Seth Ledyard Phelps

Seth Ledyard Phelps

Seth Ledyard Phelps (January 31, 1824 - June 24, 1885) was an American naval officer, politician, and diplomat. He served with distinction in the U.S. Navy during the Civil War and afterward was appointed president of the Board of Commissioners of the District of Columbia and then as U.S. Minister to Peru.


Phelps was born on January 13, 1824 in Chardon, Ohio, and was appointed as a Midshipman in October 1841.[1] When the Civil War broke out in 1861, Phelps was a Lieutenant commanding the gunboat USS Conestoga. He gained command of two additional timberclad gunboats, the USS Tyler and USS Lexington, and as such was instrumental in the Union victory at the Battle of Fort Henry on the Tennessee River in 1862, in which he served as part of General Ulysses S. Grant's invasion force. He was promoted to Lieutenant Commander in July 1862, and resigned from the Navy in October 1864.

After the war, in 1875, his onetime commander Grant (now President of the United States) nominated Phelps to serve on the temporary Board of Commissioners. When Congress made it official in 1878, Phelps was elected as the permanent Board's first president. He served for one year, resigning on November 29, 1879.[2]

In 1883, President Chester A. Arthur appointed Phelps Minister to Peru, where he served until his death on June 24, 1885. He was buried in Washington at Oak Hill Cemetery.[3]

Phelps Vocational School in Northeast DC is named for Phelps. Additionally, his home at 15 Logan Circle in Washington still stands and has been designated a national Historic Landmark.


  1. "Sources on U.S. Naval History homepage, Repository List for Missouri". Naval Historical Center, United States Navy. 2002-05-10. Retrieved 2007-08-23.
  2. "Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library • Washingtoniana Division • Frequently Asked Questions". District of Columbia Public Library. 2002. Archived from the original on 2007-09-27. Retrieved 2007-08-23.
  3. Williams, Paul Kelsey (November 2005). "Scenes from the Past…" (PDF). The InTowner. Archived from the original (pdf) on 2007-06-21. Retrieved 2007-08-23.

External links

Political offices
Preceded by
William Dennison
President of the D.C. Board of Commissioners
Succeeded by
Josiah Dent
Diplomatic posts
Preceded by
Stephen A. Hurlbut
United States Minister to Peru
April 24, 1884 – June 24, 1885
Succeeded by
Charles W. Buck

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