THE DAVID PHILLIPS TRAGEDY 1839-1869
2nd LT. DAVID L. PHILLIPS – 7TH TENNESSEE
NEW: AI Animation of 2nd Lt. Phillips
Company K – Captain Robert Hatton, Thomas H. Bostick, Archibald D. Norris – “The Blues” – Men from Wilson County. 
“Nil desperandum” – David Phillips 1862
06 JAN 2017 | Tennessee State Archives |
Yesterday, I held my GG uncles diary in my shaking hands.
Yesterday, I learned that there are more details after David’s last diary entry March 7, 1863.
Yesterday, an hour prior, I located his cousins service revolver and two red sash’s on display in the Civil War section of the Tennessee State Museum.
Yesterday, Major Waters USA and Lt. Phillips CSA swirled around my head like the snow on Capital Hill. I looked up at Sam Davis, as I turned the corner on 7th to the state archives, praying David’s diary was where it should be. Not only did I find it, I also uncovered a lot about my Waters side of the family. An article written for the Wilson County Bicentennial, explains their Union support of the war, in a town that was very Confederate.
192 days ago, I went to the Nashville National Cemetery to shoot the Boy Scouts planting flags for Memorial Day. My last shot was down a row of Civil War veteran headstones to capture the Minnesota Monument in the background. As I was standing up, I recognized a family name that was familiar, because it is so odd: Major Shelah Waters. There are over 20,000 Civil War graves alone in that cemetery. I randonally choose this one to lay down in front of.
David was captured for a second time (first at Seven Pines) at The Stone Wall in Pickets Charge. In that suicidal attack, the 7th were part of a handful that made it to The Angle, losing 118 out of 276 men (43%). This has been described as the high-water mark of the Confederacy.
360º Pano at The Angle at Gettysburg
In his diary, there were a number of pages in the front and back of the two pocket diaries, that have not been transcribed. I have included them here in this PDF. I could probably use some help with transcriptions.
My GGF’s brother, Lt. David L. Phillips, signed up for the Confederacy right after his state of Tennessee entered the American Civil War June 8, 1861. He served in Virginia all the way from Cheat Mountain to Appomattox Courthouse, being captured twice, exchanged once and escaped once.
It must have been a difficult decision for him, as Wilson County Tennessee was bitterly divided. His first cousins, Major Shelah Waters (male), Major Thomas Waters, enlisted/commissioned on the Union side with the 5th Cavalry Tennessee U.S. Shelah and David were classmates at Union University in Murfreesboro, Tennessee (Waters in 1857-1860 and Phillips in 1857-1861). David Phillips was a brother of Phi Gamma Delta, which is inscribed in his diary. Cousin Shelah was too. The history of Phi Gamma Delta at Union University.
Members of the extended Phillips family line in Watertown, Tennessee who fought in The War Between the States:
27 Confederate | 7 U.S. Army
Watertown Confederate Army
- Smith Allen KIA Franklin CSA
- Elias Benjamin Bass CSA
- John Bass Captain CSA
- John L. Bass CSA
- Thomas Bass KIA d.1865 CSA
- Thomas Bass KIA d.1863 CSA
- John Wiseman Bass Captured CSA
- William Emsley Bass CSA
- Petter Donnell Co. C 4th TN Cavalry CSA
- William Evans CSA
- David Wilson Grandstaff captured 4th TN Cavalry CSA
- David Wilson Grandstaff 1st LT 4th TN Cavalry Co. C CSA
- Isaac Preston Grandstaff CSA
- Samuel Archibald Grandstaff KIA Stones River CSA
- William Dillard Grandstaff CSA
- Samuel B. Lambert CSA
- Benjamin Phillips CSA
- David L. Phillips – Union University – 2nd Lt. 7th Infantry
- James Madison Phillips – Union University – Major Forrest 4th TN Cavalry CSA
- John Phillips CSA
- Joshua Phillips CSA – Wounded at Shiloh, lost one eye, farm ransacked by Union
- Matt Phillips Captain CSA
- Sion B. Phillips CSA
- Thomas Phillips CSA
- William Phillips Forrest – Stones River – Shot off his horse – CSA
- William Preston Phillips Forrest CSA
- Edward Price CSA
Watertown United States Army
- Ezekiel Bass Captain USA
- John Berry USA
- George Oakley KIA USA
- James Oakley Captain USA
- John Wilson Phillips USA
- Shelah Waters – Union University – Major 5th TN Cavalry USA
- Thomas Waters – Union University – Major 5th TN Cavalry USA
His diary accounts for almost ever day of his war – up until the regiment started taking significant losses in late May of 1862. Like most combat veterans, the narrative stops.
