Appleton's Cyclopedia of American Biography, edited by James
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PHILLIPS, William, British soldier, born in 1731; died in Petersburg, Virginia, 13 May, 1781. He entered the Royal military academy at Woolwieh, 1 August, 1746, as a gentleman cadet, and became quartermaster of the 1st battalion of artillery, 1 April, 1750; 2d lieutenant, 1 March, 1755; 1st lieutenant, 1 April, 1756, and captain, 12 May of the same year. He commanded the three companies of the royal artillery that were present at the battle of Minden, 1 August, 1759, where he won great distinction. He also gained credit for gallantry at Warberg, 30 July, 1760, by the rapidity with which he brought the artillery into action and the efficiency with which he handled it. He was made lieutenant-colonel, 25 May 1772, lieutenant-governor of Windsor in 1768, colonel in the regular army, 25 May, 1772, and a major-general, in America only, 1 January, 1776. He was member of parliament for the years 1774-'80. Receiving an appointment under General Burgoyne, he embarked with that general on the frigate "Blonde" for Quebec, where he arrived in May, 1776, and held the command at St. John's from July till December, 1776, when he was transferred to Montreal as second in command to Burgoyne in 1777. He bore an active part, and his skill and energy as an artillery officer, in placing, in spite of tremendous natural obstacles, a battery on the top of Sugar-Loaf hill, and thus commanding Ticonderoga, forced a bloodless evacuation of that post by Gem St. Clair. In the two battles of Saratoga, two months later, he bore a conspicuous part, and upon Burgoyne's return to England in 1778, the command of the "convention troops," then stationed in Virginia, devolved upon him. In November, 1779, he was allowed to go to New York, and resided there on parole until his exchange. H6 received his last promotion, that of lieutenant-colonel in the regular army, on 6 July, 1780, and the same year was exchanged for General Benjamin Lincoln, then recently captured at Charleston. On 20 March, 1781, he sailed from New York for Virginia with 2,000 men, and, effecting a junction at Portsmouth with General Benedict, Arnold, at once assumed the command of the combined force that was destined for the invasion of that colony. The two generals had advanced from Portsmouth to Petersburg, when Phillips was suddenly stricken with typhoid fever, and in three days expired. Various reports were circulated respecting his death, some attributing it to its right cause, and others to poison administered by Arnold, on whom, by this event, the command again devolved. General Cornwallis, arriving at this juncture, assumed the command. The character of General Phillips, from an American standpoint, was not flattering. He was accused by his enemies of great haughtiness and irritability. The British estimate of him is very high. Captain Duncan, in his " History of the Royal Artillery," calls him "as brave and honorable a soldier as ever served in the regiment. He was beloved by all who served with him, and was a model for artillerymen to imitate in gallantry, ability, and progress." He is buried in the old Brandford church-yard at Petersburg, Virginia See Lieutenant James M. Hadden's "Journal," edited by General Horatio Rogers (Albany, 1884).
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