John Herbert Kelly was born March 31st 1840 in Pineapple, Pickens, Alabama, the son of Isham and Elizabeth (Herbert) Kelly. As both of his parents died before he was seven, Kelly was raised by his Grandmother Harriet Herbert Hawthorne. He received an appointment to the United State Military Academy at West Point with the help of an Uncle who was a Congressman. After South Carolina seceded he left without graduating on December 29th 1860.
Kelly joined the Confederate Army in Montgomery, Alabama with the rank of Second Lieutenant and was assigned to Fort Morgan at the mouth of Mobile Bay through the fall of 1861. In late 1861 he joined the staff of Confederate Brigadier General William Joseph Hardee in Missouri. In April 1862 he received at appointment to Major of the 9th Arkansas Battalion and led them in the Battle of Shiloh. May 5th 1862 Kelly became the Colonel of the 8th Arkansas Infantry. He was wounded in the arm at the Battle of Murfreesboro, and commanded a brigade at the Battle of Chickamauga, where he had his horse shot out from under him. On November 16th 1863 Kelly received his promotion to Brigadier General, while only 23 years old.
While leading Cavalry on a raid to disrupt Union communication, near Franklin, Tennessee on September 2nd 1864, Kelly was shot in the chest by a Union Sharpshooter. He was carried from the field in a blanket to the Harrison House to be seen by a doctor. To badly hurt to be moved he died there September 4th 1864. He was buried first in the garden of the Harrison House, but was moved in 1866 to the Magnolia Cemetery in Mobile, Alabama.