Papers, 1790–1983, of the Phillips and| Manuscripts Gifts 2009 | Front Page 2009 | Previous Issues | Friends of the Library |
A gift to SCL Manuscripts Division announced in 2009
Two hundred seventeen manuscripts (1790 – 1924 and 1983), consisting of correspondence, land, legal, school and military papers, church records, promissory notes, receipts, sermons, newspaper clippings, recipes, and genealogical materials, document the lives and activities of three generations of these two families from Greenville County, S.C. | Manuscripts Gifts 2009 | Previous Issues | Endowments | Friends of the Library |
The earliest items in the collection detail the purchase of lands in Paris Mountain Township by Stephen Phillips (ca. 1773 - 1849) between 1804 and 1837. This land, along with "Hillhaven," the house that Stephen constructed upon it, eventually passed into the hands of his son, Oliver Perry Phillips (1818 - 1866).
In 1840 the Phillips and Hudson families were united when the younger Phillips married Elizabeth Ann Hudson (b. 1818), whose parents had moved south from Virginia and settled in Greenville County, S.C., in 1784. The bulk of this collection centers on the life of Oliver and Elizabeth’s oldest son, William Erwin Phillips (1841 - 1862).
A third-person autobiography written by the nineteen-year-old on 9 January 1860, recounts his early educational activities which began at age four. By 1857 he had progressed far enough in his studies to be admitted to Furman University and was graduated from that institution in 1861. Papers documenting his time at Furman include certificates of attainment signed by professors P.C. Edwards, James C. Furman, C.H. Judson, and John F. Lanneau, receipts for tuition and board, and a list of his expenses, dated 18 February 1860, which notes that he was then "indebted to O.P. Phillips in the sum of Two hundred and twenty seven dollars and sixty cents." This included expenses for tuition, board, books, "clotheing and other articles," and "Lights and such like."
After graduation, Phillips planned on becoming a Baptist minister, as evidenced by twenty-four sermons present in the collection. However, with the outbreak of hostilities, he volunteered for military duty with what would eventually become Co. F, Sixteenth Regiment, South Carolina Infantry, which during Phillips’ service would be stationed at Columbia, Charleston, and Adam’s Run. A surviving muster roll, dated November - December 1861, for "Capt. Blakely’s Company" indicates that W.E. Phillips enlisted on 27 November with the rank of orderly sergeant.
Writing from Summerville, S.C., on 14 December 1861, Phillips described the process by which the regiment was mustered into service two days earlier in Columbia, S.C. - "The Mustering Officer, Gen. Preston came to Camp.... The Companies turned out and formed as in dress parade. Col. Elford...made a big speech.... And then the Companies were formed in one rank across the Old field. The Mustering Officer then came round and mustered in one at a time.... The [McCullough] Lions [Co. E] refused to be Mustered into service untill they had voted out Oneill. When They voted him out the Col. made him Sergeant Major." He also informed his father that he expected to "have the Measels in a few days. They are in Camp and...Yesterday morning I passed in 5 or 6 steps of a man who had them." These two topics, regimental politics and his preoccupation with disease, would be constant subjects of discussion in Phillips’ correspondence.
By late December 1861, Phillips and his regiment had been moved to Charleston, S.C., and were camped near the race track. In a letter written on Christmas Day he described their new camp as "not much less than a marsh" and expressed his surprise at how men were "allowed to polute the place.... You can see Beef-bones, chunks of bread and Beef that has spoiled by some means or other." These last actions, he speculated, led to the spread of contagious disease, and he noted too that nearly every man in the regiment "has cold and coff." Even though disease was prevalent, he dismissed the effectiveness of military hospitals - "A hospitle will make a well man sick.... It is the worst looking place I seen in my life.... I do think, if I were a little weak at the sommache it would vomit me to go into it, the place is so nasty." He closed his Christmas letter by commenting on the possibility of a furlough by declaring that the chance "is slim for any body, and thinner still for me. The officers are all for keeping me here and look at the prospect of me having the Measels with dread. I am the only officer in the company that has any thing to do." Phillips elaborated on his duties as orderly sergeant in a letter of 31 December 1861, explaining that it was he and not the captain of the company who made out the pay rolls and afterwards stated that to be a "Commissioned Officer is nothing. Any fool can make a lieu.... But if a man can be an O.S., he can be any thing in the Company." By now he was fully convinced that he would soon come down with the measles and encouraged his father to delay his visit until after he was well. Fellow soldier Henry M. Smith informed Oliver Phillips of his son’s illness on 9 January 1862, but assured him that he was then recovering in a nearby house and that "if Wm. Gets dangerous I will inform you at once." Soon after, William would receive a furlough and finish his recuperation in Greenville, S.C.
