Biography of Major Henry Clay Connelly

The record of Major Henry Clay Connelly, both as a soldier and as a civilian, is a brilliant one and will live long after he has passed to another world. His father was James Connelly, a son of Bernard Connelly, who settled in Philadelphia about 1800. He afterwards located in Somerset County, Pennsylvania, where, as a dealer in live stock he became successful. His wife, of English birth, was a Miss Eggleton. She was the first member of the Episcopal Church of England in that county and for many years the only one. James Connelly arrived at man-hood in Somerset County and aided his father in the management of his interests. Some years later he moved to Petersburg, a village in Somerset County lying on the Great National Road, where he became influential and prosperous. He was one of the original promoters and builders of the National Road and was a leading citizen of that locality. His wife was Marie Hugus, her progenitors on both sides being of the sturdy and fearless Huguenot stock, patriots whose zeal and sacrifices have carved for them an imperishable name throughout Christendom. Several of her ancestors, the Hugus and Ankeny families, were Revolutionary soldiers. Peter Ankeny, our subject’s great-grand-father. was a captain in the Revolutionary War under Washington. His wife was a Miss Rosa Bonnet, a member of the historical French family.

Major Henry Clay Connelly was born in Petersburg, Somerset County, Pennsylvania, December 22, 1831, and was the fourth in order of a family of eight children. It was there he spent his boyhood days until the death of his father, after which his mother moved to the town of Somerset. There the children of Mrs. Connelly were given the best educational advantages obtainable, and there Major Connelly graduated from the Somerset Academy. After leaving school he mastered the art of printing in the office of the Somerset Visitor, then published and edited by General A. H. Coffroth, who afterwards became distinguished and was pallbearer at President Lincoln’s funeral when a member of Congress. At the age of twenty, Mr. Connelly was a half-owner and editor of the Beaver Star. Two years and a half later he disposed of his interest in that newspaper, formed a partnership with Emanuel J. Pershing, and came to Rock Island where he has since resided. Arriving here February 18, 1855, he and Mr. Pershing published the Weekly Rock Islander. They established a daily in May, 1855. Bound volumes of this paper can now be seen in the Public Library, in which will be found the various incidents of life at that early day. In the year 1857, Mr. Connelly and his partner purchased the Argus and consolidated the two papers under the title of the Islander and Argus.

In the year 1858 Mr. Connelly commenced reading law with Judge J. W. Drury. He did not, however, sever his connection with the newspaper until September, 1859. He was admitted to the bar in January, 1860, and remained in legal harness until September 12, 1862, when he entered the Union Army. At that date he did not dream of the future that awaited him, and of which the following gives an insight of the numerous battles in which he participated: Celina, Tennessee, April 18, 19, 1862; Turkey Neck Bend, Tennessee, pursuit of Colonel Hamilton’s troops, June 12, 1863; Morgan’s raid through Kentucky, Indiana and Ohio, July 1-26, 1863; Marrowbone or Burksville, Kentucky, (Morgan’s raid), July 2, 1863; Buffington Island, or St. George Creek, Ohio (Morgan’s raid), July 19, 1863; Washington, Ohio (Morgan’s raid), July 24, 1863; near Salineville, Ohio, (Morgan captured), July 26, 1863; Knoxville, Tennessee, (city captured), September 1, 1863; Powell’s River, Tennessee, September 6, 1863; Cumberland Gap, Tennessee, (assaulted and captured under General Burnside), September 9, 1863 ; Kingsport, Tennessee, September 17, 1863; Bristol, Tennessee, September 19, 1863; Zollicoffer, Tennessee, September 20, 1863; Blountville, Tennessee, September 22, 1863; Blue Spring, Tennessee, (under General Burnside), October 10, 1863; Bristol Station, Tennessee, October 14, 1863; New Madrid, Tennessee, October 22, 1863; Holsten River, near Knoxville, Tennessee, November 15, 1863; Campbell’s Station, Tennessee, November 17, 18, 1863; siege of Knoxville, Tennessee, (under General Burnside), November, 1863; Walker’s Ford, or Clinch River, Tennessee, December 1, 2, 1863; Clinch Mountain, Tennessee, December 6, 1863; Bean Station, Tennessee, December 14, 1863; Blaine’s Cross Roads, Tennessee, December 16, 1863; Mossy Creek, Tennessee, December 26, 1863; Dandridge, Tennessee, December 29, 1863; Strawberry Plains, Tennessee, January 10, 1864; Dandridge, Tennessee (second fight), January 16, 17. 1864; Fair-garden, French Broad, or Kelly’s Ford, Tennessee, January 27, 1864; Sevierville, Tennessee, January 28, 1864; Cherokee Indian Battle, North Carolina, February 2, 1864; Battle of Atlanta, Georgia, July 22, 1864; on the retreat when General Hood advanced from the Tennessee River to Columbia on Waynesborough Road, Tennessee, fighting General Forrest, November 22, 23, 24, 1864; Duck River, Tennessee, fighting General Forrest, November 28, 29, 1864; Battle of Franklin, Tennessee, November 30, 1864; Battle of Nashville, Tennessee, December 15, 16, 1864; Franklin, Tennessee, December 17, 1864.

