Charles Wesley Phifer

Charles W. Phifer was born in 1833 in Tennessee, probably Bedford County. His fathet and mother, John and Ann (Phifer) Phifer, were both descended from an old North Carolina family of German (allegedly noble Austrian) descent. His father, a planter, moved to Coffeeville in Yalobusha County, Mississippi, when he was young. Phifer attended the University of Mississippi (class of 1852) and the University of North Carolina (graduating with honors in 1854) before receiving an appointment into the regular army in 1855. He served six years as a lieutenant in the 2nd Cavalry, mostly fighting Indians in Texas and displaying both gallantry and bravery.

Phifer resigned his army commission on April 1, 1861, and was commissioned a lieutenant in the Confederate cavalry. His first duty was as a mustering officer in Louisiana. Phifer was swiftly appointed major of an Arkansas cavalry battalion and led that battalion in Kentucky during the winter of 1861 and 1862. Transferring to the staff, Phifer served with Major General Earl Van Dorn, an old 2nd Cavalry friend, in early 1862. On May 25, 1862, General Van Dorn assigned Phifer to duty as acting brigadier general. He led a brigade of dismounted cavalry (later Ross's Texas cavalry brigade) at the Battles of Corinth and Hatchie Bridge. He had labored with "untiring energy" to train the "wild Texas boys" who, under Phifer's lead, fought well in the attack on Corinth. However, at the Battle of Hatchie Bridge Phifet reported "ill" and did not actively participate. Either because of this, or because his sponsor, General Van Dorn, was now under a cloud (the whole South blamed Van Dorn for the defeat at Corinth), the president allowed Phifer's assignment to lapse.2 On October 16, 1862, he was relieved of his "acting" general's rank and his brigade command. In 1863 Phifer joined the staff of Colonel Alexander W. Reynolds, another old army friend. During the siege of Vicksburg he was assistant adjutant general of Reynolds' brigade, with the rank of major. Captured there, he was paroled and served on Reynolds' staff through 1863. In early 1864 Phifer requested transfer to the Trans-Mississippi Department and active duty. The transfer order never came through, but Phifer left his staff position anyway and was listed as absent without leave for the rest of the war.

After the war General Phifer returned to Texas. He taught school in Brown-wood and worked as a civil engineer. In 1880 he was living in Austin. Around 1890 he relocated to Savannah, Georgia, and found employment in various governmental positions. According to the local newspaper, General Phifer had a sad end. He was "highly educated," and genial when sober, but quarrelsome when drunk. Phifer held several governmental jobs, but lost them because of his drinking habits. His last years found him descended to the level of a common laborer. On December 25, 1896, a drunken Phifer accidentally fell down the steps of the cellar of a Savannah saloon to his death. He is buried in Laurel Grove Cemetery in Savannah.

Heitman, CV, SHSP, and Wood all list Phifer as a Confederate general.

Previous Page

Reference: More Generals in Gray. Bruce S. Allardice. A companion volume to Generals in Gray. Louisiana State University Press. Baton Rouge. LA.