Utica Daily Press...Friday morning, December 2, 1921
WILLOWVALE VETERAN OF CIVIL WAR IS DEAD
Joseph Keene, Holder of Congressional Medal, Succumbs
Cited For Unusual Bravery
Exceptional Valor at Fredricksburg Wins Rare Decoration Through Petition of Former Comrades
Long an Employe of Bleachery
Revisited scenes of Battles Frequently---Invited to Arlington
Joseph Keene of Willowvale, one of the most famous of Civil War veterans, holder of a congressional medal for bravery at Fredricksburg, died yesterday at his home after a brief illness from a stroke of paralysis, which he suffered upon returning home from a barber shop Saturday night. Mr. Keene was in his 83 year.
Joseph Keene was born in Nottinghamshire, England, April 3, 1840. When he was 6 years old the family made preparation to come to America, but just as they were about to start the father, Henry Keene, died. The mother with the son and the two daughters made the journey, however, and located at Chadwicks, where Mrs. Keene had a sister.
Mr. Keene was educated in the district school and as a young man worked in the machine shop at Willowvale. His grand adventure came during the Civil War. He enlisted April 21, 1861, being the first to enlist in the town of New Hartford, and served until July, 1865, or nearly three months after the war was over.
His first enlistment was in Company B of the Twenty-sixth New York Volunteer Infantry, under Capt. George Blackwell of Utica. He was mustered out in Utica at the new Court House on John street May 23, 1863. One week later, on June 6, 1863, Mr. Keene re-enlisted in Battery C of the Third New York Light Artillery under Capt. William Mercer of this city and served until July, 1865.
During Mr. Keene's service he was never wounded or taken prisoner, but he had an experience at the battle of Fredricksburg which made his record a notable one. The color sergeant was killed on the field and the colors of the regiment lay on the ground. Corporal Keene picked up the colors and carried them through the remainder of the fight. Maj. Ezra F. Wetmore of New York Mills was in the same regiment and on the night of the battle, he and Joe Keene slept under the same blanket on the ground. Just before the close of the war Mr. Keene was taken sick with yellow fever and was placed in the hospital at Newbern, N.C. At the time he weighed but 68 pounds. He regained his strength and was able to go to work.
Mr. Keene one day received a message from Washington advising him that Congress had voted him a medal of honor for his bravery at the battle of Fredricksburg. The medal came, and he later learned that the three that inaugurated the plan to have it given to him were his comrades, Maj. Wetmore, John Kohler and Maj. James McLaughlin, who had witnessed his bravery on the battlefield.
The first medal he received was in the form of a Grand Army badge, suitably inscribed. Many years later this was recalled, and a special medal was sent in exchange, which he treasured through his life.
After the war Corp. Keene was a member of the veteran organization of this regiment, and as long as they were held, he attended its annual reunions in Utica.
Since the war, Mr. Keene has lived in Chadwicks and for many years in Willowvale. He was long employed in the bleachery but he retired a year ago. He was a member of Bacon Post No. 83, G.A.R., and for many years on Memorial Day he would join his comrades, Kohler and Wetmore in holding the memorial exercises at the grave of Kirkland Bacon, for whom the post was named. They had a warm affection for "Billy" Bacon and it increased as the years rolled by. Now they are all united.
Mr. Keene had revisted the battlefields at Antietam, South Mountain and Maasses Plains, and by reason of the fact that he was the holder of a medal of honor he always received from the government a special invitation to visit and take part in functions of a patriotic nature held on any of the battlefields. The latest he recieved was to attend the burial of the unknown soldier at Arlington Cemetery, Washington, on Armistice Day, November 11, 1921. By reason of advanced age he was unable to attend.
Mr. Keene was well known through the town of New Hartford and in the Sauquoit Valley. He married Miss Alice Johnson who died in 1898. Later he married Mrs. Catherine Ward who is living. He had a son, Frank Keene, who died in 1916, leaving two children, Floyd and Alice Keene, both of Utica. Mr. Keene also leaves two sisters, Mrs. Mary A. Victory of Whitesboro and Mrs. Fanny Preisner of Washington, D.C., a half sister, Mrs. Jane Lasher of Chadwicks and a stepson, Martin Ward of Willowvale.
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