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 John Smith Phelps

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John Smith Phelps

Civil War Union Brigadier General, US Congressman, Missouri Governor. Born in Simsbury, Connecticut, he received a local education and attended Trinity College in Hartford. He studied law under his father, Elisha, a respected politician and lawyer in the state. He was admitted to the bar in 1835. Two years later he migrated to the frontier town of Springfield, Missouri, establishing a prosperous legal practice. Elected as a Democrat to the state legislature in 1840, and to the US House of Representatives in 1844, he developed a reputation as a skillful debater. During his 18 consecutive years in the national Congress, he championed Federal funding for the building of railroads, the establishment of an overland mail line, and reduced postal rates. He was among the earliest proponents of admitting California and Oregon to the Union as free states. After the firing on Fort Sumter in April 1861, he returned to Missouri from Washington D.C., and organized Phelp's Regiment, a 6-month unit he led in heavy fighting on the second day of battle at Pea Ridge, on March 8, 1862. His brief military career ended in July when President Lincoln appointed him military Governor of Missouri. On November 29 Lincoln also appointed him Brigadier General, but his commission expired in March 1863 when Congress failed to confirm the appointment. Ill health forced him to resign the governorship, and by 1864 he was once again practicing law. Better known as an efficient, personable politician than a soldier, he reentered public life as the Democratic candidate for governor in 1868. He was defeated because so many former Confederates within the party had been disenfranchised by Reconstruction legislation pushed through Congress by Radical Republicans. Over the next several years he labored successfully to ease war-related antipathies within the state Democratic party. He then led the party to victory in the gubernatorial election of 1876. After completing his 4-year term of office, he pursued his legal career until his death in St. Louis. His son was Union brevet Brigadier General John Elisha Phelps. Phelps County, Missouri, is named in his honor.

Bio by: Ugaalltheway


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  • Maintained by: Find A Grave
  • Added: 12 Oct 2001
  • Find A Grave Memorial 5840441
  • Find A Grave, database and images (https://www.findagrave.com : accessed ), memorial page for John Smith Phelps (22 Dec 1814–20 Nov 1886), Find A Grave Memorial no. 5840441, citing Hazelwood Cemetery, Springfield, Greene County, Missouri, USA ; Maintained by Find A Grave .