1864: John A. Kelly to W. H. Smith

I could not find an image of Kelly but here is one of Spencer Young of Co. C, 3rd Arkansas Infantry

The following letter was written by John A. Kelly of St. Louis, Missouri, who enlisted at the age of 24 as a private in Capt. Christian’s Company L of the 3rd Arkansas Infantry. “The Third Arkansas gained a reputation as gritty, tenacious fighters, and always seemed to end up in some of the most hotly-contested parts of the battlefield—the Sunken Road at Sharpsburg—the Devil’s Den at Gettysburg—and consequently suffered a high casualty rate.” In November 1862, the 3rd Arkansas was brigaded with three Texas regiments of the Army of Northern Virginia where they would remain until the end of the war as an integral part of “Hood’s Texas Brigade.”

Kelly enlisted on 13 July 1861 and was appointed musician two weeks later. By the fall of 1862 he had been transferred to Co. A and was listed as a private on the muster rolls. Muster rolls indicate he was admitted to General Hospital No. 14 on 14 October 1862, and subsequently given a furlough to travel home a couple of weeks later. It appears he made it as far as Marie Saline, Ashley county, Arkansas (where he had enlisted) before returning. Muster rolls also indicate he was absent following the Battle of Gettysburg and Chickamauga, presumably in hospitals recovering from his wounds though it does not state where. He was reported back with his regiment by June 1864 and was with them until the surrender at Appomattox on 9 April 1865.

Kelly’s letter was addressed to Lt. Col. W. H. Smith who was serving as Superintendent of Army Records for the State of Missouri. It was written in response to a notice placed in the Daily Richmond Enquirer on Saturday, 5 November 1864 which read as follows:

To Missourians

Having been entrusted with the care of Missouri army records, I desire to place therein an impartial personal record of every Missourian who has enlisted in the Southern cause. It is due them, it is due their friends. To Missourians in the armies of Virginia—of whom, I have it from good authority, that there are not less than three thousand serving in organizations from other states than their own—I would say, your cases I cannot reach unless you will send me the following information, over the signature of your officer: Name, rank, age, nativity, occupation, when and where enlisted, term thereof, your town or post office, in what battles engaged, when, where, or how wounded.

Officers commanding companies in which Missourians have served will greatly oblige and facilitate my work by sending me such information of deceased soldiers, and by assisting those who yet live to give to posterity a record of their noble deeds. Address me at Columbus, Mississippi.

— W. H. Smith, Lieut. Col.
Superintendent of Army Records for the State of Missouri

The Daily Richmond Enquirer, Saturday, Nov. 5, 1864, Page 2

[Note: This letter is from the personal collection of Jon Dickinson and was transcribed and published on Spared & Shared by express consent.]


Richmond, Virginia
November 5th 1864

Lt. Col. W. H. Smith
Dear Sir,

In looking over this morning’s paper, I saw your notice to Missourians in Army of Virginia, and being a Missourian I hasten to present my case before you. I was born in the city of St. Louis, Mo., in the year 1837 and am now (27) twenty-seven years old. I enlisted in a company made up in Ashley County, Ark., on the (13) thirteenth day of June 1861 for the period of the war, and am with the few that is left of it today. Have been in battles and skirmishes too numerous to mention. My left arm was broken by a minié ball at the battle of Sharpsburg, September 17th 1862. I was shot in the hip at the battle of Gettysburg July 2nd 1863, and had the muscle of my right arm torn out by a fragment of shell at the battle of Chickamauga September 19th 1863. Both my arms are crooked.

I have not heard from my relatives since I have been in the army. They live in St Louis. If you could inform me how to get a letter there, I would [be] under a great many obligations to you. I have written by flag of truce three times and received no answer. At the time of my enlistment, I was steam boating on the Ouachita river.

As to my character as a soldier, I will only say that I have never been under arrest or absent without leave an hour since I have been in the army. I will leave my commanding officer to say whether I have been a good and faithful soldier or not. With great respect, Colonel, I remain your obedient, — John A Kelly, Co. A, 3rd Regt. Arkansas Vol. Infantry, Gregg’s Brigade, Field’s Division, Longstreet’s Corp., Army of Northern Va.

The Brigade is known as the Texas Brigade in this arm. It is composed of the 1st, 4th, 5th Texas and 3rd Arkansas Regt.

Approved, — W. D. Scogin, 1 Lieut., Commanding Co. A, 3rd Ark.

1 William D. Scogin was 27 years old when he mustered in as 2nd Lieutenant in Capt. Tebb’s Company A of the 3rd Arkansas Infantry on 15 June 1861. He was promoted to 1st Lieutenant on 18 September 1862, the day following the Battle of Sharpsburg and was acting as commander of the company prior to the Battle of Gettysburg. William’s record indicates that before the war he had lived in California and that he intended to return there after the war.

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