David did not reconnect with his sweetheart after he returned home from the war. He returned to teaching, and died less than four years later in 1869.
Reading between the lines:
The drawing on the front page of David’s diary appears to be a Waning Crescent Moon behind the phrase “Nil desperandum” latin for never despair. David was of Welsh (Celt) ancestry. It could also be a “C” for confederate.
“There is a moon goddess also worshiped by the Celts, who is associated with the lunar cycles. The word ‘crescent’ comes from the Latin term ceres meaning to ‘bring forth, create’ and crescere, the Latin term for ‘grow, thrive’. Waning Crescent: symbolizes the expulsion of negative energy in your life, getting rid of things you know you don’t need, or those things/people/habits, etc which are harming you.” – DaphneShadows
Excerpts from Davids Diary:
“December 3rd . Archie and I went to Rockbridge Alum Springs [Virginia] on a looking expedition. The buildings at the Springs are very nice. There are a good many sick soldiers in the rooms of the hotel which are used for a hospital. We got a splendid dinner at the hotel which in part is still devoted to the entertainment of visitors. Came back to camp in evening.”
“December 4th. Got a letter from John [brother] from which I learned he was about to volunteer**. Went to Old Millboro in evening with Justiss. Made the acquaintance of a merry old toiler. Bought some apples from him and got a splendid supper at his house. Returned to camps by dark. Gilham’s regiment left for Staunton on the evening train.”
“December 13th. Day fine. Archie and I had a regular old corn shucking scuffle. It was ‘give and take’ for some time; finally Archie was routed, having got a sore knee and a bruised hand. During the contest we rendered tent ‘hors du combat’ by knocking it down. Captain Bostic got back from home at night; boys glad to see him. He brought a great many letters for the regiment. None for me. Through some that he brought I learned with regret that Tommy, Levi, and Luster* had been drafted. Bad news from all quarters about home.”
“December 16th. Up early preparing for our march. Boys didn’t like the idea of going on the Potomac. Got ourselves ready for traveling about 9. Left camps enroute for Strasburg about 9:30 a. m. We went through Staunton and took the valley turnpike. Went through town with colors flying and drums beating. The ladies greeted us by waving handkerchiefs. Some I noticed weeping at, as I supposed, the recollection of son or husband who were away soldiering like us. Found the pike to be a real one running through the finest country I have seen in Virginia. The inhabitants very hospitable and generous. There seemed to be a dearth of young and middle aged men. Marched about 8 miles and camped just beyond Willow Spout Spring. Adjacent to the camp ground was an old stone church in a cluster of large oaks. Preaching was appointed in the church. Went to attend the services, found the house crowded. The church is called Stonyfort and is said to be about 125 years old. Parson Boydston preached and after preaching the pastor (a fine looking man of 35 or 40) gave us a most eloquent and impressive talk.”
“December 31st. The last day of 1861 has come. I am still living the life of a soldier. I see no prospect for peace in the incoming year. Oh, how my heart would leap for joy if peace were declared and I permitted to return. I look back over my past year and see nothing of profit I have done. May my hour of usefulness soon come. I am tired of doing nothing and gaining nothing. The sky indicates rain, the sun refuses to shine. It seems as if the dying year would weep over the unhappy state of my country. May the bright sun of peace soon light up and enliven our sunny South, making our firesides happy and our homes the homes of peace. The year of 1861 aieu forever.”
– Private David Phillips
“Seeing The Elephant”
In 1862, Hatton and his men were ordered to the Richmond area to stop Federal Maj. Gen. George B. McClellan’s drive on the Confederate capital. During the resulting Peninsula Campaign, Hatton served with distinction, and on May 23, 1862, he was promoted to brigadier general of the 4th Brigade, 1st Division, Army of Northern Virginia; this appointment was not confirmed by the Confederate Congress. Just eight days later, he was shot in the head and killed while leading his Tennessee Brigade at the Battle of Fair Oaks. -Wikipedia
In May of 1862, enlistments were up and new officers elected. This resulted in a new command structure that was leaner and more competently led, but bad news from home arrived: the utter route of Gen. John Hunt Morgan in Lebanon, Tennessee. The men of Wilson County were infuriated by the news.
“Shockingly, the boys from Wilson County received a report of a ﬁght right in the streets of their home town—Lebanon. An astonished Robert Hatton wrote, ‘The Yankees are in Lebanon? My house surrounded by a hostile foe.’ This initial story was soon followed by successive accounts of the ﬁght, each story providing details of appalling verity—not only had Confederate troops been defeated, they had run away! Colonel Hatton reacted: ‘[ I am] disgusted at … what I heard.’ David Phillips wrote, ‘Oh, how distressingly sad it is to be so completely cut off from home.’” – The 7th Tennessee Infantry in the Civil War
Protests were made by Tennessee regimental commanders to be reassigned to their home state. They fell on deaf ears in Richmond, Virginia. Colonel George Maney (Franklin, TN), forced the issue, employing his political connections to be shipped back home, but no others. The 7th were dumfounded by this news.
