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John Wolcott Phelps Correspondence

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John Wolcott Phelps was born in Guilford, Vermont and graduated from the United States Military Academy in 1836. On May 2, 1861, Phelps was appointed Colonel of the 1st Vermont Infantry and was mustered into U.S. service on May 8. He was promoted to brigadier general on May 27, 1861. General Phelps was stationed at Camp Parapet in Carrollton, seven miles from New Orleans. Many fugitive slaves arrived at the camp seeking refuge. Phelps sought to create three regiments of black soldiers, but his commanding officer, General Butler, ordered that they be made laborers. Unwilling to employ the Africans as mere laborers, General Phelps offered his resignation on August 21, 1862. General Butler refused to accept it. Later that August, General Phelps returned his commission to President Abraham Lincoln. Phelps went on to become the candidate for the American Party/Anti-Masonic Party for president in 1880.

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Time Period Covered: May 1, 1861 - April 18, 1863 

Parent Collections

Vermonters in the Civil War

Published:  March 04, 2011,  University of Vermont, Bailey/Howe Library, Center for Digital Initiatives

Rights:  Requests to reproduce this item should be sent to the UVM Libraries' Center for Digital Initiatives at cdi@uvm.edu. For more information, see http://cdi.uvm.edu/about/rights. More information.


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Browsing by:    Topic: ("United StatesArmy.Vermont Infantry Regiment, 7th (1862-1866).Company C") remove term

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Title:   E. V. N. Hitchcock to John Wolcott Phelps

Creator:  Hitchcock, E. V. N.

Date:  1863-03-14

Resource type:   correspondence

Hitchcock learns that Phelps is nominated to be a Major General. Concludes letter with another carefully worded appeal to Phelps for a better position, preferably under Phelps's command. (Hitchcock underlines the word "inactivity.") Details in between include mail that has arrived, including a Brattleboro newspaper (title unknown); a new "conscript act" (Conscription Act: passed by the Union in late February and signed by Lincoln in March, 1863); preparations for summer and the anticipation of a large shipment of ice; officers busy with a Court Martial; and the continued good health of the regiment.

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    Title:   Frederick Holbrook to John Wolcott Phelps

    Creator:  Holbrook, Frederick

    Date:  1862-03-10

    Resource type:   correspondence

    Upbeat letter delivered to Gen. Phelps by the writer's son, William C. Holbrook, who apparently turned down an offer to join Phelps's staff. The writer, Gov. Holbrook, lavishes praise on Vermont officers and soldiers (including his son), and sends warm wishes for success to Phelps, sharing his conviction that "the Union Cause must triumph." Holbrook concludes with some reflections on the difficulty of being a wartime governor.

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      Title:   Frederick Holbrook to John Wolcott Phelps

      Creator:  Holbrook, Frederick

      Date:  1862-05-02

      Resource type:   correspondence

      Topics include the arrival of the 7th and 8th Vermont Regiments at Ship Island, off the coast of Miss., and arrangements with the War Department for wounded troops to be sent home. Holbrook mentions the Battle of Yorktown (April 5-May 4, 1862), esp. the "affair" on April 16 that left ca. 100 Vermont soldiers wounded. Holbrook is in charge of the U.S. Marine Hospital in Burlington, Vt.

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        Title:   Frederick Holbrook to John Wolcott Phelps

        Creator:  Holbrook, Frederick

        Date:  1862-07-27

        Resource type:   correspondence

        Topics include the President calling for 300,000 additional troops, the wish that the National Government will develop a decisive policy to "proclaim war to the knife," and a description of Frederick Holbrook's son Major Will. Holbrook continues to express his admiration for Phelps and offer him greater forces to command.

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          Title:   Frederick Holbrook to John Wolcott Phelps

          Creator:  Holbrook, Frederick

          Date:  1862-08-08

          Resource type:   correspondence

          Topics include Mrs. Holbrook requesting General Phelps to forward her letters to her son and Frederick Holbrook inquiring after the sick men and the number of surgeons. Holbrook expresses frustration that the Vt. Regiments (7th & 8th) are still not under Phelps's command, per an agreement with Gen. Butler. Holbrook also mentions Phelps's "Dark Brigade," black troops that Phelps recruited in Louisiana without permission from the War Dept. (Phelps resigned in Aug., 1862.)

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            Title:   W. C. Holbrook to John Wolcott Phelps

            Creator:  Holbrook, W. C.

            Date:  1863-04-18

            Resource type:   correspondence

            Topics include investigation of the 7th Vermont Regiment's role in the Battle of Baton Rouge, and the suggestion to bring charges against General Butler. The writer, Col. Holbrook, apologizes for not representing the regiment as well as he could have, were he more experienced in the Courts of Inquiry. Holbrook mentions "a good deal of marching and counter marching" in the Baton Rouge area.

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