Joseph Nelson McKee was born on September 16, 1842 in South Point, Lawrence County, Ohio. He was the fifth of ten children of Abraham Duncan McKee and Maria Burger-McKee.
When the Civil War began, Joseph wanted badly to enlist immediately, but his mother sternly forbade it. Joseph resisted until one day while working in the field he saw a group of volunteers being transported on a flatboat down the Ohio River. Joseph yelled his intentions to his brothers and sisters who were within earshot and much to their consternation he ran to the shore. After he signaled to them by shouts and waving his arms, the flatboat hove to, put in, and picked him up.
Joseph was transported to Cincinnati where he enlisted for a three year tour of duty in Company “F” of the 2nd Kentucky Volunteer Regiment (unit 784) of the 13th Army Corps. The following, taken from the Regimental History, summarizes the unit’s movements and battles in which it participated.
Colonel William E. Woodruff
Colonel Thomas D. Sedgewick
Lieut. Col. George W. Neff
Lieut. Col. Warner Spencer
Lieut. Col. John R. Hurd
Major Oliver L. Baldwin
Major Fernando Cook
This regiment was organized at Camp Clay Pendleton, Ohio, under Col. Woodruff, and was mustered into the U. S. States service on June 13, 1861.
The regiment which was composed almost entirely of Ohio men, left Cincinnati in July for Guyandotte, VA, marched to Barboursville, WV and drove the Confederates commanded by Jenkins from the bluff; marched to Camp Poco, near Scary Creek, at which place Col. Woodruff, Lieut.-Col. Neff and Capts. Hurd and Austin were captured by the enemy; was engaged with Floyd at Gauley Bridge, and from there went into winter quarters at Charleston, January 25, 1862.
It was ordered to Bardstown, KY, arriving at that place February 5, marched to Pittsburg landing, arriving there on the evening of April 6; participated in the siege of Corinth, MS, after which it was quartered at Athens, AL moved thence to Murfreesboro, TN, to guard the railroad between that point and Nashville, and while detailed on that duty, Companies E and G were captured by Forrest's cavalry in July 1862.
In September, the regiment participated in the Bragg and Buell campaign through Kentucky. From Murfreesboro, it moved to Chattanooga and took part in the battle of Chickamauga. On May 17, 1864, it left Ottawa Station, TN, 15 miles from Chattanooga, for Kingston, GA, thence to Resaca, where it remained doing garrison duty until June 3, when it was ordered to Covington, KY, to be mustered out.
The following list of battles in which the regiment participated has been compiled during the preparation of this work; Barboursville, WV, Scary Creek, VA, Gauley Bridge, WV; Shiloh, TN; Bridge Creek MS; Nashville, TN; Corinth, MS; Stone's River, Cripple Creek TN, Chickamauga, GA. It was mustered out June 19, 1864. Loss during service: 124, of whom 48 were killed in battle, 27 died of wounds and 49 of disease. Source: The Union Army, Volume 4, p. 317.
Fought on 11 July 1861 at Guyandotte, WV
Fought on 13 July 1861 at Barboursville, WV
Fought on 17 July 1861 at Scary Creek, WV
Fought on 28 August 1861 at Gauley Bridge, WV
Fought on 01 September 1861 at Charleston, WV
Fought on 17 January 1862 at Louisville, KY
Fought on 05 February 1862 at Bardstown, KY
Fought on 07 April 1862 at Shiloh, TN
Fought on 21 May 1862 at Corinth, MS
Fought on 25 May 1862 at Corinth, MS
Fought on 28 May 1862 at Bridge Creek, MS
Fought on 20 July 1862 at Cornel's Station, TN
Fought on 21 July 1862 at Nashville, TN
Fought on 07 October 1862 at Perryville, KY
Fought on 31 December 1862 at Stones River, TN
Fought on 01 January 1863 at Stones River, TN
Fought on 02 January 1863 at Stones River, TN
Fought on 23 March 1863
Fought on 25 March 1863 at Danville, KY
Fought on 26 May 1863 at Cripple Creek, TN
Fought on 19 September 1863 at Chickamauga, GA
Fought on 20 September 1863 at Chickamauga, GA
Fought on 08 May 1864 at Lafayette, GA
Joseph served in this unit nearly from its inception, enlisting on July 14, 1861 until mustered out on June 19, 1864 at Covington, Kentucky and all surviving members were discharged. Joseph Nelson McKee was discharged with distinguished service.
Joseph went home to visit his family after this initial tour of duty was completed. On 15 February 1865 he enlisted a second time for a one year term. He was attached to Company “A” of the 188th Ohio Infantry Regiment (unit number 1826) organized at Camp Chase. On March 2, 1865, he was promoted from private to full musician during which time he played fife. The 188th Ohio was mustered out September 21, 1865 in Nashville, Tennessee and for the second time, Joseph Nelson McKee was discharged with distinguished service.
One Hundred Eighty-Eighth Infantry Ohio
Col. Jacob E. Taylor
Lieut. Col. John C. Frankeberger
Maj. Jacob A. Leonard
This regiment was organized at Camp Chase, March 2 to 4, 1865, to serve for one year. On March 4 it received orders to report to Gen. Thomas at Nashville, where it arrived on the 9th. It was assigned to duty under Brig.-Gen. Van Cleve, and ordered to Murfreesboro, where it remained for two months and was then ordered to Tullahoma. Here it remained for two months and was then ordered to Nashville, where it remained until Sept. 2l, 1865, when it was mustered out in accordance with orders from the war department. Source: The Union Army, Volume 2.
Fought on 27 August 1865
After the war, Joseph returned home to work on the family farm and he received a small pension for his military service.
While walking home one day, he saw a girl on a swing and he told his brother, 'I'm going to marry that girl!' Sure enough, on 24 March 1867, he married Elizabeth Pemberton and in the early years of his married life worked on a steamboat as a Watchman.
The Watchman kept watch at the bow of the boat for other vessels, water hazards, and other obstacles when it was foggy or when inclement conditions required additional precautions. The Ohio River was known for frequent changes in the contour of the river bottom and depth. The Watchman stood by the bow rail and took depth measurements to ensure that the boat could safely navigate. It was the Watchman who yelled out “mark twain” to the pilot when sufficient depth was found.
For most of his life, Joseph owned and operated a farm in Lawrence County, applying the skills he learned while growing up on the family farm. He was also a staunch Baptist minister known locally for his lively fire and brimstone-style sermons. He had nine children, four of whom are known to have survived to adulthood, married, and had children of their own. His fifth child, Clara McKee was my direct ancestor.
Joseph Nelson McKee passed away at 5:29 am on June 30, 1932 at Ironton, Ohio at the age of 89 and was sent to peace in a Baptist funeral ceremony. He was laid to rest in Woodland Cemetery, Lawrence County, Ohio.