Imagine arriving home after two years of fighting in a war only to have your family send you away again to complete a devastating task.
That’s the story of my relative David Kelly or Kelley*.
In 1814, David arrived home near what is now Urbana, Ohio, after serving in the War of 1812. He walked in the door all Fred Flintstone-like with the wife and kids and pet stegosaurus running out to greet him. And after they all kissed and hugged, his young brothers put his coat back on his shoulders and shoved him out the door.
At the same time David was traveling, his father Abraham was also walking home from the war. Sixty five years old, the father of fourteen children, and a veteran of the Revolutionary War, Abraham must have had some piss and vinegar for the Brits to have gone out to fight again.
There was a lot for him to be mad at. Decades after the Revolutionary War, British soldiers still occupied American territory. Britain was capturing American sailors, about 10,000 in all, and forcing them to work for the British cause. Some Native American tribes, rightfully concerned about land encroachment, allied themselves with the British to stop American land expansion. With multiple enemies, Americans found themselves fighting on several fronts: the Atlantic coast, the Canadian border, New Orleans, and the Midwestern frontier.
My people, David and Abraham Kelly, were probably walking home from the Michigan Territory, where the American colonel in charge of invading Canada from the west ran from British and Native American troops and surrendered Fort Detroit without a shot fired. How embarrassing.
So that’s what David had just survived when he hit the road again, walking or riding southeast to Pickaway County, Ohio. 24 miles later, a farm owner showed David to the barn where he found the body of his father wrapped in a blanket. Not nearly as happy a homecoming as David had just received.
The following is an excerpt of the source article. It is a biography of Abraham’s youngest son and David’s little brother, Joseph.
*Probably. David Kelly is probably my relative. I don’t know how yet, but I’m linked genetically to three of his children and two of his brothers. It’s all a game of darts at this point.
Sources: Early History and Pioneers of Champaign County (Illinois), Milton W. Mathews and Lewis A. McLean, pp. 61-62, biography of Joseph Thornton Kelley, Champaign County Herald, Urbana, Illinois, 1886. Accessed 12 Apr 2021 on Google Books (https://rb.gy/jdxala)
War of 1812, Jeanne T. Heidler, Encyclopedia Brittanica article. Accessed on 21 Apr 2021 (https://www.britannica.com/event/War-of-1812)
“He is a coward”, National Park Service article, Department of the Interior. Accessed 21 Apr 2021 (https://www.nps.gov/articles/surrender-of-detroit.htm)