William Phillips was born on July
8, 1824, in Asheville, North Carolina, the son of George Duval and Elizabeth
(Patton) Phillips. The elder Phillips, a Unionville, South Carolina, doctor and
fanner, soon removed to Clarksville in Habersham County, Georgia, where he
became a prominent public figure. The younger Phillips attended the University
of Georgia at Athens, class of 1844- By 1850 he settled in Marietta in Cobb
County, Georgia, and studied law under ex-Governor McDonald. Phillips, "by his
close attention to business, genial manners, and wonderful tact," soon became
one of the more prominent and successful lawyers in northern Georgia. In 1854 he
was appointed solicitor general of the Blue Ridge Circuit, serving until 1867.
Active in Democratic party affairs, Phillips became an ally of Georgia's war
governor, Joseph Brown.
At the commencement of the war Phillips, a prewar militia captain, was appointed brigadier general of Georgia state troops by Governor Brown. Placed in command of the 4th Brigade, he organized two camps of instruction in northern Georgia, at which thousands of volunteers received their first training. On August 1, 1861, Phillips resigned his state rank to become colonel of "Phillips' Legion," an organization of fifteen infantry companies, six cavalry companies, and a company of artillery. The command performed well throughout the war, serving in Lee's army. In the Kanawha Valley campaign of 1861, Phillips, "as true to his men as a man could be," contracted typhoid fever and was forced to return to Georgia.' In the spring of 1862, somewhat recovered, he rejoined his unit, now stationed in South Carolina. The legion returned to Virginia that summer, but Phillips, suffering a recurrence of ill health, did not accompany them. A patient in several Virginia hospitals, he formally resigned his commission (because of "paralysis") on February 13, 1863. Returning to Marietta, the general channeled his energies into managing the Marietta Paper Mills, producing writing paper as well as Confederate currency. His only other war involvement was a stint as major of a militia unit, the 9th Georgia Cavalry Battalion of the State Guard, charged with rounding up conscripts and deserters in northern Georgia. In November, 1864, Phillips was placed in command of Camp Newnan and served as commander there until the end of the war.
Broken in health (his bout with typhoid caused his right eye to go blind) and fortune (Sherman's army destroyed his paper mill), Phillips returned to Marietta after the war. He resumed his lucrative legal practice, engaged in farming, and was active in promoting local education. The remainder of his fortune was spent in the development of the Matietta and North Georgia Railroad, of which he was vice president. Phillips' only public service was as Cobb County's state representative in the 1877 to 1878 legislature. General Phillips died on September 24,1908, at his Marietta home, and is buried in Citizen's Cemetery, Marietta.
Phillips' rank of general in Georgia's state army qualifies him to be considered a Confederate general.
Reference: More Generals in Gray. Bruce S. Allardice. A companion volume to Generals in Gray. Louisiana State University Press. Baton Rouge. LA.