The Keep Family 
The Keep Family
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Military Personal Experiences
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This page contains the experiences of participants in the military in time of conflict.  Some have been contributed by these participants or their relatives; some from British, American, and other archives; and some courtesy of Margo Keep, genealogist.  The selections are arranged randomly up to and including World War II at this time.  Any viewer is very welcome to send in additional experiences about their family members.

Thomas Keep of Battersea

An Incident of Balaklava

by J.E. Rankin, D.D.

Thomas Keep of Battersea,

     The third battalion of grenadiers,

Was only a boy-but, look at me!

    He carried himself beyond his years:

     Where others paled he had no fears.


Decked in his gay, red uniform,

    He blew his bugle with ringing note;

Nor ever blinked at the battle storm,

     Nor had a rising in his throat-

    This boy of ten in his gay, red coat.


At Balaklava a hundred guns

     With shot and shell rained out of the sky;

The air was full of the bursting suns,

     As when in heaven mad meteors fly;

     But Thomas Keep never winked an eye.


A little lad of scarcely ten-

     You’ll not believe it tho I tell-

Was just as cool as the bearded men.

     The deed he did ‘mid shot and shell,

     The armies saw it and marked it well.


English, French and Russians there,

     A groaning mass of dying and dead;

While some were cursing and some in prayer,

     This here boy still kept his head,

     Nor paled his cheeks as I have said.


He carried himself like a bearded man,

     He kindled a fire and made them tea;

He filled each cup, he filled each can,

     And bore it round right manfully -

     This Thomas Keep of Battersea.


This Thomas Keep of Battersea,

     The colonel wrote in full his name,

Dispatched it home for the Queen to see,

     And told the world his well earned fame:

     And thus to me the story came.


To Battersea, across the foam,

     This blue eyed boy of only ten,

He lived to wear a medal home,

    And kiss his mother’s lips again-

     This boy that ranked with bearded men.

The Child-Soldier
by Phillip Gilbert Hamerton

A little boy stood on the field,

                A little English boy;

It was a merry game, thought he,

               And he was brisk with joy.

The battle seemed to sport him,

               And every ball a toy.


He was a British grenadier,

               And he was ten years old;

And therefore what had he to fear,

A soldier brisk and bold?

The little lad was bravely clad

In English red and gold.


Undaunted when the iron balls

               Were bowled along the ground,

He marched unhurt where six-foot men

               Their graves of glory found;

He marched along with a stalwart throng

               To the cannon’s awful sound.


But when the battle had been fought,

               And on the field at night

Lay fifteen hundred Englishmen

             In miserable plight,


The little lad would take no rest,

Though wearied with the fight.


But, stepping over many a corpse,

               His comrades saw him go,

And risk his life by passing close

               To many a wounded foe.

‘What means the lad? He must be mad

               To court destruction so!’


They watched him. He was gathering wood.

               It warmed their hearts to see

That fearless lad - of broken stocks

               A heavy load had he.

He made a fire upon the field

               And boiled a can of tea.


Cold, cold, and stiff the wounded lay;

               Yet one cheerful spot -

One fire was blazing brightly near -

One kind friend left them not;

And grateful were those pleasant draughts

He brought them steaming hot.


And so he passed the midnight hours

With hell on every side;

And during that long dreadful night,

In suffering hundreds died:

But some were saved by the soldier-lad

And the comforts he supplied.


At Balaklava, and the height

Of Inkerman – the grave

Of thousands – this heroic child

Fought bravely with the brave.

Hemmed round by Russian bayonets,

He still survived to save


The lives of others afterwards;

And there are those who say,

That, but for the good-hearted boy,

They must have died that day,

When on the field of Inkerman

               The helpless wounded lay.














Darkness was resting on Crimea’s coast,

Darkness was brooding o’er the English host,

Darkness was resting on the serried hill

Whereon the dead, the lately-slain were lying,

Whose groans rose fitful; and the guards replying

Broke too the silence; all besides was still

And soundless; but, where fiercest raged the fight,

Ere day was done, a British lad was found

(Who might for rest have ta’en the welcome night)

Tending the dying on the bloody ground:

Tending the dying for the love he bore

To Him who for his sake had meekly died,

For Jesus’ sake for him once crucified; -


Water this lad convey’d, and wash’d the gore

From many a wounded brother’s gaping side,

And gave them drink; and wandering far and wide,

Collecting musket-stocks amidst the dead,

He kindled fires, with riven weapons fed,

To cheer the wounded: thus all night he strove,

Careless of self, his comrades’ lives to save:

Oh! Was not this true, self-devoting love?

Oh! Was not he the bravest of the brave?

