Inspector William H. Phelps

Inspector William H. Phelps

United States Department of the Treasury - Customs Service, U.S. Government

End of Watch Friday, December 18, 1868

William H. Phelps

Inspector William Phelps and Inspector George Hammonds were shot and killed in Brownsville, Cameron County, Texas, by a group of bandits that attacked the United States Customs House at the mouth of the Rio Grande River.

The bandits had crossed into the United States from Mexico and encountered the acting deputy collector in front of the Customs House. A struggle ensued in which the deputy collector was knocked unconscious. The subjects then entered the Customs House and, without speaking, opened fire on Inspector Phelps, killing him as he sat in a chair.

After raiding the Customs House the bandits went to a nearby home and attempted to lure out the homeowner, but were refused entry to the home. Inspector Phelps, who had heard the gunfire, as the bandits left. When he learned that the homeowner did not have any weapons he attempted to leave to obtain assistance, but the bandits ambushed him and shot him in both legs. He tried to crawl back to the house but was grabbed by the bandits and shot and stabbed repeatedly.

The groups of bandits fled back into Mexico while being chased by citizens.

Inspector Phelps was only 19 years old and was reportedly from West Virginia. Customs officers from the United States and Mexico attended the funeral. Both men were buried locally but the grave sites have not been located.


  • Age 19
  • Tour Not available
  • Badge Not available

Incident Details

  • Cause Gunfire
  • Location Texas
  • Weapon Handgun
  • Offender Not available

Most Recent Reflection

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Inspector Phelps,
On today, the 148th anniversary of your death I would just like to say thank you to you and your fellow Inspector for your service and sacrifice for our Country and to the Service.


United States Border Patrol

December 18, 2016

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