Charles Edward Phelps

Charles Edward Phelps (1833 – 1908)

Born in Guilford, Windham County, Vermont, May 1, 1833, then moved with his parents to New Jersey in 1837 and to Maryland in 1841. Phelps then pursued classical studies at St. Timothy’s Hall (also attended by J. W. Booth). Phelps graduated from Princeton College in 1852, then attended the law department of Harvard University, admitted to the bar and began his law practice in Baltimore, Maryland in 1855 after a period of foreign travel.

Phelps was elected to Baltimore’s city council in 1860 as a reform candidate. In April, 1862, he became a lieutenant colonel in 7th Maryland Volunteers of the Union Army. Colonel Phelps’ horse was killed under him at the Battle of the Wilderness, and in May, 1864, while a part of a charge at Spotsylvania, he was wounded and taken prisoner. He was rescued by Sheridan’s Cavalry under Custer. For his heroic acts Phelps would later receive the Medal of Honor. “… for when the division and brigade commanders were wounded in the assault at Laurel Hill … he succeeded to the command and led the brigade with distinguished gallantry and was wounded within a few feet to the enemy’s works and taken prisoner”.

Phelps was elected as an Unconditional Unionist to the 39th and 40th Congress. He would have been a newly inaugurated Congressman when chosen as Maryland’s representative on the Congressional Delegation to the Lincoln funeral. More than likely Phelps joined the funeral train at Baltimore.

Phelps resumed the practice of law in Baltimore, served as commissioner of the public schools, and judge of the Supreme Bench of the City of Baltimore (1882-1908). In 1902 Phelps had reached the age of mandatory retirement for a judge – but the age limit for him was extended by a legislative act. His remarkable book “Falstaff and Equity” was published in 1901. In 1905 he visited Jamaica, and in 1907 he was given the doctor of laws by Princeton University. Phelps retired from the bench on May 1, 1908, and died on December 27, 1908 with interment in Woodlawn Cemetery, Baltimore, Maryland.

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