The first dance with the Grim Reaper began on May 31, 1862. Spirits were high, as their beloved 36 year old Col. Robert “Bob” Hatton, was promoted to General in command their Brigade (the 1st, 7th, 14th Tennessee and a four gun battery called Braxton’s battery). On the night of May 30th, 1862, General Hatton received word to prepare his troops for battle. “If I should not return, be a mother to my wife and children.” he prophetically wrote to his parents. To his wife Sophie: “The struggle, will no doubt, be bloody; that we will triumph, and that gloriously, I am confident. Would that I might bind to my heart, before the battle, my wife and children. That pleasure may never again be granted to me. If so, farewell; and may the God of all mercy be to you and ours, a guardian and friend. “If we meet again, we’ll smile; If not, this parting has been well.” Affectionately, your husband, R. Hatton.”
The next morning General Hatton marched his brigade 7 miles along the Richmond – Yorktown rail line. As the Tennesseans hurried toward the conflict they passed President Jefferson Davis, and also caught glimpses of Generals Joesph E. Johnston and Robert E. Lee along the way. The entire Confederate high-command were on the sidelines watching this unfold.
Around 2 PM Hatton received orders to fight.
Fair Oaks Virginia: “The occasion is at hand, and I confidently expect that you will acquit yourselves as noble heroes” “load”, “fix bayonets” and finally “forward, guide center.”
In an oat field, just north of Fair Oaks, Hatton’s Brigade attacked, in the open, a brigade of Massachusetts and Michigan regiments embedded in thick woods. Early in the battle, Hatton had his horse shot out. Saber raised, he coolly moved forward on foot a short distance, before being struck down by shot or shell. He died before anyone noticed him.
A 1000 man volley decimated the green Confederates. Finally, after darkness enveloped the battlefield, the order was given to withdraw. The 7th began it’s slide to the rear, but in the darkness and tangled foliage, Private Phillips Company K stumbled into union lines and had no choice other than to surrender. He was sent to Fort Delaware. He would be exchanged 3 months later.
144 out of 594 7th Tennessee young men were claimed in the Battle of Seven Pines (24%). General Hatton remains, in stone, on the Lebanon Town Square.
“The Curtain Falls”
“March 7th, 1863. Time has slipped away like magic since last I wrote in this book. Nearly seven months gone with their burden of marches, toils and battles. Five battles have I witnessed and in which I was actively engaged. Many miles I have marched till worn and weary, but here I am sound and well, enjoying life as best I can. For the past three months we have had an easy time, but the next six are to be dreaded. I hope I may always have such luck as I have had thus far, except ‘the lean streak’ I had at Fort Delaware.”
“May 10th . The events that have transpired since the first have been too extensive and important to attempt to record them here . I will have to leave them to memory to keep. Much of toil, weary marching, sleepless nights and hard fighting has fallen to the lot of this army since it left Yorktown. By the Gracious Providence of God I am here sound and unhurt. While I am preserved from the dangers of camps and the battlefields , sad news comes to me from home. Intelligence has come to me that I have lost a dear, much-beloved brother [Rev. John Phillips].
Oh, how distressingly sad it is to be so completely cut off from home that I cannot know only perchance whether loved ones there live and are well or laid low by disease and death . Fondly had I cherished hope that I would meet that beloved brother again, but death hath separated us. Thus have I seen one of my fondest earthly hopes decay. The next stroke may remove me from those who will be left behind . Yet how consoling it is to think of meeting him in Heaven. There we shall know no separation. It is the sacred hope of meeting my friends in Heaven if not on earth that animates my soul and nerves my arm to withstand the temptations of life around me, endure the afflictions of the soldier and willingly risk my life on the battlefield. This life is full of desperations and dangers, full of sorrow and grief, but in the next oh how happy all shall be who while here love God and keep His commandments!”
– DAVID L. PHILLIPS
During the Battle of Fredricsburg, the 7th Tennessee held there ground against Gen. George Mead’s division despite having 2 regiments to their left break and run. Pennsylvania regiments poured through the large gap in their line. The 7th was now taking fire from 3 directions. Ammunition ran low on both sides and brutal hand to hand combat followed. There were at least two Pennsylvania soldiers that were from David’s grandfathers birthplace in Allegheny County, PA. I am researching to see if they were cousins of his. One is named David C. Philips, and was with the 5th Pennsylvania Infantry. February 2, 1863 David was promoted to 3rd Lieutenant.
