Thursday, May 16, 2013

PVT Benjamin Dekalb Kelley, quite a story...

When the War erupted in 1861, Ben and his brothers Esom, James, Philemon, and John joined the independent cavalry company that was being formed of men who could furnish their own mounts and tack. The brothers enlisted in "Hubbard's Company of Alabama Rangers" in September of 1861, and after brief, but intense training, were sent into western and middle Tennessee where they helped Brigadier General Lloyd Tilghman with the defense of Fort Henry.

In 1864, 20-year-old Ben was detailed by Captain Kelley to go to Athens, Alabama, and pick up the body of their brother, James, and take it home for burial. It was a dangerous assignment as union patrols were everywhere and travel at night was somewhat safer than during the day. Upon arrival at Athens, Ben hitched both of their horses to a wagon and placed the body inside for the sad trip home. 

Somewhere down the road, the wagon broke down and Ben had to place the body over the pommel of James' own horse and lead it on home. Ben later said that he made better time that way, and he was lucky that he had thought to put the saddles in the wagon in case something like this happened. He got the body home and buried it in a place on the family property that later became the Old Kelley/Tucker Cemetery.

Ben was also captured in early 1865 at the Black Warrior River while scouting union positions. He was not imprisoned though and Ben was heard to have said that "my uniform was so threadbare that they (union soldiers) could not tell if I was a soldier or a beggar and let me go". Ben served honorably in Company K until the end of the war. 

When Ben and his two other surviving brothers returned home after the war, they found their home in deplorable condition. As if this and losing the war were not bad enough, Ben and his brothers found out that their younger brother, Tolbert, had gone to a local mill to have some corn ground into meal when a group of northern sympathizers, known as "Tories", under the command of a man by the name of John Stough, tied him to a horse and dragged him to death. 

They avenged their brothers death by killing the man and his dogs under the age-old law of "an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth, and a death for a death.” Benjamin died on September 12, 1926, at the age of 83.

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