After returning to Charleston, S.C., Phillips’ thoughts turned to the upcoming elections mandated by the passage of the first Confederate Conscription Act. Although the law would not be passed until April 1862, Phillips began commenting on the reorganization of the company as early as 21 February. That day he informed his father that George W. Martin "is one of the bigest fools I have come across" and had "opposed me most strenuously" as lieutenant.
On 20 April 1862, four days after the passage of the Conscription Act, Phillips wrote to his sister about the possibility of seeking a commission. Some of the men, he declared, would "prefer me before any man in the regiment," though he conceded that "the number of those who apreciate my worth is small," and that there were "too many men who can lectioneer to seek for the offices." Four days later, however, he felt more confident of his being elected, and when he wrote to his father on 24 April 1862, he predicted that he would be elected first lieutenant, Perry D. Gilreath would emerge as captain, George W. Holtzclaw as second lieutenant, and Jesse Hawkins as third lieutenant. Phillips informed his father that he had been chosen as first lieutenant of Co. F in a letter of 1 May, further noting, "I am now satisfied with my position. And am content to stay."
Interestingly, Phillips had no comments regarding the replacement of Col. Charles J. Elford by James McCullough as regimental commander until he suffered a perceived slight by the latter. By 23 May 1862 Phillips was acting as assistant commissary sergeant and found "the business much better than I expected" and had "several enducements to keep the Office" - the chief among these was that the position carried with it the rank of captain. However, while writing this letter he learned that Colonel McCullough had decided to appoint a Dr. Beard to the position permanently.
This action by Phillips’ superior led to a vitriolic condemnation of McCullough - "First he appointed me and rather unwillingly I accepted. After a while he comes to me and agrees to appoint another man In my place if I desired it.... When it comes out that Price will not come he Still desires to appoint again.... He is so fickle minded that he cant do anything. He is devoid of reason Sense and conscience.... I think a good many McCullough Men have seen their wrongs. And come to see the truth of what I told them long ago.... I was better Satisfied before whe[n] Elford was Col. and I orderly Sergeant." On 1 June Phillips was still acting as commissary and gave vent to his frustrations over complaints by the men of insufficient rations by describing the typical issuance in a letter to his father of that date - "they get a pound and an eighth of flour and a pound of beef...each day. Together with a constant supply of Rice.... For Supper these men can have nearly a pound of Rice and Sugar to sweeten it with. These men have always got the provisions I tell you about. I give them what the land allows and it is enough." The remainder of this letter deals with his growing displeasure with McCullough, and the perceptions of the Sixteenth held by men in other units. After declaring that "I wish and most of the Regt. wish Elford back.... There is no standing of purpose nor morality about him [McCullough].... I would rather have an Indian to Command me," he opined that soon it would be "a disgrace to have been a member of the Greenville Regt.... When Elford was Col...we were held in esteem but now we are not respected at all. I used to glory that I was a member of the Greenville Regt. Now I am ashamed to Confess it."
Soon after penning this letter, Phillips became sick with "country fever." By 3 July 1862 he had become so weak that fellow soldier Reuben Smith had to write for him and inform his father that it had been his "chief delight to be in the cool sea breeze but when night comes and the tent is let down...the fevers begin to rage till I can see no peace." On 10 July 1862 Smith wrote again, this time in his own name, to urge Oliver Perry Phillips to come to visit his son, who by now was in a hospital at Camp Leesburg, in present-day Colleton County, S.C., as the younger man "had been wearing worse for the last few days." Phillips’ father and mother secured permission from the Provost Marshall’s Office in Charleston on 14 July 1862 to visit Adam’s Run but by this time their son had been dead for three days. Lieutenant William Erwin Phillips’ remains were trans-ported back to Greenville, S.C., and interred at Reedy River Baptist Church.
Extant postwar materials consist mainly of receipts and promissory notes documenting the financial situation of Oliver Perry Phillips’ widow and surviving children, Mary (d. 1882) and Adeline Amelia (b. 1843), who married Elliot Alston Hudson (b. 1845) in 1869. Also surviving are scattered records from Reedy River Baptist Church, including lists of members from 1894 and 1901, minutes dated 3 February - 9 July 1895, and a list of individuals baptized at the church on 7 September 1913. This list of persons baptized in 1913 is written on the verso of a printed advertisement and order form from J.B. Love, Distiller of Ringgold (Pittsylvania County, Virginia), titled "I Can Do It Now, I can furnish you direct from my Distillery Home-made Corn Whiskey at $2.00 Per Gal. for the New. $2.50 Per Gal. for the Old."