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After an education at Eton and Christchurch College, Oxford, where he became fluent in several languages including Ancient and Modern Greek, German, Italian and French, Lewis Guy Phillips (1831-1887) opted for a career in the military, joining the 1st Battalion Grenadier Guards in 1859. On 1 December 1861, Phillips was dispatched to Canada as part of a contingent sent to reinforce the British Garrison stationed there during the American Civil War.
Eager to observe the action of the Civil War and with sympathies towards the Confederate cause, Phillips and another soldier, Captain Edward Wynne, were granted a leave of absence in October 1862 and, with the help of a Confederate sympathiser in Baltimore, were smuggled through the lines into Virginia. Phillips was able to access the headquarters of General Robert E. Lee and served as an aide-de-camp during the Battle of Fredericksburg in December 1862. Following the battle he was able to return to Canada and continued to serve in Montreal before returning to England in December 1864. In 1867 he was promoted to Lieutenant Colonel and retired in 1885 with the honorary rank of Major General.
“Some twenty-five years ago a tall youth came from Eton to Christchurch with the reputation of being a good cricketer, a wonderful runner, and a marvelous boxer. While at College he kept up his credit in these matters, and added to them much distinction as what used to be called an ‘elegant classic’. Although blessed with a knowledge of modern tongues that would have benefited the Diplomatic Service, he chose the Army as a serious profession; and – Fortune having denied him the opportunity of ever fighting the Queen’s enemies – he has managed to smell powder in the American War of Secession, serving on one occasion – during the battle of Fredericksburg – as a volunteer aide-de-camp to General Lee.
Colonel Phillips was ten years since chosen to keep order at Wimbledon as Camp-Commandant, and has proved that moral suasion is as powerful, when administered with tact and firmness, as the Articles of War. He is an acute bibliophile, and has collected many thousand wonderful volumes. He has been offered posts of honour abroad, but has preferred the calm pleasures of soldiering at St James’s. He has never broken the eleventh commandment, and, possibly for this reason, he has never been married.”