An “Old Man” at the First Battle of Petersburg: Anthony M. Keiley

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in Individuals, News and Notes, Research

The June 14, 1864 Richmond Examiner article posted yesterday1 at Beyond the Crater goes over the list of Virginia militiamen captured by Kautz’s Cavalry Division in the aftermath of the Battle of Old Men and Young Boys (or the First Battle of Petersburg) on June 9, 1864.  The first name on that list, “A[nthony] M. Keiley, Esq., member of the Virginia Legislature from [Petersburg]”, was a fascinating figure.

Born in Paterson, New Jersey on September 12, 1833, Keiley moved with his Irish Catholic family t0 Petersburg by the time he was 9.  Keiley joined the Confederate army and was wounded at Malvern Hill during the Seven Days.  He recovered enough to join the Army of Northern Virginia during the Gettysburg Campaign, but he quit the army after being elected to the Virginia House of Delegates.2

Keiley fought in the Battle of Old Men and Young Boys on June 9, 1864 as a member of the Petersburg militia, called out to protect the city from August V. Kautz’s Union cavalry probing against the southern edge of town.  The militiamen helped drive Kautzx back, but not before Keiley and others were captured.  Sent to Point Lookout, Maryland, Keiley spent some time there prior to being sent to the notorious Union prisoner of war camp in Elmira, New York.  On October 11, 1864, Keiley was sent along with 1400 weakened and sick Confederates as a nurse, and he was exchanged at Hilton Head, South Carolina.  By November 1864, Keiley was back in Petersburg, a city which had already endured five months of military action in close proximity.3

Keiley wrote a book (the title length seemingly greater than his stay in the North!) about his time as a prisoner called Prisoner of War, Or Five Months Among the Yankees.  Being a Narrative of the Crosses, Calamities, and Consolations of a Petersburg Militiamen during an enforced Summer Residence North (hat tip to BTC Nespaper Transcriber Ken Perdue for this fact, which led directly to this short blog entry).  A later enhanced edition of the same book (available in its entirety at Google Books) was entitled In Vinculus; or, The Prisoner of War.  Being, The Experience of a Rebel in Two Federal Pens, Interspersed With Reminiscences of the Late War; Anecdotes of Southern Generals, Etc.

After the war Keiley served as Mayor of Richmond and later as City Attorney there.  In 1885, Keiley was involved in an international incident.  President Grover Cleveland had appointed him as envoy to Italy.  Italy, for their part, refused to accept Keiley as ambassador [for reasons unspecified in the New York Times article cited at the end of this paragraph], so Cleveland then appointed him ambassador to Austria.  Austria too was unsatisfied with Keiley as ambassador, claiming that his Catholicism was lax.  Keiley, in an effort to relieve President Cleveland from embarrassment, resigned.4

Keiley was later appointed to the International Court of Appeals in Cairo, Egypt, of which he later became Chief Justice.  While there, his wife died and he decided to retire and travel.  During those travels, Keiley was killed in Paris, France, run over [presumably] by a horse on a city street.5

Keiley, almost unknown today, led an extraordinary life of 70+ years, traveling around the world and experiencing more than most people have in his lifetime.  He is just one of many interesting individuals I hope to examine and expose to readers here at Beyond the Crater: The Petersburg Campaign Online.

  2. Anthony M. Keiley and “The Keiley Incident”, James H. Bailey, The Virginia Magazine of History and Biography, Vol. 67, No. 1 (Jan., 1959), pp. 65-81.  Published by: Virginia Historical Society. Stable URL:
  3. Anthony M. Keiley and “The Keiley Incident”, James H. Bailey, The Virginia Magazine of History and Biography, Vol. 67, No. 1 (Jan., 1959), pp. 65-81.  Published by: Virginia Historical Society. Stable URL:
  4. April 10, 1902 New York Times
  5. January 31, 1905 New York Times

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