Biography - Jesse Phillips

HON. JESSE J. PHILLIPS. The distinguished subject of this sketch was born in Montgomery County, Ill., May 27, 1837, the son of Thomas Phillips, a native of Macon County, Ill., who was born October 7, 1790; the latter removed to Kentucky, and lost his parents in the year 1811; later he removed to Kaskaskia, Ill., and finally left there and went into business at Ste. Genevieve, Mo. His stay there was a short one, and he returned to a point near Kaskaskia, where he located and remained for the balance of his life. During the war with Mexico he was a Second Lieutenant in Rountree's Company, Second Regiment of Illinois Volunteers. He passed from life September 22, 1877, aged eighty-seven years, at Hillsboro, Ill. His father, John Phillips, was a native of Wales. The wife of the latter was Lucy Hampton, born in South Carolina.
Our subject's mother was Jane Roberts, a native of Kentucky, born August 7, 1802, and was reared at Smithland, in the same State. Her demise occurred May 23, 1888. Her father, Jesse Roberts, was a native of South Carolina, where he was reared and pursued the vocation of a Universalist preacher. His mother was Effie Carter, a native of North Carolina. Jesse Roberts had one brother, Obadiah, who left a son, Orvin, who took an active part in the struggle for the independence of Texas, and subsequently was a Judge of the Supreme Court of Texas and also Governor of that State. He still resides at Austin and is known as the "Old Alcalde."
The father and mother of our subject were married at Smithland, Ky., and later removed to Illinois. They were the parents of eight children, five sons and three daughters. One son died in infancy, while the others grew to maturity; the youngest, Sidney B., was Sergeant-Major of the Ninth Illinois Infantry, and was mortally wounded at the battle of Shiloh, April 6, 1862, dying from the same June 8 following. Burrell, the second son, was a member of the General Assembly of the State of Illinois from the Forty-first District, in 1876, and again in 1886 from the counties of Montgomery and Christian. The eldest son, Henry, is a resident of Jefferson County, Ill.; Hannah is the widow of Gen. Scott; Unity J. is the wife of George Seward, of Montgomery County, Ill. Permesea was the wife of William H. Brewer, and died in 1868.
Our subject is the seventh child and fourth son; he was educated at the Hillsboro Academy, and at the age of nineteen was appointed Route Agent on the Terre Haute & St. Louis Railroad, a position he held until 1857; he then entered the law office of Davis & Kingsbury, of Hillsboro, where he studied three years, after which he was admitted to the Bar, in the year 1860, and began the practice of his profession at, Hillsboro. In the year 1861, in response to the call for seventy-five thousand men, he raised a company, which was organized April 17, 1861, of which he was elected Captain; they reported at Springfield and made part of the Ninth Infantry, our subject being made Major. May 1 next the regiment was at Cairo, Ill., and continued on garrison duty three months, the term of its enlistment.
The regiment was reorganized September 3, 1861, and entered the service for three years; soon after it was ordered, with the Twelfth Illinois Infantry, by Gen. Grant to proceed to Paducah, Ky., and at this time Maj. Phillips was temporary commander of the regiment. He was commissioned Lieutenant-Colonel December 21, 1861, and in February, 1862, his command moved up the Tennessee River and formed part of the army that co-operated with the fleet in the attack upon and capture of Ft. Henry. He also took part with eight companies of his regiment, he being in command, as the Colonel was disabled by a wound, in the siege and capture of Ft. Donelson. In this battle the Ninth Regiment, with six hundred men engaged, lost thirty-five in killed, one hundred and sixty wounded, and six prisoners Col. Phillips received high praise from his brother officers and from Gens. Grant and Oglesby for the superior manner in which he handled the regiment during the fight. While leading the bayonet charge his horse was shot from under him. The regiment next took part in the battle of Shiloh, April 6, 1862, going into the fight with five hundred and seventy men and suffering a loss of sixty-one killed, two hundred and eighty-seven wounded and ten prisoners. One commissioned officer was killed, nineteen wounded and only four escaped unhurt. Among the mortally wounded was Sidney B. Phillips, a brother of our subject.
Col. Phillips' horse received three musket shots and one grape shot before it fell, and the Colonel himself was shot through the hand and twice through the thigh. Owing to the wounds of the Colonel of the regiment, received in March, the command at that time devolved upon Col. Phillips, a position that he retained not only in the battles of Shiloh and Donelson, but also until the expiration of the term of service of the regiment. After our subject recovered from the wounds received at Shiloh, he was ordered to Athens, in North Alabama, where he was stationed several months, the command at this time being mounted as scouts. The post was one of great danger, requiring constant vigilance, but his duty there ceased September 1, 1863. His command was in a number of fights, in one of which, near Florence, Ala., during a sabre charge which he directed, he received a serious injury by