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Norfolk District 135: Charles B. Phillips

Norfolk District Public Affairs
Published July 7, 2014
NORFOLK, Va. -- Charles B. Phillips was the first officer in charge of what would later become the Norfolk District, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. He took command on July 1, 1879, and as the Engineer in Charge of the United States Engineer Office in Norfolk, he supervised improvements of the Norfolk Harbor and its approaches, which are known collectively today as the Port of Virginia. The Norfolk Office at that time was located in Room #2 of the Custom House in Norfolk. He died on June 14, 1881, at the age of 41, while still in command of the Norfolk office. (U.S. Army photo)

NORFOLK, Va. -- Charles B. Phillips was the first officer in charge of what would later become the Norfolk District, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. He took command on July 1, 1879, and as the Engineer in Charge of the United States Engineer Office in Norfolk, he supervised improvements of the Norfolk Harbor and its approaches, which are known collectively today as the Port of Virginia. The Norfolk Office at that time was located in Room #2 of the Custom House in Norfolk. He died on June 14, 1881, at the age of 41, while still in command of the Norfolk office. (U.S. Army photo)

Editor’s note: Beginning July 1, 2014, Norfolk District celebrates its 135 anniversary. Stay with us throughout the year as we look back at our former commanders, completed projects and distinguished employees.

Charles B. Phillips attended the United States Military Academy, July 1, 1860, to June 13, 1864.

After graduating, he was promoted to first lieutenant, Corps of Engineers.

Phillips served during the Civil War from 1864‑1866. During that time, he engaged in the Richmond Campaign, the Siege of Petersburg, the pursuit of the confederate army under the command of Gen. Robert E. Lee, and was tasked with building bridges, making “reconnoissances” [sic] and repairing roads.

(Read his report to the U.S. Engineering Battalion)

He received a brevet, or warrant that gave him the rank of captain without the authority or pay of a real rank promotion, on Mar. 13, 1865, for “faithful and meritorious services during the operations resulting in the Fall of Richmond, Va., and the surrender of the insurgent army under General R. E. Lee.”

Phillips additionally served in route to and at Willet's Point, New York (now Fort Totten), on Engineer Recruiting service, and as assistant engineer on the defenses of Hampton Roads, Virginia, from 1866 to 1869.

On March 7, 1867, he was promoted to captain.

From 1869-1870, he was the Engineer on the Staff of the General, commanding the Department of the Missouri and then Assistant Engineer in the Improvement of Rivers and Harbors in Maryland, Virginia, and North Carolina, and of the Defenses of Baltimore, and the Potomac River, from 1870 to 1878. Phillips served as Superintending Engineer of the Improvement of the Elizabeth and Nansemond Rivers, and the Norfolk Harbor and its approaches (which are known collectively today as the Port of Virginia), and of Surveys and Improvement of Rivers and Harbors in North Carolina and South Carolina.

On July 1, 1879, he became the Engineer in Charge of the United States Engineer Office in Norfolk, which was the predecessor to the Norfolk District. The office was located in Room #2 of the Custom House in Norfolk.

He died on June 14, 1881, at the age of 41, while still in command of the Norfolk office.