Biography of William A. Phillips

William A. Phillips was one of the pioneers of Kansas who made it free from the dominion of slavery, kept it in the Union during the Civil war, protected the interests of the loyal Indians and afterward did fine service as a congressman. He was born in Scotland Jannary 14, 1824, and had laid the basis of a good education before he was fifteen years of age, when he came with his parents to a farm in Randolph County, Illinois. About the time he reached his majority he became associated with B. J. F. Hannah as editor of the Chester Herald. From 1852 to 1855 he was engaged in newspaper work, at the same time studying law, and was admitted to the bar. In the latter year he came to Kansas and was officially appointed by Horace Greeley a member of the editorial staff of the New York Tribune. In that capacity he traveled over much of the territory, and the results of his investigations published in 1856 as the “Conquest of Kansas,” made him a marked man. When Congress sent its investigating committee into the territory he rendered it much practical assistance. Naturally, he became very unpopular with the pro-slavery people.

Shortly after the outbreak of the Civil war General Phillips was commissioned major of the First Indian Regiment. Within a short time he was promoted to the coloncley of the famous Cherokee regiment and for a time commanded the Indian brigade. Under General Schofield he commanded a division in the field, including Indians, cavalry, a battery and regiments from different states, and for nearly three years he may be said to have had command of a separate army, varying from 3,500 to 8,000 men. He took part in most of the battles of the Southwest; was wounded three times and had four horses killsd under him in battle. When the war closed he returned to Kansas and for years acted as attorney of the Cherokee Indians, ably assisting to conserve their interests before the Interior Department at Washington. In 1872 he was elected to Congress as a private in the Third Kansas Regiment, subseceeding terms. While in Congress he was a prominent member of the committee on public lands. This led him to a deep study of land systems and land tennre in all ages. As a result of this study he published a book, “Labor, Land and Law,” which is regarded as an authority upon the subject. He died on Thanksgiving day, November 30, 1893, at the home of W. P. Ross at Fort Gibson.



Connelley, William E. A Standard History of Kansas and Kansans. Chicago : Lewis, 1918. 5v. Biographies can be accessed from this page: Kansas and Kansans Biographies.

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