We take the following from the Chicago Inter-Ocean, dated September 27, 1887: “Henry Clay Connelly is a member of General John Buford Post, No. 243, Rock Island, of which he was a charter member and its first commander. He is a delegate to the National Encampment which meets at St. Louis this month. He was commissioned second lieutenant of Company L, Fourteenth Illinois Cavalry, January 7th, 1863. In the spring the regiment went to the front, its first head-quarters being Glasgow, Kentucky. While here the regiment was active in scouting, and the Confederate forces at Celina and near Turkey Neck Bend, on the Cumberland River, were attacked and routed. The next work was the pursuit of General Morgan and his cavalry command for twenty-eight days and nights, the battle of Buffington Island, in Ohio, and the capture of Morgan and most of his command. Lieutenant Connelly was present at the capture. In August, under General Burnside, the Union forces went to East Tennessee. With the advance guard, Lieutenant Connelly entered Knoxville September 1st, General Burnside arriving on the 3d. He heard the last toot of the last Con-federate locomotive of General Buckner, commanding the Confederates, sounded in Knoxville. He was at the taking of Cumber-land Gap, at Bristol, and at the numerous encounters in that locality; at the defense of Knoxville and its incidents; at Bean Station, at Dandridge, Fair Garden, Walker’s Ford, Strawberry Plains, and at the battle with Thomas’ Cherokee Indians in North Carolina. During the East Tennessee campaign he was placed in charge of a battery of artillery. On the Indian raid, after following a mountainous Indian trail, on the 2d of February the Cherokees were surprised in their camp, at-tacked and the legion cut to pieces, many of them being killed or captured. Lieutenant Connelly had with him only a part of his battery. Herculean efforts were required to take the guns and caissons over the great mountains and through the deep ravines, but the work was successfully accomplished. General Grant, in a special dispatch, highly complimented the Fourteenth for this work. Major Connelly received his commission as captain after this expedition, being promoted over his first lieutenant. He did duty at brigade and division headquarters as assistant adjutant general and also as inspector. He participated in the Atlanta campaign; and on the Macon raid his regiment, being in General Stoneman’s command, shared in the misfortunes of this officer, but only after it had cut its way out in a splendid charge. Being dismounted by reason of loss of horses on the Macon raid, the regiment did duty as infantry at the siege of Atlanta, and was one of the first which entered the city after its fall. Being remounted and re-equipped, about the 1st of November, 1864, it took a position on the right of the Union Army on the Tennessee River to watch the advance of General Hood’s great army. From this river to Columbia, Major Connelly day and night was with the rear guard, being repeatedly surrounded. With splendid courage his command charged the Confederate lines with success. Near Mount Pleasant, and also Duck River, after dark, finding himself cut off and surrounded, he placed himself at the head of his command and carried his column through the Confederate lines with success.

During the advance of General Hood’s aggressive army, including the battle of Franklin and the advance of the Union Army at Nashville, his officers and the men of his command speak in eulogistic terms of Major Connelly’s leadership and his sterling qualities as a soldier. From second lieutenant he was promoted captain over his first lieu-tenant and by a vote of the officers of his regiment, who also voiced the sentiment of the rank and file, he was elected major over six captains who held commissions older than his.

The Inter-Ocean’s article is brief, and does not give in detail the events leading to Captain Connelly’s promotion, which are now related: Colonel F. M. Davidson, of the Fourteenth, wrote two letters to Governor Oglesby recommending him for the position of major. These letters were written at Edgefield, Tennessee, the first bearing date of February 7, 1865, in which Colonel Davidson says: “In recommending Captain Connelly for this position (major) it affords me much pleasure to bear witness to the gallant and successful manner in which he has conducted himself as a soldier whenever and wherever he has been called upon to face the enemy. His bearing on the Morgan raid until the day he (Morgan) was captured; his skill throughout the entire campaign in East Tennessee under General Burnside, and particularly on the 14th day of December, 1863, at the battle of Bean Station, fighting General Longstreet’s corps, in which he handled his battery with the coolest daring and most splendid success; his energy on the (Cherokee) North Carolina expedition in the month of February, 1864, commanded by myself; his bravery and dash during the recent campaign in Tennessee under General Thomas, and particularly on the night of the 23d of November, 1864, when, being surrounded by General Forrest, aid after other officers failed in charging the enemy’s lines, he placed himself at the head of the column, rallied the men, and charged out without the loss of a man; and also on the 15th of December (at Nashville) when he rallied his regiment, after being broken under a fearful cannonade from the enemy’s batteries. In short his whole career as a soldier proves him to be worthy of prompt promotion.”

