- The Washington Times - Sunday, October 23, 2005

NEW YORK (AP) — Late in his life, artist James Edward Kelly tried to publish his memoirs, a book that would have featured his colorful interviews with the many Civil War figures who posed for him. But by then, the Great Depression had set in and publishers told him no one was interested in a war long past.

Seven decades after his death, Kelly’s dream is being fulfilled. Civil War historian William B. Styple has written a book that chronicles Kelly’s life and includes the artist’s interviews with key 19th-century figures.

The book, “Generals in Bronze,” will be released Nov. 1 and already is generating tremendous buzz in the world of Civil War buffs.

“I was absolutely fascinated by it because it gives such a feeling of intimacy,” said Richard Snow, editor of American Heritage magazine. “It may not add anything momentous to the historical record, but it gives you the pleasure of gossip.”

“Generals in Bronze” provides valuable insight into the personalities of the era, thanks in large part to Kelly’s meticulous notes. His interviews covered a range of subjects, from Gen. George A. Custer’s “boyish chuckle” and his canteen of iced tea to whether Gen. George G. Meade wished to retreat from the 1863 Battle of Gettysburg (apparently so).

One general told Kelly how Gen. Ulysses S. Grant’s drinking had led him to resign as a captain in 1854, quoting Grant as remarking: “I’ll make my mark yet. I don’t propose to remain in the gutter.”

“These are things they wouldn’t write in their memoirs,” Mr. Styple, 45, said of the people interviewed. “In those days, they didn’t write tell-all books.”

Mr. Styple embarked on the project two years ago after finding a large batch of Kelly’s interview notes at the New York Historical Society.

Kelly, born in New York in 1855, had demonstrated an aptitude for art early in life. His work appeared in publications including Scribner’s and Harper’s. Five of his bronze reliefs adorn the Monmouth Battle Monument in Freehold, N.J.

Kelly died at age 77 in 1933.

Gen. Winfield S. Hancock told Kelly that Meade considered withdrawing from Gettysburg but his men did not want to. Hancock said the Union commander remarked: “As you wish gentlemen, but Gettysburg is no place to fight a battle in.”

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