Sunday, April 7, 2013

Alexander Kellyborn April 7, 1840
Alexander Kelly was born in Saltsburg, Pennsylvania in 1840. 

Despite scarce records regarding his parentage, service and census data indicate that he was "mulatto" and with "light skin," perhaps indicating mixed ancestry.

Alexander and his siblings were orphaned by 1850, when he was about 10 years old.  He lived with an uncle, David Kelly, a "salt boiler," and his wife Nancy, described as "Keeping House."  Alexander had several siblings living with him, including Joseph, age 16. The family was part of a small black community, some working as coal miners and salt boilers in Saltsburg, where the Conemaugh River carried salt deposits.

Before the war, he worked as a coal miner in Western Pennsylvania.

He was 21 years old when the Civil War began.

 He enlisted in the Union Army as a substitute volunteer for his drafter brother, Joseph, in August 1863.  He trained at Camp William Penn, northwest of Philadelphia. The facility was the first and largest federal camp to train almost 11,000 black soldiers during the Civil War, including 8,612 from Pennsylvania, the most black troops recruited during the war from any northern state.  

The family of Lucretia Mott leased land they owned to the Federal government so that a training camp could be established there. This parcel was located in Chelten Hills in Cheltenham Township.  Originally, the camp was to be named after Lincoln's Secretary of War, Edwin M. Stanton, but when final plans were approved, the camp was named William Penn.

Kelly's regiment was commanded by Colonel John W. Ames and paraded in Philadelphia before leaving for battle in October 1863.

After serving at Fortress Monroe and Yorktown in Virginia, on June 15, 1864, the regiment helped to capture a rebel earth-works outside of Petersburg.  By August, they moved to fortification duty at Dutch Gap on the James River, enduring rebel mortars and polluted river water. Many became sick or died.

By September 29, 1864, he was serving as a  First Sergeant in Company F of the 6th U.S. Colored Infantry Regiment. On that day, his unit participated in the Battle of Chaffin's Farm in Virginia,  
Wartime View of Chaffin's Farm
The 6th Regiment converged with other Union regiments at Chaffin's Farm. The 6th charged a line of hardened Texas rebels commanded by Colonel Frederick M. Bass. About 350 soldiers, with Kelly, met very intense firing. Many dropped, including most of the color guard.  Kelly, under heavy fire, grabbed the flag and carried it to safety. 

For his actions during the battle, he was awarded the Medal of Honor six months later, on April 6, 1865. 

First Sergeant Kelly's official Medal of Honor citation reads:
"Gallantly seized the colors, which had fallen near the enemy's lines of abatis, raised them and rallied the men at a time of confusion and in a place of the greatest danger"
He was mustered out of the army in September 1865 in Wilmington, North Carolina.

On July 30, 1866, Kelly married.  His wife, Victoria, gave birth to a son, William in January 1867.  They also adopted  homeless children. 

Living in Coutlersville, Pa., Kelly and his son were later employed as coal miners. 

In 1892, Kelly and Victoria moved to Pittsburgh's East End.  Victoria died in 1898. After 1900, Kelly worked as a watchman at the Pittsburgh Police stables. His son taught music. 
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Kelly joined the Colonel Robert G. Shaw GAR, Post 206.   

He received a monthly pension of $8 that eventually rose to $12.

He died at age 67 on June 19, 1907. 

 He was buried in Saint Peters Cemetery, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, next to his wife.

Grave of Alexander Kelly

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