Colonel Philip Brent Spence

Colonel Philip Brent Spence

Kentucky: A History of the State, Battle, Perrin, & Kniffin, 7th ed., 1887,
Campbell Co.

Philip Brent Spence, a native of Nashville, Tenn., was born October 14, 1836, and is a son of Brent and Elizabeth (Shute) Spence, natives, respectively, of the northern part of Ireland and Tennessee.  He was reared in Nashville, and educated at Princeton College, New Jersey. 

In April, 1861, he entered the Confederate Army and was commissioned second lieutenant under Lieut. Gen. Polk.  After the battle of Chickamauga he was promoted to the command of a regiment of cavalry, and subsequently was in command of all cavalry around Mobile, until they surrendered in 1865 to Gen. Canby; at the end of the war he was commissioned colonel. 

In 1866 he went to Cincinnati, and became a member of the firm of Duckworth, Spence & Co., commission merchants, making his home in Newport.  In 1868 Mr. Spence married Miss Virginia Berry, daughter of Major James Taylor Berry (deceased) and Elisabeth Wise.  Two children have blessed their union: Brent and Berry, aged respectively, twelve and eight.  In April 1886, Mr. Spence was appointed postmaster at Newport.

Published in the Confederate Veterans Magazine Vol. XXIII page 181 in 1915.

Colonel Philip Brent Spence, a gallant Confederate soldier passed away at Cincinnati on February 16, 1915.  He is survived by his wife and two sons.  Colonel Spence was born in Davidson County, Tennessee in 1836, the youngest of a large family of children.  He was educated in the neighborhood schools and at Princeton University.

At the outbreak of the war before the session of Tennessee, Philip Spence went to Alabama and there enlisted in the Confederate army.  During the early part of the war he was a member of the staff of General Leonidas Polk, and between them developed a strong tie of mutual friendship and regard.  He distinguished himself in many important engagements, winning high commendation from his superior officers, in recognition of which he was rapidly promoted.  He was wounded but never captured during his service.

During the latter part of the war Colonel Spence commanded the 16th Confederate Cavalry Regiment, one of the most notable of the army of the Confederacy.  He claimed the distinction of commanding the Confederate forces in the last organized engagement of the war, a battle or skirmish in the vicinity of Mobile, after the surrender of Lee, and this claim is supported by a number of historical writers.

After the war, Colonel Spence moved to Newport, Kentucky where he married Miss Virginia Berry, daughter of James T Berry, one of the most prominent and influential citizens of that state.  During the first administration of Cleveland he was postmaster of Newport and during Cleveland's second administration, he was United States Consul at Quebec Canada. 

Children of Colonel Philip Brent Spence and Virginia Berry (10 Aug 1838-31 Dec 1924)

1. Brent Spence b-25 Dec 1874 in Newport; d-18 Sep 1967 in Ft Thomas; br-Evergreen Cemetery; m-Ida Billerman; became a Senator from Campbell County
2. Berry Wise Spence b-23 June 1879 in Newport; d-4 Jan 1920 in Nashville Tenn. became a journalist in Nashville

During his tenure, federal postal  officials told Spence to pick a new name for the small community along the Ohio River in Campbell County called Coney Island Station.  A ferry operated from there to the Coney Island amusement park, which was just across the river on the Ohio side.  Both Coney Island, Ohio and Coney Island Station, Ky. however, had post offices and the similarity of names was causing confusion.  Philip chose Brent, the name of his son and father, Brent Spence, a native of Ireland and the first to come to America.

When Cleveland was defeated for re-election in 1883, Philip lost his job as postmaster, but when Cleveland was re-elected in 1892, Spence again received a government post.  This time he became United States consul at Quebec, Canada.


Cincinnati Enquirer, 18 May 1898, page 12

Colonel Philip Spence, of Newport, Ky. ex-Postmaster of that city, ex-Consul to Quebec Canada, and ex-Confederate veteran, now well on to 60 years of age, who has offered his services to the Government, was at the Gibson yesterday.  He rejoices that this old commander, General Joseph Wheeler, now a member of Congress from Alabama, has been made a Major General.

Colonel Spence is a Tennessean by birth, but was Colonel of the Sixteenth Confederate Regiment, composed of Alabamians and Mississippians, not one of when he had ever seen until he was placed at their head after the battle of Chickamauga, from which field he was promoted.  "I was not on General Wheeler's staff" said Colonel Spence, "but was in his department and acted under his orders and have kept up a pleasant acquaintance with him since the war, and here are two letters from him saying he would be happy to have me serve under him again, but he, as Major General will have but little to say in the appointment of officers, that prerogative resting with the Secretary of War and the Governors of the states.

I see that my old commander, General Dabney H Maury, who must be well onto 80 years of age, had tendered his services.  That is an inspiration to all Confederate soldiers.  He was minister to one of the South American or Central American countries under the first Cleveland Administration.  he is a Virginia and while of small stature and old in years, he had great grit and would lead an army into battle with his old martial spirit."

Colonel Spence is a brother-in-law of Congressman Albert S Berry.  Asked if Colonel Berry is coming home to raise a regiment Colonel Spence said: "I have nothing from Colonel Berry directly bearing upon the subject, but I am sure he never made any such speech as was imputed to him, to wit, that he was coming home to enlist a regiment of his old war comrades and their descendants.  Colonel Berry was a Lieutenant of Confederate marines in the Civil War."


He later returned to Nashville Tennessee where among the older residents he had a wide acquaintance. Spence died 16 February 1915 in Cincinnati, Ohio and was buried with full Confederate military honors at Evergreen Cemetery.

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