O sons of England! Ye who now deplore

The loss of heroes, who may never more

Return to reap the laurels they have won,

Glory that Thomas Keep is England’s son!

Thomas Keep
by Genville John Chester
         * * * * *
American Revolution

Weeks' History of Salisbury, Vermont, states that Samuel Keep, b 3 Nov 1731 in Westford, Massachusetts., d 1802, settled at Crown Point, New York, about 1773.  He was acquainted with the forts at Crown Point and Ticonderoga, and he was one of Ethan Allen's advisers in the capture of Fort Ticonderoga in 1775.  In order to obtain a more perfect knowledge of the fort and of its guards, he made a pretense that his cow had strayed and could probably be found grazing somewhere near the campground, and accordingly he was allowed to pass the guard.  After making a full survey of the fort, he lost no time in giving Allen the benefit of his discoveries, which greatly assisted in the plan for taking it immediately after.  Samuel Keep then returned to Salisbury, Connecticut, where he engaged in manufacturing cannon for the army.  He was reportedly a Green Mountain Boy and held a commission as Captain during the Revolution.

   * * * * *


                                  By ElIzabeth A. Thompson


Horatio Nelson Keep was not obligated to serve in the armed forces during the [American] Civil War (1861-1865).  He was already thirty-nine years old when the fighting began and had a young family.  Lucy Ann, at fourteen years, was the oldest of four children. In addition, Nelson, as he was called, was making a new start as a farmer in Christian County, Ill., after working as a carpenter.

Despite these factors, Nelson’s sense of duty to his country became so urgent that he volunteered for service in the Union Army. Letters written by his wife, Emily (Rogers), to her sister reveal some of the emotions and turmoil that his decision created in the family.


In September of 1862, Emily wrote:  "N. has said for a year past he stood ready to go whenever ‘it seemed necessary' & has said to us a good many times that he was going.  Finally the last of July he said so at the table one morning. We laughed and joked about it as usual, when he said you don’t seem to take it very seriously.  Lucy said '0h no we don’t believe it.'  I saw then that he was in earnest.


“When we got alone, I asked him if he thought he could go & leave things as they were and I mentioned several.  He said he thought it was his duty to go, and said, ‘If every man looked for the present pleasure of his family where would the country go?'”


Nelson remained steadfast in his determination to enlist in the Union Army and left August 12 for Camp Butler at Springfield, Illinois.  There he was enrolled in the Il5th Illinois Regiment, Co. A, and appointed corporal.  He must have shown qualities of good leadership as he was promoted to the rank of sergeant within a few months.  Not only a leader, he probably was well liked.  According to family tradition, his mother-in-law thought the world of him,  that he was one of the best and nicest men she knew.

To continue with Emily’s letter: “Jarvis saw Nelson the next morning & told him he had rented the farm to an acquaintance, & N. thought it all right.  I heard about it Sat. morning. Caroline (a daughter age 13) was over there.  I knew there were 2 boys there & felt as easy as I could.  I thought they could gather most of the crops & take care of the stock till some one could be got.  When Caroline came home with one of the boys whom I had not seen before, I was shocked at his appearance, & to hear him talk & hear Caroline tell how things were--that the other boy had a chill every day, & this boy did not know enough to harness the mules, & the boy with ague had to go & help him & that he only did what he was asked to do...I had to urge this greenhorn very hard to get him to stay a few days till I could hear from Nelson.

"He pretended he was going to start for Iowa the next day but one, & I thought it was better to have him feed the teams & get up the cows than not to have it done at all.  He wanted I should rent him the farm.  He did not like to work by the month as he liked to be his own boss.  He is all of 17 years old, & greener than any squash.  I had Lucy go back & stay a few days, so as to be sure the teams had something to eat.


“That afternoon, my troubles were more than I felt able to bear.  It seemed as though I would go crazy.  I could not rest, nor cry, but was so burdened; I was sure they would give no furloughs.”


Nelson was granted a furlough from Camp Butler and went home to Rosemond.  While home he was able to secure a reliable renter for the farm, and Emily was able to write “things appear to go well now.”


Nelson’s regiment left by train October 5 for Cincinnati, Ohio. The train of eighteen cars passed through Rosemond, forty rods from the Keep home. The family stood outside the front door to watch the troop train roll by, all except Caroline who stood just inside the door. She was suffering from a severe eye infection and the light hurt her eyes, but she said that she was glad she looked anyway.


It is possible that [Nelson] never saw his sixth child, a daughter born Jan. 30, 1863, and named Hattie Nelson.  Nelson was severely wounded Sept. 20, 1863, in the Battle of Chickamauga and died the following Oct. 4 in the field hospital at Chattanooga, Tenn.  He is buried in the military cemetery there.


