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Robert McLernon, of Springfield, Virginia, USA, has researched the Irish Brigade in the Civil War for the last twenty-eight years. He noted the confusion with Richard A. Kelly, in Conyngham’s ‘The Irish Brigade and its Campaigns,’ which was referred to recently in the article, ‘An Athy man with the Irish Brigade and its campaigns.’ Robert put an explanation for it from the 69th New York casualty list, enclosed here.

Lieutenant Patrick I. Kelly of Co G, 69th Regiment, New York Volunteers (Meagher’s Brigade), was the officer who was killed at the battle of Antietam, not Lt. Richard A. Kelly as was at first reported and mentioned in my second letter. Lieutenant Patrick J. Kelly was a brave, experienced and warmhearted officer. He was killed in front of his men. His remains were brought to his late residence, Melrose, West Chester County, N. Y. The funeral took place on Sunday, Oct. 5. The military escort was provided by Captain Wm. Butler, according to the following order:


October 3, 1862

Company Orders No. - Company H

“With feelings of deep regret, I have again to call on you to attend the funeral of one of our oldest members, and hope to see a full attendance. The members of Company H will assemble at the Armory on Sunday morning, the 5th instant, at eight o’clock precisely, in full uniform, without overcoats (unless it threatens to rain) when they will proceed to Melrose on the cars to attend the funeral of an old comrade, Lt. P. J. Kelly, late of the Sixty-ninth volunteers. By order of

Captain William Butler
                                                                                                                                Commanding Co. H

Poor Kelly has left a widow and five young children to the care of his country. May God comfort and protect them.”

“Lieutenant Richard A. Kelly mentioned in my second letter, instead of having been killed as at first reported, was severely wounded in the thigh, but hopes are entertained of his final recovery. The sadly reduced brigade cannot afford to lose so good an officer.”
Conyngham:  “Lieutenant R. A. Kelly was a native of Athy Co., Kildare, Ireland, and was a splendid specimen of manhood, being, though only twenty-one years of age, fully six feet three inches in height. A soldier, almost by instinct, he accompanied the Sixty-ninth Regiment, under Corcoran, to Virginia at the outbreak of the rebellion, and at the first battle of Bull Run was wounded in the right hand. When the Irish Brigade was commenced, he at once joined its ranks, and served with his regiment all through the desperate struggles in which it has borne so distinguished a part. No braver man has given his life for the cause of the Union, or no better soldier fell on the bloody plain of Antietam.”

The unit roster gives a different version of his fate:

Richard A. Kelly  age 24 years. Enrolled at New York City, to serve three years, and mustered in as first sergeant, Company A, September 23, 1861. Mustered in as second lieutenant, on July 26, 1862. Mustered out on June 12, 1863, at Washington, D. C., on consolidation. Again enrolled and mustered in as second lieutenant, Company A, on January 19, 1864. Mustered in as captain on March 10, 1864. Killed in action on May 12, 1864, at Spotsylvania, Va. Commissioned second lieutenant on August 28, 1862, with rank from July 26, 1862, Vice A. Birmingham, promoted. Commissioned captain, no date, with rank from March 1, 1864, original. 69 clippings  Lieutenant Richard A. Kelly  Company A  thigh, severely

Conyngham states that Richard A. Kelly was killed in action at Antietam, and his roster entry states that he was killed May 12, 1864, at Spotsylvania, Va.

Did Conyngham confuse Lieutenant Patrick J. Kelly, KIA Antietam, with Lieutenant Richard A. Kelly, KIA May 12, 1864, Spotsylvania, Va.?  I think so. The Conyngham biography above should be for Patrick J. Kelly.

Conyngham has a second entry for Richard A. Kelly, on page 554: “Captain Richard A. Kelly, promoted from the ranks for distinguished bravery at Malvern Hill, having personally taken prisoner the Lieutenant-Colonel of the Tenth La. Vols., and two others. Mustered out on the consolidation of the regiment; afterwards commissioned as Captain of Company A, on the reorganization of regiment, and died of wounds received at Spotsylvania, May, 1865 [should read 1864], while a prisoner in the hands of the enemy.”


Robert McLernon, of Springfield, Virginia, USA, has researched the Irish Brigade in the Civil War for the last twenty-eight years. He noted the confusion with Richard A. Kelly, in ‘The Irish Brigade and its Campaigns.’ Our thanks to Robert

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