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W. Phelan

W. Phelan

Confederate (CSV)


Watkins Phelan

(1837 - 1865)

Home State: Alabama

Education: Howard College, Class of 1854

Branch of Service: Infantry

Unit: 3rd Alabama Infantry

Before Sharpsburg

After college he studied the law, clerked for the state Supreme Court, and was admitted to the bar in 1861. He was Private Secretary to Governor Moore at the start of the war then helped raise a company of troops and enrolled with them as 2nd Lieutenant, Company F, 3rd Alabama Infantry on 26 April 1861 in Montgomery. He was wounded in three places - shoulder, thigh, and foot - in June 1862 at Seven Pines, VA, and returned to his Company in August.

On the Campaign

He was in command of his Company in action near Turner's Gap on South Mountain on 14 September 1862.

The rest of the War

He was promoted to Captain on 7 October 1862. At Chancellorsville, VA on 2 May 1863:

Captain Watkins Phelan, who commanded the left wing of the Third Alabama, was also wounded [in the leg] in this charge. He, with Captain Bonham, who commanded the regiment, and Captain Chester, who commanded the right wing of the Third Alabama, acted most gallantly, and led their regiment with great success.
He was wounded yet again, in the right thigh on 5 May 1864 in the Wilderness, VA, and was treated in a hospital, furloughed on 23 May, and returned to duty in July. He was killed by an exploding artillery shell in action at Petersburg, VA on 2 April 1865 at age 27.

References & notes

His service from the State of Alabama.1 His command on South Mountain from a casualty list for Rodes' Brigade in the Montgomery Weekly Advertiser of 8 October 1862. The Chancellorsville quote above from Colonel O'Neal, who commanded the Brigade, in his after-action report of 12 May 1863.2 Wilderness details from Alfred C. Young's The Complete Roster and Service Records of Lee's Army of Northern Virginia during the Overland Campaign (2019). Personal details from a bio sketch in the journal The Lost Cause (Vol. 4, No. 3, October 1900), which says he was mortally wounded on 2 April and died on 4 April 1865, and from family genealogists. His gravesite is on Findagrave. His picture from a c. 1862 photograph in the Alabama Archives.

His father John Dennis Phelan (1809-1879) was an Alabama Supreme Court Justice and state Attorney General; 4 of his sons served in the Confederate Army.


02/22/1837; Tuscaloosa, AL


04/02/1865; Petersburg, VA; burial in Oakwood Cemetery, Montgomery, AL


1   State of Alabama, Dept. of Archives & History, Alabama Civil War Service Database, Published 2004, first accessed 01 January 2010, <>, Source page: /civilwar/soldier.cfm?id=158277, etc.  [AotW citation 25590]

2   US War Department, The War of the Rebellion: a Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies (OR), 128 vols., Washington DC: US Government Printing Office, 1880-1901, Series I, Volume XXV, Pt. 1 (Ser. No. 39), pg. 952  [AotW citation 25591]