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The Kewens

Updated: Dec 14, 2021

Patrick Kewen's naturalization papers

Born in Ireland in 1832, Patrick Kewen immigrated from Erin's Isle of Green to Canada with his father Peter and mother Ellen. Younger brother Peter Jr. would be born in Canada in 1844. Some time between 1848 and 1850 the Kewen's would move to the United States, settling in Mad River Township, located near Dayton, Ohio. In 1857 Patrick would become a naturalized citizen of the United States, renouncing his allegiance and fidelity to Queen Victoria. On the United States Census of 1860 there were eight Kewens living in the Mad River Township household, with Patrick, now twenty-eight, and Peter Jr., now 15, being the oldest of the children.

Patrick and his father would be the first of the Kewen's to answer the call of their newly adopted nation. Both men would join the ranks of Company H of the Thirty-Fifth Indiana Volunteer Infantry on December 3rd, 1861, serving as privates (more on the Thirty-Fifth Indiana can be found HERE). While mostly a regiment filled with Irish from the Hoosier State, Company H was filled with men from the Buckeye State, mostly from the southwestern Ohio communities of Dayton and Middletown. Peter Sr. would be discharged due to disability on May 6th, 1862, a common occurrence for men his age. Patrick would soldier on within the ranks of the Thirty-Fifth, seeing action at La Vergne, Tennessee on December 9th, and then being heavily engaged at Stones River on January 2nd, 1863, facing off against the Orphan Brigade.

Peter Jr. would also enlist in the Union army, becoming a member of Company I of the Eleventh Ohio Volunteer Infantry on August 12th, 1862. The Eleventh would see service in western Virginia and at South Mountain and Antietam. In early 1863 the regiment would be assigned to the Department of the Ohio and join the Army of the Cumberland. Both Kewen brothers were now under William Rosecrans' command.

Some time in 1863 Peter Sr. would pass away, leaving Ellen husbandless with younger children still to care for at home while her two eldest sons were away in the service. This must have been a trying time for the Kewen family, about to be made worse when news arrived in Ohio that Peter Jr. was killed in action at Chickamauga on September 19th, most likely in the fighting near Viniard Field. Ellen, now without a husband and her second son, wasted no time in filing for a pension on November 9th of that same year as she had four other children to provide for.

The news would fare no better in 1864 as Patrick was killed in action at Resaca, Georgia on May 16th. The impact to the family must have been devastating.

Today Patrick and his younger brother Peter rest in Chattanooga National Cemetery, both in Section L. Their father Peter rests in Cavalry Cemetery in Dayton. Patrick's stone has the last name of Ruone, which seems to be Kuone (phonetic spelling) with the first letter mistakenly listed as R. Peter's stone has the last name as Kewan, a common variation of Kewen. The sacrifice of the Kewen family is just one of the countless stories of the Irish dedication to the Union cause.

Photos taken by Greg Grant.

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