In Robert E. Lee’s masterpiece Battle of Chancellorsville, the 7th was sent straight up the middle of the assault. May 3, 1863 after the Battle of Chancellorsville he made 2nd. Lt.
David Phillips was captured again at Gettysburg on July 3, 1863, during Pickett’s Charge. What was left of the 7th made it all the way to The Angle in the ill fated assault on Cemetery Hill. (Union muster records conflict with this capture date. One is July 1, 1863 and the other is July 3 at Gettysburg).
He was transferred from prison at Ft. McHenry, to Ft. Delaware, to Johnson’s Island and to Point Lookout for exchange on March 14, 1865. Sometime between his arrival at City Point and the surrender at Appomattox he must have slipped away before being able to re-join the regiment. He reported to Federal authorities in Charlotte, NC, May 1, 1865, and took the Oath in Nashville on Aug 1, 1865.
- Enlisted July 8, 1861
- Battle of Seven Pines (Fair Oaks) – May 1862
- Captured May 31-June 1, 1862
- Exchanged August 6, 1862
- Harper’s Ferry September 15, 1862
- Battle of Cedar Mountain August 9, 1862
- Second Battle of Manassas August 28-30, 1862
- Battle of Sharpsburg (Antietam) September 17, 1862
- Battle of Fredericksburg December 11-15, 1862
- 3rd Lt. February 27, 1963
- Battle of Chancellorsville April 30- May 6, 1863
- 2nd Lt. May 8, 1863
- Battle of Gettysburg July 1-3, 1863
- Captured July 3, 1863
- Charlotte, NC surrender May 1, 1865
The approximate route of the 7th Tennessee up to the Battle of Seven Pines.
“David returned to Wilson County broken in body. The brutal exposure, long marches, starvation, particularly during his imprisonment at several POW camps, had wrecked the physique one strong and stalwart. David had a sweetheart in Tennessee, to whom he refers several times in his diary. Probably his poor health was responsible for his never marrying. After the war he went back to his old profession of school teaching. He sought vainly to regain his lost health, but the ravages of the war were too great.”
The “White Plague” (typically from tuberculosis and other diseases, that consumed 7.5% of the prison population) took root in the body that had marched courageously under the Stars and Bars, and on May 18, 1869, the loyal brave heart was stilled.” David is buried in the Phillips Cemetery near Watertown on Bass Road. Ironically, it also holds four members of the 40th Tennessee USCI (United States Colored Infantry).
‘The Phillips Family History’ by Harry Phillips • Published by The Lebanon Democrat 1935
7th Regiment, Tennessee Infantry CSA
7th Infantry Regiment completed its organization at Camp Trousdale, Sumner County, Tennessee, in May, 1861, and in July, moved to Staunton, Virginia. The men were raised in DeKalb, Smith, Sumner, and Wilson counties. It participated in Lee’s Cheat Mountain Campaign and for a time served under General T.J. Jackson. Later it was assigned to General S.R. Anderson’s, Hatton’s, Archer’s, and McComb’s Brigade. It fought with the Army of Northern Virginia from Seven Pines to Cold Harbor, then was involved in the long Petersburg siege south of the James River and the Appomattox Campaign. This regiment reported 72 casualties during the Seven Days’ Battles, 34 at Cedar Mountain, 26 at Second Manassas, and 38 at Fredericksburg. It lost 11 killed and 45 wounded at Chancellorsville, and forty-six percent of the 249 engaged at Gettysburg. The unit surrendered 6 officers and 41 men. Its commanders were Colonels John A. Fite, John F. Goodner, and Robert Hatton; Lieutenant Colonels John K. Howard and S.G. Shepard; and Major William H. Williamson.
A great book about the 7th Tennessee is The 7th Tennessee Infantry in the Civil War: A History and Roster, William Thomas Venner on Goodreads.
*probable Harmon Luster Henderson who later served with Forrest’s 3rd Cavalry Regiment Co. D
** Rev. John Phillips never joined. He died of unknown causes in April of 1862.
360º Virtual Tour of Lt. David L. Phillips gravesite and other family cemeteries in the area:
Phillips Family History: A Brief History of the Phillips Family, Beginning with the Emigration From Wales, and a Detailed Genealogy of the Descendants … Pioneer Citizens of Wilson County, Tenn.
Post script 6 January 2019: I found this (lebanon_herald) in the TN State Archives the other day. From around 1858 to 1878, there were only 2 days of Newspapers from Lebanon. Here is October 21, 1865 (the other paper was the 28th).
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My GGG Uncle
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