IRB Leader and Civil War Vet Remembered

Col. Thomas J. Kelly and the memorial plaque at Woodlawn Cemetery in the Bronx.

By Olivia O’Mahony, Editorial Assistant
June / July 2017

The 150th anniversary commemoration of Colonel Thomas J. Kelly and the Manchester Martyrs was celebrated at the Historic Woodlawn Cemetery in the Bronx in April. The event included a procession to the graveside, color guard, pipes and drum, a Civil War re-enactment, and spoken word poetry.

A Galway-born veteran of the American Civil War, Kelly was deeply involved with New York’s Fenian Brotherhood and the IRB in Ireland and England, playing a key role in the Fenian uprising in 1867. That same year, he was deemed chief organizer of the Irish Republic by IRB circles in Manchester. Captured by British forces in September 1867, Kelly managed to escape when fellow independence fighters attacked his transportation vehicle, leading to the arrest and eventual execution of three of his saviors, who became known as the Manchester Martyrs. Kelly evaded recapture and remained involved in the struggle for Irish independence until the end of his career.

“Colonel Kelly is a significant but often overlooked figure in the history of Ireland’s fight for freedom, as well as the history of our New York Irish Americans,” said Colonel Thomas J. Kelly Sesquicentennial Committee chairperson Erica Veil, who applauded his “patriotism and bravery.” ♦

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