About John Herbert Kelly
John Herbert Kelly (March 31, 1840 – September 4, 1864) was a career United States Army officer. During the American Civil War, he was the youngest brigadier general in the Confederate States Army at the time of his promotion and one of the youngest generals to die during the war at the age of 24. His death occurred during the Franklin-Nashville Campaign.
Early life and career
John Herbert Kelly was born in 1840 to Isham Kelly and Elizabeth Herbert. Kelly's father died while in Cuba when John was four, and his mother died three years later. His grandmother Harriet Herbert Hawthorne took responsibility of the young orphan. When John was about seventeen he received an appointment to West Point through the help of his uncle, Congressman Philemon T. Herbert and another relative Congressman William W. Boyce. A few months before his graduation in 1861 his home state of Alabama seceded from the Union. Hearing the news Kelly left West Point and headed to Montgomery.
Civil War service
After arriving in Montgomery, Kelly joined the Confederate Army with the rank of second lieutenant. He then was assigned to Fort Morgan where he would stay until the fall of 1861. During that time Kelly left Fort Morgan with Brig. Gen. William J. Hardee to Missouri. It was here that he was appointed captain and assistant adjutant general on Hardee's staff. In 1862 Kelly was appointed major of the 9th Arkansas Infantry Battalion, which he led into battle at Shiloh. One month later Kelly became colonel of the 8th Arkansas Infantry Battalion.
Later in 1862 he fought at the Battle of Murfreesboro where he was wounded. In October of that year he fought at the Battle of Perryville. Kelly commanded a large brigade of men at Chickamauga consisting of the 5th Kentucky, 58th North Carolina, 63rd Virginia, and the 65th Georgia Infantry Regiments. He lost 300 men at Chickamauga within the one hour. Also during the battle while leading his troops Kelly had a horse shot out from under him. Because of his bravery at the Battle of Chickamauga generals Cleburne, Liddell, and Preston asked for a promotion for Kelly. General Cleburne told Confederate Secretary of War James Seddon of Kelly, "I know no better officer of his grade in the service." On November 16, 1863, John Kelly was promoted to a brigadier general at age 23. Kelly's brigade was one of the key factors at the Battle of Pickett's Mill that lead to the Confederate victory.
Capture and death
In August 1864 Kelly's Brigade fought heavily in Franklin, Tennessee. While leading a charge at a skirmish near Franklin on August 20, Kelly was shot in the chest by a Union sharpshooter. Kelly was immediately taken to the Harrison House to be seen by doctors. At the Confederate retreat he was too badly hurt to be moved and was forced to be left and captured by Union forces on September 3. Kelly died the following day in his bed at the Harrison House.
John Herbert Kelly was one of the youngest generals to die during the Civil War at age 24.
He was buried in the gardens of the Harrison House in Franklin on the day of his death. Local residents bought him a coffin and the new clothing he was buried in, except for the uniform coat which he died wearing. Later in 1866 his body was moved and reburied in the Magnolia Cemetery.