a lawyer and Senator in the Vermont State government. At the age of 5, he moved with his parents to Pennsylvania, and at the age of 8 to Maryland, when his mother, Almira Hart Lincoln Phelps,(sister of Emma Willard), became principal of the Patapsco Female Seminary in Ellicott City. He matriculated at Princeton University, where he was admitted to the Zeta Psi fraternity, graduating in 1852. He then studied at Harvard University Law School, graduating in 1853. He joined the Maryland bar in 1855. He was admitted to practice in the Supreme Court of the United States in 1859. In 1860, he was elected to the Baltimore city council.

In 1861, he was commissioned a major of the Maryland Guard, and, in 1862, he was raised to lieutenant colonel of the 7th Maryland Infantry Regiment, fighting for the Union. He became colonel in 1863.

During the Battle of the Wilderness in 1864 his horse was killed from under him.[1] While leading a charge at Laurel Hill during the Battle of Spotsylvania, Phelps was wounded and taken prisoner.[2] However, he was later rescued by General Phillip Sheridan's cavalry under the immediate command of Brigadier General George Armstrong Custer.[2] Phelps received the Medal of Honor for valor at the Battle of Spotsylvania Court House on May 8, 1864.[2]

He was honorably discharged on account of wounds on September 9, 1864.[2] Shortly thereafter Phelps was elected as congressman from the 3rd district of Maryland to the Thirty-Ninth Congress as an Unconditional Unionist, and was reelected to the Fortieth Congress as a member of the Conservative Party[2] (as the Democratic Party was being referred to in some states). On May 4, 1866, President Andrew Johnson nominated Phelps for appointment to the brevet grade of brigadier general of volunteers to rank from March 13, 1865 and the U.S. Senate confirmed the appointment on May 18, 1866.[3]

Medal of Honor citationEdit

Colonel, 7th Maryland Infantry. Place and date: At Laurel Hill, Va., May 8, 1864. Entered service at: Born: Date of issue: March 30, 1898.

Rode to the head of the assaulting column, then much broken by severe losses and faltering under the close fire of artillery, placed himself conspicuously in front of the troops, and gallantly rallied and led them to within a few feet of the enemy's works, where he was severely wounded and captured.[4]

Later lifeEdit

In 1868, Phelps married Martha Woodward of Baltimore. He was professor of equity at University of Maryland Law School, and served for many years as Judge of the Circuit Court of Baltimore. In 1901, he published the book Falstaff and Equity, relating legal arguments to Shakespeare. In 1907 he received an honorary Doctor of Laws from Princeton University. Charles E. Phelps died on December 27, 1908 at Baltimore, Maryland and was buried at Woodlawn Cemetery, Baltimore.[2]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ "Medal of Honor Recipients ts from Harvard University". Archived from the original on July 14, 2011. Retrieved May 16, 2011.
  2. ^ a b c d e f Eicher, John H., and David J. Eicher, Civil War High Commands. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2001. ISBN 0-8047-3641-3. p. 427
  3. ^ Eicher, 2001, p. 754
  4. ^ "Phelps, Charles E., Civil War Medal of Honor recipient". American Civil War website. November 8, 2007. Archived from the original on October 28, 2007. Retrieved November 8, 2007.


U.S. House of Representatives
Preceded by
Henry Winter Davis
U.S. Congressman, Maryland's 3rd District
Succeeded by
Thomas Swann