Puff Piece

I wanted to come back to this article.

Biographies in county histories are treasure troves of information, but after looking at a few write-ups of 1812 veterans, I spotted a pattern. Above, Captain Kelley is described as thrusting his sword between the spokes of a wagon wheel when he heard of Hull’s surrender of Fort Detroit.

Here’s are a few more excerpts of people’s reactions to Hull’s surrender:

Pioneers of Scioto County (Ohio) by James Keyes
Duncan McArthur/Wikipedia

Reading those parallel stories made me think about the circumstances surrounding Joseph’s biography.

  • It was written in 1886, sixty-four years after the events the biography describes.
  • The stories about Joseph’s father and brother were told third hand.
  • There might have been some incentive for the subjects of the biographies to add a little zing to their life stories to the detriment of truth.
  • All of the biographies I’ve read seem to flatter their subjects.
  • The tone changes as soon as Joseph’s life is mentioned.

So while the information in these articles is a great place to start, I researched other resources to back it all up. Turns out the Col. Denny mentioned was James Denny, who led a regiment in the First Ohio, but whose regiment was based in eastern Ohio. Not in western Ohio where the Kelleys lived. That doesn’t mean Abraham wasn’t his aide. It just means it’s less likely.


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)

Pioneers of Scioto County (Ohio), James Keyes, pp. 2-4, biography of Claudius Cadot, no publisher listed, Portsmouth, Ohio. Accessed on 18 Apr 2021 on Google Books (https://books.google.com/books?id=l98yAQAAMAAJ&printsec=frontcover&source=gbs_ge_summary_r&cad=0#v=onepage&q&f=false)

Duncan McArthur: The Military Phase, C. H. Cramer, pp. 128-147, Ohio State Archaeological and Historical Quarterly, Columbus, Ohio. Accessed 18 Apr 2021 (https://resources.ohiohistory.org/ohj/browse/displaypages.php?display%5B%5D=0046&display%5B%5D=128&display%5B%5D=147)