William C Reiff, 'The soldier that was not buried'

The soldier that was not buried

[source: National Tribune, 17 August 1905, page 3, column 6]
[for another version of this story, see Stephen Kelly's death notice, in the Gettysburg PA Compiler 5 February 1889]
[I have proofread this page]


The soldier that was not buried.

Editor National Tribune: If I had the say as to where I should be buried I would put it this way: Bury me upon Little Round Top, Gettysburg, Pa., just as near the spot where I tried to do two hours' honest fighting for the preservation of the Union on the afternoon of July 2, 1863. However, that honor will not be granted me, so I will not fret myself as to place of final interment.

Let me tell you something that you should keep in mind, if you hereafter visit the Soldiers' Cemetery at Gettysburg, Pa. Among the thousand and more headstones in that silent community one can find upon one of them something like this: "Stephen Kelly, Co. E, 91st P. V." Year after year loving hands have strewn this grave and the many others there with flowers. Strange, yet true, Stephen Kelly time upon time visited this grave in person upon Memorial Days and paid his tribute of patroitic [sic] respect to the one whose remains lay beneath the sod there where his were supposed to be. The above will be more clear when I relate that the burial parties upon that field did their best to identify the fallen heroes. This was in some instances a difficult task. The burial party near Little Round Top found a dead soldier without any identifying marks, either upon person or clothing. Near him a canteen was found which bore the following: Stephen Kelly, Co. E, 91st P. V. The inference was drawn that this canteen belonged to the fallen soldier, and he was buried by the boys as Stephen Kelly. The writer was in his dear old home, Philadelphia, in his dear old home, Philadelphia, in 1888, and there learned the above facts from Col. Sellers and other officers and men of our command. Kelly was then living in the city, but died the year following at the seasoned age of about 60 years.

It is a matter of record in the Department at Washington, the officers told me, that the Pension Office and Adjutant-General's Office had been called upon by Kelly in some way to correct the record, but up to that time had not succeeded. Since then the write has no further information concerning the final outcome of this unusual happening.

--William C. Reiff, Carlsbad, N. M.

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