Reuben and Rebecca Phillips of Nelson were the parents of six sons born in that town. Reuben was a deacon in the Nelson Church and an ardent patriot.
When the Civil War began in 1861, all but two of the sons were living in Missouri. Son Minot was one of the two still remaining in Nelson. He enlisted in the Ninth New Hampshire Regiment. He survived the battle of Fredericksburg, but not its aftermath.
He was a member of the detail sent out to bury the dead. The crew dug trenches 6 feet wide and 3 feet deep in each of which they placed and buried up to 275 bodies. The detail worked all day, all night, and a second day as well.
Upon returning to camp, Minot Phillips and several others were taken sick with typhoid fever. They were sent to a hospital, but Minot succumbed to the disease within a few weeks.
His brother Joseph, who was living in Missouri, enlisted in a Missouri infantry regiment in the Union Army. He died from wounds received during a battle in Arkansas on July 4, 1863. A third brother, Simeon Phillips, enlisted in a Missouri regiment on the Confederate side. He was captured and confined to a prisoner-of-war camp.
Brothers four and five, Rufus and Judson, were also living in Missouri. They organized a Confederate guerilla company. Rufus was severely wounded, captured and also confined to prison. Judson was shot through the head in a skirmish with a U.S. Cavalry unit.
Soon after the war began, the boys’ father, Reuben, had become very upset when he learned that three of his sons were fighting for the enemy. He wrote a letter concerning this situation to youngest son Judson, a sergeant in the Confederate guerilla company. Reuben was very agitated as he delivered the letter to the post office. He dropped his letter in the mailbox and then, in a very disturbed frame of mind, he dropped dead on the floor of the post office.
Thus the Civil War not only claimed the lives of three of the Phillips brothers, with two others being imprisoned, it also claimed the life of their father, far from the fighting, at home in Cheshire County.