Gravestone Tales of Stark County

Coral’s grandfather marched to the sea

By Don Schmidt

Coral Kitterman of Toulon suggested that I write an article about her grandfather Emanuel Keller, the last surviving Civil War veteran in The Prairie Shopper circulation area. He marched with Sherman from Atlanta to the sea and celebrated the Union victory in the Grand Review.

Coral and her cousin Ruby Turnbull grew up with their grandfather Keller. He died at age 98 in 1937, when they were 16 years and 11 years old.

Emanuel Keller, far right, posing with other Civil War veterans on Umbrella Rock. This lofty vantage point on Lookout Mountain, Tenn., overlooks the valley where his brother Eli Keller was killed by a Rebel artillery shell. The photo is in the possession of Raylene Hodges of Saxon, great-granddaughter of Emanuel Keller.

Emanuel Keller attended all reunions of his Civil War unit, Co. K, 86th Illinois Infantry, until he became the lone surviving member. He also traveled to national Grand Army of the Republic encampments.

In 1929, The Princeville Telephone published Keller’s biographical sketch, which documented his remarkable Civil War record:

“Emanuel Keller’s school advantages were very limited, as he was able to attend school only a few short months of his early boyhood. He was the third oldest child of a family of twelve children and he, with two older brothers, helped their father in the fields as soon as they were old enough. Mr. Keller lived with his folks until he became twenty-one years old, when he engaged in working out by the month, until the start of the Civil War.

“He took part in the battle of Perryville, Ky., and was in the various skirmishes around Nashville, Tenn., the battles of Franklin and Brentwood, and was with his regiment in its various encounters with the enemy in and around Murfreesboro. He engaged in the battle of Chickamauga, and was at Missionary Ridge. From there he and his comrades went to Knoxville and then returned to Chattanooga.

“Mr. Keller was wounded by a minié ball at the battle of Buzzard’s Roost, the ball lodging in the right arm above the elbow. He was taken to the field hospital, and later to Jefferson, Ind., where he recovered from his wound. He rejoined his regiment at the front and fought in the battles of Atlanta and Jonesboro, Ga. Mr. Keller was again wounded, this time in the right shoulder by a spent ball and another bullet drew blood by grazing his cheek. He followed Confederate General Nathan Bedford Forrest to Florence, Ala. Returning to Atlanta, Mr. Keller climaxed his wonderful war record when he accompanied General Sherman on his famous March to the Sea.

“From there they started back north with Sherman still in command, going through the Carolinas in a triumphant march. He fought in the battle of Bentonville, and from there marched to Raleigh, N. C., with his regiment, and there witnessed the surrender of the Confederate General Joseph E. Johnston. From there he proceeded to Washington, by way of Richmond, and took part in the Grand Review.”

Emanuel Keller was born in 1838 and lived most of his life in Princeville. Four of his brothers also fought in the Union Army. His two older brothers died in the conflict. Eli Keller gave up his life for his country at Chattanooga in 1863. He died in a field hospital in Lookout Valley, TN. Andrew Keller was mortally wounded at Kennesaw Mountain. Both are interred in Chattanooga National Cemetery. Emanuel Keller’s younger brothers Edmond Keller and William H. Keller survived the war.

Emanuel Keller

Emanuel Keller had two wives. The first one died after three children and 11 years of marriage. Mr. Keller married again, at age 49, to Marian (Fallow) Dart. To this union were born six more children, including Coral’s and Ruby’s mothers, Jennie Delbridge and Irene DeBord.

After the war, Mr. Keller continued in farming. He was active in the community, holding several public offices. His last resting place is Princeville Cemetery.

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