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Michigan group seeks grave of Civil War vet
Liberty lore
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Jennis Glysson was surprised when she was having her summer home remodeled near Traverse City, Mich., in 1995. When an attic wall was ripped down, 22 sheets of fragile paper came out. All were letters addressed to the home’s former owner, Bennette Bagley, a former Sunday school teacher at the Michigan State Boys Industrial School. It is a mystery of how the letters got there.
Two of the letters were from Louis Kelsey, one of Bagley’s “Reform School Boys.” With research, it was discovered that Kelsey was a black Civil War soldier who fought at the Battle of Honey Hill in Jasper County, South Carolina, in 1864. As a soldier in the famous 54th Massachusetts Infantry, the Michigan private stood in the front ranks at Honey Hill on Nov. 30, 1864, facing the fearsome artillery and musket fire from Rebel trenches east of Grahamville. The regiment was decimated but Kelsey survived.
The 54th Massachusetts Infantry, the all-black unit featured in the movie “Glory,” canvassed the upper Midwest to form the first unit of free blacks. There is no record of where or when Kelsey signed up.
We know he was born in England in 1845, later orphaned and adopted by a couple in Pennsylvania. He gave his father’s birthplace as Pennsylvania and mother’s in Maryland. Somehow, he ended up living in Detroit and apparently got into trouble for petty theft. He was sent to a boys school where he met Bennette Bagley. He was excused from the school to fight in 1863 as a Union soldier at the age of 18.
Here’s one of the letters. I’ve corrected the spelling.

General Hospital, No. 2,
Ward B, Beaufort, S. C.,
March 11, 1865.

Kind Friend,
Once more I attempt to address you a few lines hoping through the grace of providence that these will reach you and find you well and enjoying the best blessings and all the preciousness of the life that the heavens can pour down on you. Indeed, I am happy to inform you that I am still among the living and thank you for His kind protection shown unto me thus far.
Notwithstanding that I am in the general hospital again in Beaufort, SC, and am compelled to walk by the aid of a crutch and a cane and have been so ever since the 25th of February 1865. But, thank God, I am still alive. Indeed I am very sorry to state that I have not received any letter from you since September 1864 although I myself have not written any to you since October. Times have been so limited that I could not write and I was also in the battle of Honey Hill and was compelled to face the foe nearly all day long.
I lost all of my clothes, knapsacks and rations and all of my writing materials. I had a piece of shell to cut the pocket book out of my pants pocket and all the money that I had to bless my soul with.
Therefore, I hope you will forgive me for not writing to you before this time. And I will be more punctual in the future if God helps me. Oh, how many times I have thought of you but think all was in vain but hope not. I hope that I will soon hear from you. I am happy to inform you that Benjamin Brooks, Noah Hill, Andrew Horvand, William Werm, Charles Points and James Beys all send their love to you and wish that you would remember them in your prayers as they are the Reform School Boys. But sorry to say that Crockett is sent to the RifRaffs for stealing one of the officer’s watches. And, he had his pay forfeited from him.
Oh, how I hope, my Dear Teacher, that I can have the pleasure of returning home again and be permitted to have the pleasure of shaking the hand of a friend that I know and respect as I do you.
And if not, I hope that you will return to our heavenly Father and I am happy to state that I am still putting my hopes and trust in the Blessed Jesus Christ and am about to join a church in this town. The soldiers that are sick and wounded are getting along finely indeed although two died last evening in one hour.
I hope when you see Miss Sarah Hibbard that you will tell her that I send my love to her and all of the Michigan State Reform School Boys that are in the first Michigan 1st Rgt which is so called. They are called the 102nd U. S. Colored Troops. Tell Mr. Robinson that I have written him some 8 letters since June 8 and have not received any reply from him as of yet. I feel very bad to think that he would slight me in this way.
Please reply immediately and inform all the people of Lansing that I am acquainted with that I am still living. Please tell Little William (B. Bagley’s son) that I would like for him to write to me and if God spares my life I will reply immediately. May God bless you is my sincerest wish and my prayers and I hope to meet you again on earth or in heaven. Farewell, until you hear from me again. I remain still your sincerest Sunday School Scholar until death.

Louis Ismen Kelsey (Another place he signed as Louis Osmen Kelsey or maybe the I just looked like an O.)

In the Liberty County Census of 1880, Louis Kelsey is listed as living in District 15, being 35 years of age, a laborer, married to a woman named Mary and having two daughters, one named Mary and the other a very unusual name. Kelsey died between 1880 and 1885 as his widow applied for a widow’s pension in 1885. It is believed he is buried in a cemetery in the Riceboro area. A veteran’s group called me from Michigan and wanted information on his gravesite. They want to put a veteran’s memorial marker on it. If anyone knows where this grave is or may be, please get in touch with me. He may have fought against the South but he found a Liberty County southern girl to love, fathered two southern daughters and lived the remainder of his life in Liberty County, dying before the young age of 40 probably from wounds he received fighting for his country.

You can call Love at the Hinesville City Hall, 876-3564.
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