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Charles E. Phelps
Hon. Charles E. Phelps, Maryland - NARA - 527033.jpg
A portrait of Charles Phelps taken in the 1860s
Born Charles Edward Phelps
(1833-05-01)May 1, 1833
Guilford, Vermont
Died December 27, 1908(1908-12-27) (aged 75)
Place of burial Woodlawn Cemetery, Baltimore, Maryland
Spouse(s) Martha Woodward
Children Mary
Military career
Allegiance United States of America
Service/branch United States Army
Union Army
Years of service 1861 - 1864
Rank Colonel
Brevet Brigadier General
Unit 7th Maryland Infantry
Battles/wars American Civil War
*Battle of Spotsylvania
Awards Medal of Honor
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 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 Seventh Maryland Volunteers, 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, and was reelected to the Fortieth Congress.[2] 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

Medal of honor old

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". Retrieved May 16, 2011. 
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 2.5 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. 2007-11-08. Retrieved 2007-11-08. 


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