A Civil War Biography
John Herbert Kelly
Kelly was born 31 March 1840 in Pineapple, Pickens County, Alabama.
Orphaned in childhood, he managed an appointment to West Point and
would have graduated with the June 1861 class but he resigned on 29
December 1860 after South Carolina seceded.
Kelly joined the Confederate service as a second lieutenant in the
artillery then was promoted to major and assigned to the staff of
Major General William J. Hardee who commanded the III Corps in
General Albert Sidney Johnston's Army of the Mississippi. Kelly was
promoted to major and commanded the 9th Arkansas battalion attached
to the 3rd Brigade of Hardee's III Corps at Shiloh. The battalion
was re-designated the 14th Arkansas when it reached regimental
strength. Kelly was promoted to colonel and commanded the 8th
Arkansas attached to the 2nd Brigade/ 2nd Division/ Hardee's Corps
in General Braxton Bragg's Army of Tennessee at Perryville and
Murfreesboro. At Chickamauga Kelly commanded the 3rd Brigade/ 2nd
Division/ Simon Buckner's Corps. Kelly was promoted to brigadier
general on 16 November 1863 making him the youngest general in the
He was promoted over a more senior colonel, Robert C. Trigg, having
been strongly recommended by Bragg. Trigg was backed by the other
faction, led by Lieutenant General James Longstreet, of the very
polarized command structure within the Army of Tennessee. Four days
before his promotion became official, 12 November, Kelly was
reassigned to command a brigade in Major General Joseph Wheeler's
cavalry division which he commanded through the Atlanta campaign.
The transfer may have resulted from Kelly signing Major General
Patrick R. Cleburne's memorandum concerning the emancipation of
slaves willing to fight for the Confederacy.
Kelly was mortally wounded during a raid on Union Major General
William T. Sherman's communication lines on 2 September 1864 near
Franklin, Tennessee. Kelly died two days later, 4 September, at the
age of 24 at the Harrison House in Franklin where he was temporarily
buried before being removed to Mobile, Alabama. The Harrison House
was the same house where the six Confederate generals, including
Cleburne, killed in the battle of Franklin were initially taken to.
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