There are so many harsh memories of the American Civil War. Even today, remnants of the pitting of brother against brother seems impossible to imagine. Yet even in times of war, deference to family can take a back seat to the belief in a cause. Our nation was divided in thinking and the cause of division was slavery. Today we face similar splits in society. We often have a congress and senate that can’t seem to agree on anything. We have subversive agents within our own country who seek to destroy the very founding of our nation. When men must take up arms to defend the country, it’s one thing, but when we become so divided in our thinking that we are no longer unified, its quite another.
John Herbert Kelly, a Confederate General, was born on this day in 1840 in Carrollton, Alabama. He became an orphan at the age of seven and was raised by his grandmother. By the time he was 17, he received an appointment to West Point, with the help of an influential uncle. Before graduating, Alabama had seceded from the Union and John went to Montgomery to join the Confederate Army.
John had no qualms about fighting in this battle. He was more than committed. He entered the army with the rank of second lieutenant. He was assigned to Fort Morgan where he stayed until 1861. In 1862o Kelly was appointed Major of the 9th Arkansas Infantry Battalion which he led into battle at Shiloh.
Later in 1862 he fought at the Battle of Murfreesboro where he was wounded. He was in charge of a large brigade of men at Chickamauga. He lost 300 men at Chickamauga within one hour. While leading his troops Kelly had a horse shot out from under him. Because of his bravery, he was recommended for promotion. General Cleburne stated, “I know no better officer of his grade in the service.” At the age of 23, John Kelly was promoted to a Brigadier General. Kelly’s brigade was one of the key factors at the Battle of Pickett’s Mill which led to a Confederate victory.
Only one year after his appointment, while leading a charge for a skirmish in Franklin, Tennessee, Kelly was shot by a sharpshooter. He was immediately removed from the field of battle, still alive, and taken to confederate doctors at Harrison House. He died the next day, when Union soldiers moved in. He was buried in the uniform he proudly wore in that incident. He was one of the youngest generals in the Confederate Army.
We often wonder why, when a young person dies. It doesn’t seem right that a life should be cut short, just when it’s beginning. John Kelly was a hero for his cause. He believed in what he was fighting for, as most soldiers do. His courage showed on the battlefield and in spite of his short life, it was filled completely.
“Some are bound to die young, By dying young a person stays young in people’s memory. If he burns brightly before he dies, his brightness shines for all time.”