Levinge Cosby Phillips


Nationality: unknown
Born: unknown
Regimental commission dates:
Ensign, 20 December 1776
Mortally wounded and captured: Battle of Freeman's Farm, 19 September 1777
Died: morning of 21 September 1777


Unlike most officers promoted to the rank of ensign, which was accomplished either through purchase from outside the military or received free via the route of “volunteer” (or even promotion from the ranks), Levinge Cosby Phillips came to the 62nd Regiment from the Company of Cadets. The Company of Cadets was a company of students who, under the tutelage of their captain (the Master General of the Ordnance himself) and other company officers, received actual military educational training. With a commission dated 20 December 1776, Phillips joined the 62nd Regiment and participated in the Northern Campaign of 1777.

Mortally wounded and captured by rebels in the Battle of Freeman's Farm on 19 September 1777, he became the subject of correspondence in a letter from rebel commander Horatio Gates to his wife Elizabeth (née Phillips) dated 20 September 1777 (Horatio Gates Papers):


…amongst the prisoners taken yesterday, is a Lad of Seventeen, an Ensign in the 62nd Regiment, named Charles Phillips, he is very dangerously Wounded, so much so that I did not care to say more to him than to Assure him of my Utmost Tenderness. I have ordered my principal Surgeon [Doctor Jonathan Potts] to have the care of him & as soon as he is well enough to enquire his family and the Circumstances relative to his Birth and Country….


It is unclear what was meant by Gates's reference to the young officer's name being "Charles." A subsequent letter written by Gates to Lieutenant-General John Burgoyne on 25 September 1777 (Horatio Gates Papers) reported on the teenage officer's final fate: "I send your Excellency a list of Prisoners in my hands, as transmitted to Lt Col Anstruther by Sergt Major [James] Green…Ensign Phillip, notwithstanding all possible care [which] was taken to preserve his life died of his wounds the 21st Inst in the morning…." Lieutenant Colonel James Wilkinson (the 20 year-old deputy adjutant general of the Northern Department of the Continental Army in 1777) relayed the following anecdote in his Memoirs of My Own Times (Printed by Abraham Small, Philadelphia: 1816):


The morning after the action [of 19 September 1777] I visited the wounded prisoners who had not been dressed, and discovered a charming youth not more than 16 years old, lying among them; feeble, faint, pale and stiff in his gore; the delicacy of his aspect and the quality of his clothing attracted my attention, and on enquiry I found he was an Ensign Phillips; he told me he had fallen by a wound in his leg or thigh, and as he lay on the ground was shot through the body by an army follower, a murderous villain, who avowed the deed, but I forgot his name; the moans of this hapless youth moved me to tears; I raised him from the straw on which he lay, took him in my arms and removed him to a tent, where every comfort was provided and every attention paid to him, but his wounds were mortal, and he expired on the 21st; when his name was first mentioned to General Gates, he exclaimed, “just Heaven! He may be the nephew of my wife,” but the fact was otherwise.

Let those parents who are now [in 1816] training their children for the military profession; let those misguided patriots, who are inculcating principals of education subversive to the foundations of the republic [the United States], look on this picture of distress, taken from the life, of a youth in a strange land, far removed from friends and relations co-mingled with the dying and the dead, himself wounded, helpless and expiring with agony, and then should political considerations fail of effect, I hope, the feeling of affection and the obligations of humanity, may induce them to discountenance the pursuits of war, and save their offspring from the seductions of the plume and the sword, for the more solid and useful avocations of civil life; by which alone peace and virtue and the republic can be preserved, and perpetuated.


Ensign Phillips's death was officially recorded as having occurred on 19 September 1777, although he actually died two days later. His ensigncy was given to a 12-year-old boy, Volunteer George Williams (from the Royal Regiment of Artillery) with a commission date of 20 September 1777.