By Jared L. Olar
Local History Specialist
An undated article clipping from the Pekin Daily Times in the files of the Pekin Public Library’s Local History Room tells of a Civil War soldier from Tazewell County who was buried in a Confederate Army cemetery.
The article, headlined “Confederate cemetery holds Tazewell County soldier,” was probably published about 20 years ago [NOTE: It was published 13 April 2001]. It tells of how the newspaper was contacted by a photographer from the Griffin Daily News in Griffin, Ga., seeking information on Corp. Nathan Kellogg, who was one of four Union soldiers to be buried in Griffin’s Stonewall Cemetery, a city cemetery with a large burial section for soldiers of the Confederate States of America. To find a gravestone for a Union soldier in a Confederate cemetery is highly unusual.
The Pekin Times article provides fascinating information, but is incomplete and somewhat inaccurate, for, as we shall see, it is incorrect about where Corp. Kellogg’s remains are now buried.
Kellogg belonged to a family of pioneers who lived on land that was then outside of Pekin but is now within Pekin’s city limits. Two brothers of this family are notable figures in the early history of Pekin and Tazewell County: Nathan Benjamin Kellogg Sr. (1793-1853) and Benjamin Kellogg Jr. (1806-1855).
They were among the 14 children of Benjamin Kellogg Sr. (1761-1821) and Luranah Spaulding (1766-1834), natives of Massachusetts who had settled in New York. Both Nathan and Benjamin Jr. were born in Kinderhook, New York, and came to Tazewell County in the early 1830s.
Nathan is listed on page 713 of Charles C. Chapman’s 1879 “History of Tazewell County,” where it says he served as Tazewell County Coroner from 1842 to 1848. He married twice, first to Magdalen Esselstyne (1792-1826), with whom he had four sons and a daughter, and a second to Alzina (Pennoyer) Woodrow (1805-1884), with whom he had four daughters and three sons. His youngest son was Nathan Benjamin Kellogg Jr., the Civil War soldier who had been buried in Stonewall Cemetery.
The other prominent member of the Tazewell County Kelloggs, Benjamin Jr., was a successful merchant, land owner, and local political official who was a friend of Abraham Lincoln. The “Papers of Abraham Lincoln Digital Library” website provides this summary of Benjamin Kellogg Jr.’s life and career:
“Benjamin Kellogg, Jr. was a prominent merchant, landowner, and town and city official in Pekin, Illinois. In 1829, he and his partners established Crain, Kellogg, & Company, the first mercantile business in Pekin. Kellogg began purchasing public land in September 1832, when he bought 160 acres in Mason County, becoming the first person to purchase land in what would become Allen Grove. Between 1832 and 1855, he purchased thousands of acres of public land in Mason, Tazewell, McLean, and Logan counties. Kellogg was also active in Pekin’s civic affairs. At the first town elections held in July 1835, he won election as town clerk, and in August, he became treasurer of the Board of Trustees. He won a second term as town clerk in 1836. When Pekin received its charter as a city in 1849, Kellogg became the first city clerk, holding that job until October 1850. In 1850, he was working as a clerk and owned $20,000 worth of real estate. Eager to get a railroad through Pekin, in 1853, Kellogg and a partner personally subscribed $100,000 for the Mississippi and Wabash Railroad. Abraham Lincoln represented Kellogg in numerous cases in the Tazewell County Circuit Court.”
In addition to the cases in which Lincoln represented him, Benjamin Jr. was also a key witness in the 1839 Tazewell County Circuit Court case of Cromwell & McNaughton v. Bailey, in which the estate of Nathan Cromwell asked the court to require that David Bailey of Pekin pay off a promissory note for the purchase of the Cromwell’s indentured servant Nance. Bailey had declined to pay the note because Nance said she was a free person and had never consented to a contract of indentured servitude. In his testimony, Benjamin Jr. confirmed that Nance had always insisted on her freedom. The court ruled against Bailey, though, so Bailey retained Lincoln to appeal the verdict to the Illinois Supreme Court in the 1841 case of Bailey v. Cromwell & McNaughton. Agreeing with Lincoln’s arguments, the Illinois Supreme Court overturned the Tazewell County court decision and declared that Nance and her three eldest children were free.
That case touched on the wider question of the morality of human slavery which later helped to spark the destructive fires of the Civil War. In that conflict, Nathan B. Kellogg Sr.’s youngest son Nathan B. Jr., who was born in Tazewell County on 11 Oct. 1846, stepped up to fight for the Union cause. His Union Army service records say he was a farmer living at Pekin, and give his physical description as 5 feet 8 inches in height, with a light complexion, gray eyes, and light-colored hair.
His service records show that he enlisted on 16 June 1862 and was mustered into the 85th Illinois Infantry, Co. F., at Peoria on 27 Aug. 1862. Though only in his teens, Nathan Jr. was consumed with patriotic zeal for his country. This is evident from his service records: although he was only 15 years old at the time, his records indicate that he lied about his age so he could enlist, claiming to be 17 at enlistment and 18 when he was mustered in.
Corp. Kellogg enlisted for three years of service, but he did not make it to the end of those three years. He was mortally wounded in the Battle of Peach Tree Creek in Georgia on 19 July 1864. Taken captive by the Confederate Army, he was taken to a military hospital at Griffin, Georgia, where he succumbed to his wounds the next day. He was one of approximately 1,900 Union casualties and 2,500 Confederate casualties of that battle. Of this battle, Union Maj. Gen. J. D. Cox said, “Few battlefields of the war have been strewn so thickly with dead and wounded as they lay that evening around Collier’s Mill.”
Kellogg’s service record notes his capture at the battle with the comment, “In Parole Camp Captured At Peach Tree Creek Ga.” Due to his death, he was not officially mustered out of service until 5 June 1865, almost a year after his death.
Corp. Kellogg was buried in nearby Stonewall Cemetery alongside many Confederate soldiers who had fallen in battle. There, in a Confederate Army burying ground, his bones rested for the next three years, when his remains, along with those of three other Union soldiers that had been buried in Confederate cemeteries, were transferred to Marietta National Cemetery in Marietta, Georgia.
Although his remains have been in Marietta since 1867, a local resident of Griffin, Ga., named Mrs. C. Robert Walker apparently came across a record of Kellogg’s burial in Stonewall Cemetery in 1960 and, not knowing of his removal to Marietta, ordered a Civil War soldier’s headstone for the plot where his remains once had lain.
And so, Corp. Nathan Benjamin Kellogg Jr. of Pekin is currently memorialized in two separate cemeteries in the South, with a headstone marking the empty grave where once he lay in Stonewell Cemetery, and another marking his actual grave in Marietta National Cemetery.