Governor Oglesby hesitated to commission a junior captain over so many seniors; and Colonel Davidson, being advised of this hesitation, on March 28, 1865, wrote to him again as follows: “I can only repeat what I said of Captain Connelly in my communication to Governor Oglesby dated February 7, 1865. Aside from his being an officer of the first or-der (particular mention of some of his acts of bravery being there set forth), his high tone as a gentleman, and his acknowledged talent as a man, loudly call for official recognition of his services to his country. He has capacity for any position as field officer. Anything you may be able to do for him will be esteemed as a personal favor.”

June 22, 1865, Governor Oglesby issued to Captain Connelly his commission as major.

In the Rock Island Argus of July 10, 1865, we find the following: “Major H. C. Connelly of the Fourteenth Illinois Cavalry, arrived home on Saturday evening, and is a citizen again. No officer from our county has ac-quitted himself with more credit or returned with a better reputation, both among the soldiers and people.”

Upon his return from the war, Major Connelly resumed his law practice. In 1866 he was elected police magistrate for a term of four years. He was elected city attorney for Rock Island to serve during the years 1869, 1870 and 1871. In January, 1894, his son, Bernard D., became associated with him under the firm title of Connelly & Connelly. Their practice covers the various branches of law and the firm ranks as one of the leading law firms of Rock Island County. Aside from the practice of law, Major Connelly has been identified with several local enterprises. Upon the death of Bailey Davenport he succeeded to the presidency of the Rock Island and Milan Street Railway Company. He was one of the original stock holders in the Rock Island Buggy Company, as well as in the Rock Island Savings Bank and State Bank. He was one of the original incorporators and assisted in the passage of the bill through both branches of Congress, authorizing the construction of the electric railroad now crossing the Mississippi River between Rock Island and Davenport, Iowa. He has always been active and taken great interest in all matters pertaining to the advancement and the prosperity of Rock Island, and in 1861 labored many weeks with senators and members of the House at Washington to secure the passage of the bill by Congress, locating the great National Arsenal at Rock Island. He is the last survivor of the committee of ten from Davenport, Rock Island and Moline, who went to Washington in the fall of 1861 to aid in the passage by Congress of the Arsenal Bill.

He is one of the few living citizens who saw Black Hawk, the Indian chief, in his lifetime.

In his former years Major Connelly was a strong believer in and supporter of the doctrines of the Democratic party. During the Buchanan campaign of 1856 and the Douglas-Lincoln campaign of 1858 he was an active worker. The late Judge Jerry S. Black, who was a personal friend of Major Connelly, and at that time a member of Mr. Buchanan’s Cabinet, tendered him the position of postmaster of Rock Island. This appointment he respectfully declined. He was a firm friend of Senator Douglas, and considered it inconsistent for him to accept office from President Buchanan, while he was using the power of his administration in the state (though unsuccessfully), to defeat Senator Douglas. President Johnson appointed him postmaster of Rock Island, but a Republican Senate failed to confirm the nomination.

In 1882, the late P. L. Cable, at the Democratic Congressional Convention at Mon-mouth, placed in nomination Major Connelly for Congress. The Democratic State Convention, which convened at Peoria in 1884, elected him temporary chairman. On the money question he voted for President McKinley, and has since supported the principles of the Republican Party.

He was a tireless worker for, and visited Washington to aid in the passage of the Hennepin Canal Bill. For many years he served as member and president of the school board, as well as a member, president and secretary of the library board. On his seventieth birth-day the bar of Rock Island County presented Major Connelly with a gold mounted cane.

On May 12, 1857, Major Connelly married Miss Adalaide McCall, daughter of Clark and Hannah (Hanford) McCall. She is a native of New York. Her earlier ancestors did duty in the Colonial and Revolutionary Wars. Of their children Clark H. and Alvin H. are manufacturers of and dealers in hardwood lumber at Kansas City, Missouri; Mabel is the wife of Dr. C. W. McGavren, of Missouri Valley, Iowa; Bernard D. is in partnership with his father, and Miss Lucia is deceased.

Bernard D. Connelly is a Rock Islander by birth, being born October 19, 1866. He is a graduate of the High School of Rock Island. and the State University of Iowa, where he acquitted himself with honor. He was admitted to the bar in 1891, at the time being associated with the law firm of Douthitt, Jones & Mason, of Topeka, Kansas. Since January, 1894, he has been associated with his father in the practice of law under the firm name of Connelly & Connelly. On December 22, 1903, he married Miss Elizabeth Chamberlin. Mr. Connelly is a member of the Phi Delta Theta college fraternity and is a Son of the American Revolution. He is the present Master In Chancery of Rock Island County.


Biographical Publishing Company. Portrait and Biographical Album of Rock Island County. Illinois; Chicago: Biographical Pub. Co.

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