The family tragedy did not end with Nelson’s death.  In March of 1864 Caroline caught the measles at school and in turn infected the rest of the family.  Emily and Lucy were seriously ill, and Emily wrote for her mother to come to help nurse them.  Elizabeth Rogers left at once by train and was there when Emily died on April 4.   Perry, the only son, never married and left no issue, so the Keep name died with him in this particular line.                                                                                                                         
                                                                                                                                                Excerpted from The Keepsake, June, 1998
                                                                                                                                                                                                 Permission of The Rev. Richard H. Thompson



American Civil War

London Heights, Virginia, October 11, 1862


Mr. Keep, Dear Sir:


Your favor of the 4th came to hand last evening.  In compliance with your request, I send you the enclosed articles.  My place in the company is at the opposite end from your son, so I did not see him fall. He fell in the thick of the fight when all was excitement; hardly a man realized where he was.  The ones next to him saw him fall and asked him if he was wounded, and where.  He put his hand on his right breast to show them where and said it did not pain him much.


In the noise and din of battle, he did not think, or have a chance to leave any directions or word to his loved, though absent. friends. You have, I doubt not read of the desperate and reckless charge made by the rebels to capture Knaps Battery. There is where Alsinus fell.  Kind Sir, the 111th did their whole duty there.  The ground bore testimony of this the next day.  As the rebels fell back we were ordered forward and charged them. It was then that I saw that brave Alsinus was down. He was sitting, reclining on his left elbow, but forward was the word and I could not stop to say anything to him.


When we were relieved by fresh troops, alas, we found that Keep was no more. Sire, he was the bravest of the brave.  When we were in the battle of Cedar Mountain, he was back sick.  Many a time I have heard him regret he could not be with us then to get a chance to use his spitfire (as he called his gun).  When we burned that lot of cars beyond Manapes and had to retreat, Alsinus was not actually fit for duty, but go was the word or be taken a prisoner.  I carried him up a long hill that day to help him along and I will never regret doing it.


If I have been of any service to you, I consider myself already repaid by knowing that I have done nothing more than my duty to yourself and the lamented dead.  Some one may yet have the same sad duty to do for me. God only knows.


May God comfort you and the thousands of others called to mourn the life of loved sons and brothers.


I remain, Sire, yours truly.               To Mr. M Keep

William L. Patterson                     Albion, Erie Co. Pennsylvania


Courtesy Margo Keep

Descendants of John Keep of Longmeadow

Antietam Battlefield
Antietam National Cemetery
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Thomas John Keep was about 16 years old (not 10 as was often reported) when his company, the Third Battalion Grenadiers of the Guard, was deployed to an area of Russia close to Turkey, called Crimea. Who knew that his next few months during the autumn and winter of 1854 would find fame for him as he was recommended to receive the Victoria Cross (similar to the Medal of Honor in the USA). Although Thomas didn’t receive the Victoria Cross for his personal bravery, 111 V.C.’s were awarded during the Crimean War, which included the battle made famous by Alfred, Lord Tennyson in “The Charge of the Light Brigade.”


Thomas Keep, the young bugler who became known to many as the “Boy Hero” of Crimea, appears to owe much of his fame to a single article written in The Times (London) on February 22, 1855, as it relayed his actions on November 5, 1854, at Inkerman.  It was this brief article that misrepresented Thomas’s age as 10 years old.  This was picked up and spread widely after a February 26, 1855, edition of The London News reprinted the story.  News travelled fast.  One copy of the article can be found in the Brooklyn Daily Eagle (USA) on March 17, 1855. The story also travelled from England to Australia (Maitland Mercury & Hunter River General Advertiser, July 25, 1855).

Roll Call  by Lady Butler

At least three poems were composed to describe the bravery Thomas Keep showed on the battlefield.  The oldest poem appears to be “The Child-Soldier” written by Phillip Gilbert Hamerton, published in 1855 in The Isles of Loch Awe and Other Poems of My Youth. Another poem, titled “Thomas Keep,” written by Greville John Chester, was published in 1856 in his book named Poems.


J.E. Rankin, a minister of growing fame in the USA at the time, must have read about Thomas Keep, either through one of the many articles, or through one of the poems.  Either way, J. E. Rankin wrote the poem “Thomas Keep of Battersea” sometime between mid-1855 and 1899, and it was published in The New York Independent.  We know that simply because the poem was included in Frank Bests’s original family genealogy book The Descendants of John Keep of Longmeadow in 1899.


Thomas Keep retired from the military in 1878. His death on July 16, 1894, was reported throughout the world as people once again retold the story about a 10-year old boy hero who served so bravely during the Crimean War.

* * * * *

Thomas Keep – Boy Hero, Battersea, London, England

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