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July 16, 1891: General Benjamin Kelley Dies

General Benjamin Kelley

Civil War General Benjamin Kelley died in Maryland on July 16, 1891, at age 84. The New Hampshire native had moved to Wheeling in 1836, working as a merchant there for more than two decades. In 1851, he became freight agent for the newly arrived Baltimore and Ohio Railroad.

When the Civil War began, Kelley formed and became colonel of the pro-Union 1st Virginia Infantry. Leading his troops into battle on June 3, 1861, he was severely wounded at Philippi and then promoted to brigadier general. Kelley’s principal duty throughout the war was to guard the vital B&O line in Maryland and West Virginia, particularly from Confederate raiding parties, such as those led by the famed McNeill’s Rangers from the Moorefield area.

In August 1863, federal authorities, acting on Kelley’s orders, arrested the wife and four-year-old son of Captain McNeill. Seeking revenge a year and a half later, McNeill’s Rangers kidnapped Kelley and his superior, General George Crook, in Cumberland, Maryland—one of the most embarrassing Union incidents of the war.

After the war, Benjamin Kelley served in numerous government posts. He’s buried in Arlington National Cemetery.


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