Eugenia Phillips, 1819-?
Philip Phillips and his wife, Eugenia were two of the brightest stars pre-Civil War Washington’s elite government and social circles. Both from prominent Charleston SC Jewish families, the Phillipses moved after they married to Mobile AL, where Philip became one of the most respected attorneys of his day. He declined reelection after a term in the US Congress, and they moved to Washington D.C., where Philip opened a practice the dealt solely with the Supreme Court Cases.
At the beginning of the Civil War, Philip, who had declared himself firmly against secession, had the respect and friendship of many in the Lincoln administration, Congress, and the Supreme court. But unbeknownst to him, his beautiful socialite wife had joined wealthy Washington hostess Rose O’Neal Greenhow’s spy ring, which was feeding valuable intelligence to Confederate authorities.
Philip first learned of Eugenia’s activities in August 1861, when federal detectives arrived one morning and placed the household under closely guarded house arrest. Philip was released after a week, but Eugenia, their two daughters, and Eugenia’s sister, Mary were imprisoned in Greenhow’s house until Philip, after pleading with his former colleagues, won their release - with the stipulation that he take them South. Later, while visiting in President Davis’s Richmond home, Eugenia supposedly delivered Union military, maps and plans that she managed to smuggle out of Washington.
The family then moved to New Orleans LA, which was captured by Union forces the next spring. Eugenia ran afoul of Gen. Benjamin Butler’s contemptible Women’s Order, allegedly for laughing during a Yankee funeral procession, and was imprisoned on bleak, mosquito-infested Ship Island in the Gulf of Mexico. It was several months before Philip could arrange her release. By then Eugenia was very sick and weak with fever, and the family fled to Confederate territory.