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Charles Edward Phelps
Hon. Charles E. Phelps, Maryland - NARA - 527033.jpg
Member of the
U.S. House of Representatives
from MD's 3rd congressional district
In office
March 4, 1865 – March 3, 1869
Preceded by Henry Winter Davis
Succeeded by Thomas Swann
Member of the
Baltimore City Council
In office
Personal details
Born (1833-05-01)May 1, 1833
Guilford, Vermont
Died December 27, 1908(1908-12-27) (aged 75)
Baltimore, Maryland
Resting place Woodlawn Cemetery, Baltimore, Maryland
Political party Know Nothing (1850s)
Unconditional Unionist (1861–66)
Conservative (1866–69)
Spouse(s) Martha Woodward
Alma mater Princeton University
Harvard University Law School
Military service
Allegiance Union
Branch/service  United States Army (Union Army)
Years of service 1861–1864
Rank Union Army colonel rank insignia.png Colonel
Union Army brigadier general rank insignia.svg Brevet Brigadier General
Unit 7th Maryland Infantry Regiment
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 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. While leading a charge at Laurel Hill during the Battle of Spotsylvania, Phelps was wounded and taken prisoner. However, he was later rescued by General Phillip Sheridan's cavalry under the immediate command of Brigadier General George Armstrong Custer. Phelps received the Medal of Honor for valor at the Battle of Spotsylvania Court House on May 8, 1864.

He was honorably discharged on account of wounds on September 9, 1864. 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 (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.

Later life

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.

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