the fall of his horse after he had broken through the enemy's line. He made a charge with thirty-three of his men upon seventy of the enemy, and succeeded in capturing thirty-four, the only one hurt during the charge, except the Colonel, being a rebel, who was cut down by a sabre in the hands of Col. Phillips. April 15, 1863, Col. Phillips with his regiment had a battle with rebel cavalry at Cherokee, Ala., and the same day with another body of the enemy at Lundy's, the rebels losing fifty killed and wounded and twenty-three prisoners, the Union loss being five wounded and fifty-five prisoners. During the same mouth the Colonel and his regiment took part in other battles at Cherokee and Crane Creek, Ala., and May 4 in a fight at Tupelo, Miss., and on the 28th of the same mouth was in a battle at Florence, Ala.
Col. Phillips, with a command of six hundred men, his own and portions of two other regiments, while scouting in Mississippi, June 19, 1863, was attacked by about three thousand men at Mud Creek Swamp. A hard fight ensued, which lasted from eight o'clock A. M. until 3 o'clock P. M., when Col. Phillips, finding himself opposed by such superior numbers, retreated in a masterly manner, contesting every inch of the ground, punishing the enemy so badly that it finally gave up the pursuit. The rebel loss was two hundred killed and wounded, while the Union loss was but five killed and eighteen wounded. Col. Phillips' conduct during the fight and in the retreat was warmly commended by his superior officers in their official report. He made a raid in August, 1863, with about sixteen hundred men through Mississippi, and at Granada they captured and destroyed about sixty jockettes, four hundred and fifty cars of all kinds, and a large amount of stores. Here lie met and drove back a force of fifteen hundred rebels under Col. Slemmer. At Forked Deer River he engaged the enemy in a skirmish October 21, 1863; again, October 8, he attacked a largely superior force of the enemy at Salem, Tenn., and after fighting two hours was reinforced by eight hundred men under Col. McCrillis. After fighting until dark at a disadvantage, he retreated.
October 11, of the same year, the rebels attacked Collierville, Tenn., and were repulsed. Col. Phillips, being in command of a brigade, followed them and an engagement took place at Graham's Mill, and again at Royal, Miss.; in the last engagement he had a horse shot under him At Florence, Ala., November 30, 1863, with two hundred men, he attacked a force of the enemy, charging them with sabres, and captured thirty-four of them. His command was next ordered to Decatur, Ala., where he remained from January, 1864, until May 1 following, during which time he was engaged in a number of skirmishes, the most important of which was near Moulton, Ala Shortly afterward he engaged a force of rebel cavalry under Maj. Williams at Somerville, Ala., and drove them to Danville, Ala., and from Danville to Moulton, where a sharp fight ensued. Col. Phillips, encountering a reinforcement of largely superior forces, deemed a retreat prudent. Here his horse was shot and fell upon him, placing him in peril of capture, from which he was rescued by a charge from a portion of his command led by Lieut. Cyrus Gilmore, of his regiment. About May, 1864, the corps to which he belonged was ordered to Chattanooga to prepare for the Atlanta campaign. Upon reporting, he had orders to move to the front to take the advance of the army. In obedience to the order, he set out with his command, and on passing through Snake Creek, Ga., he encountered a force of rebel cavalry. At the battle of Resaca, May 14, 1864, in a reconnaissance he confronted a heavy force of rebel cavalry under the celebrated Gen. Wheeler, and was driven back after a fight of two hours. Here again he had a horse shot under him and received a painful injury in the ankle, which rendered him unfit for service until June 1, when he again assumed command.
In the battle of July 22, 1864, in front of Atlanta, the Colonel took an active part, being placed on the staff of Gen. Dodge, who made honorable mention of the Colonel's gallantry in his official report. On the night of July 22 he was placed in command of a brigade of infantry, and on July 28 his command took a prominent part in the engagement. On that day Col. Phillips aided Gen. Logan in a masterly way, the General's command sustaining the flank of the battle. August 1, 1864, he was appointed Chief on Gen. Dodge's staff, where he remained until the capture of Atlanta, when he resigned, the resignation being accepted in September, 1864. He returned to his home at Hillsboro and resumed the practice of law; was commissioned Brevet-Colonel to rank March 13, 1865; also on the same date he was commissioned Brigadier General by brevet, both commissions being for gallant conduct and for meritorious and distinguished services during the war. In politics, our subject is a Democrat, high in the councils and confidence of his party, having twice been the nominee for State Treasurer, in 1866 and 1868, and was defeated both times, because his party was in the minority. He is now and has been Circuit Judge, a position he has filled with distinguished ability.

Extracted 12 Jan 2017 by Norma Hass from 1892 Portrait and Biographical Record of Montgomery and Bond Counties, Illinois, pages 501-504.

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