Captured by Forrest - Seattle's Clement Phelps of Company B 81st Illinois Infantry


Clement Phelps (1839-1914) Mount Pleasant Cemetery Seattle WA


Pictured is the grave of Clement Phelps in Seattle's historic Mount Pleasant cemetery. On this day, June 10, 1864, as a member of Company B of the 81st Illinois Infantry, he was captured by Confederate forces under General Nathan Bedford Forrest at the Battle of Brice's Crossroads, also known as the Battle of Guntown. After capture, he was sent to the notorious Andersonville prisoner of war camp. Fortunate to survive the ordeal of imprisonment at Andersonville, he mustered out with the regiment in July of 1865.

The following is a description of the battle taken from a letter included in the 1880 memoir by Company B's Captain Edmund Newsome of his time in the 81st Illinois. Clement Phelps is mentioned near the end.


"To Mrs. Newsome. Memphis, Tenn. June 15, 1864.


Dear Friend, — I write at your request to give you what, information I can. The battle of Guntown on the 10th of June, 1864, was disastrous to our troops. The expedition was completely defeated and demoralized, and retreated in disorder. The loss of the 81st was ten killed dead on the field, and quite a number wounded or missing, probably about one-third of the regiment. Capt. Newsome is among the missing from Co. "B," also Captains John Reese, Bartleson, David Young, Lt. Porter and Lt. Sam'l Brunn from other companies.

The Colonel of the regiment, when he found that he was about to be surrounded, ordered a retreat, and finding that he was out-numbered four to one, rather than surrender his men, told them to break their guns and throw them away, because they had no ammunition, and save themselves if they could, which they were all willing to do rather than surrender. Some rode on mules, some went through the woods and some along the road. Imagine the style of retreat, something like we had seen the enemy do at Champion Hill. There were some cavalry, but not enough to stop the enemy from coining, only a little while at a time. They led the retreat seventy-five miles before coming to the rail-road leading to Memphis, with scarcely anything to eat. Those who succeeded in reaching Memphis, traveled day and night.


This is the 15th of June, and the men keep coming in still. There are twelve men besides Capt. Newsome still out and missing from Co. "B." Among the missing are John Hinchcliff, William Blackwood, Elijah Stonum, Frank Tripp, Clement Phelps, William Holder, James McKenny and many others. The supposition is, that they are all prisoners.


Respectfully yours, Hamilton Jenkins"

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