Born in 1855, James Kelly was an American sculptor and illustrator most famous for his works of the American Civil War. His most famous works include the statue of John Buford at Gettysburg, the statue of James J. Wilson at West Point, and the George Washington at Valley Forge memorial at Federal Hall in New York City.
All but forgotten until recently, Kelly’s work and his interviews with Civil War commanders was highlighted last year with the release of my good friend Bill Styple’s book Generals in Bronze: Interviewing the Commanders of the Civil War. I reviewed this book for an issue of Civil War Times Illustrated magazine. A narrative of Kelly’s notes while interviewing commanders who sat for portraits (including men such as Winfield S. Hancock, Joshua L. Chamberlain, Alfred Pleasonton, Philip H. Sheridan and many others), the book is chock full of interesting observations about the personalities and the war. Both the student and scholar will find much of interest in the book.
BookTV on CSpan2 will be airing a previously-shown program featuring Styple and his book (along with items from the Kelly collection) on Saturday, January 13 at 5:00 pm EST and again on Sunday, January 14 at 11:00 pm EST. A new feature of these shows, however, will be the addition of footage of the dedication of the James Kelly memorial at his grave in New York City. It has been sheer irony that Kelly, who spent most of his life memorializing famous figures in bronze and pen, never had a marker at his gravesite since his death in 1933. Bill spearheaded a movement to design, sculpt, and pay for a new memorial headstone for Kelly’s grave, which was placed and dedicated a couple months ago. I, along with fellow blogger Eric Wittenberg and others, were contributors to the project.
Congratulations to Bill Styple for his successful effort to have Kelly’s final resting place marked for all time. If you are able, please watch the airings on CSpan2 next weekend. The link to the book above will take you to Styple’s website for more information.