Notable Phelps Family Members
Thomas Stowell Phelps, Civil War Naval Officer
Thomas Stowell Phelps was born 2 November 1822 i n Buckfield, Maine. Joining the Navy in 1840, he was graduated from the Naval Academy in 1846 . He served in the Navy from 1840 to 1884, attaining the rank of lieutenant in 1855, Captain in 1871, and Rear Admiral in 1884. He served in the Mediterranean, the Atlantic and the Pacific and commanded the USS Juniata during the capture of Fort Fisher in January 1865.
He served in the Indian War in Washington Territory and at the Battle of Seattle on 26 January 1856. In 1861, following the expedition to relieve Fort Sumter, he participated in secretly surveying and buoying Confederate coastal waters and inlets. Owing to his coast survey experience, he was chosen at the outset of the Civil War to survey and chart the Potomac River after many navigational aids had been destroyed or made inoperative by Confederate forces. Similarly engaged in secret survey work in Virginia waters, his efforts were noted by the Secretary of the Navy.
He was transferred in September to the steamer "Corwin" for secret service, examined five of the inlets of North Carolina, surveyed and buoyed Hatteras inlet for the introduction of expeditions into the interior waters of that state, skirmished with Confederate gun-boats in Pamlico sound, and engaged the gun-boat "Curlew" in Hatteras inlet on 14 November. He was in three engagements with Yorktown and Gloucester point batteries, caused the destruction of two of the enemy's vessels, and thwarted that of White House Bridge in April and May, 1862. At the battle of West Point he prevented the conjunction of a large force of Confederates with the main army. He became Lieutenant Commander in July, 1862, was subsequently engaged chiefly in surveying and examining dangers in the way of blockades and transports, and commanded the "Juniata " in the Fort Fisher, Wilmington, NC, fights in 1865.
He was commissioned Commander in that year, captain in 1871, Commodore in 1879, and rear-admiral in 1884, and retired in 1885. He has published "Reminiscences of Washington Territory" (New York, 1882).
He retired in 1885 and died in the Naval Hospital in New York City 10 January 1901, and was buried in Arlington National Cemetery (Section 1 grave 504).
He married Margaret Riche Levy. He had one son, Thomas Stowell Phelps, Jr. (1848-1915), who also attained the rank of Rear Admiral.
Destroyer Home Page, Dome Island October 2003
Arlington Cemetery, June 2003