This information, provided by BRIAN STUART KESTERSON, is an addendum to his 2005 book,

Campaigning with the 17th Virginia Cavalry, Night Hawks at Monocacy.
page 202.

The cost of the book is $26.20, including postage. To order, contact Brian: kesterson2@frontier.com.


Material provided by Willard Kessel of Ripley, West Virginia in a telephone interview conducted on 8-30 & 31-2005. He was 95 years old at the time of the interview and is the grandson of J. "Brooks" Kessel. Material also provided by Cornelia Kessel Smith of Mount Alto, West Virginia in an interview coducted at her home on 5-23-2005. She was 98 years old at the time of this interview and is the niece of J. "Brooks" Kessel.

According to Brooks’ grandson, Willard Kessel who was fifteen years old when his grandfather died in 1925, "John was not the first name of my grandfather. Through some mix-up in the records my grandfather was given the first name of John on all of his records. I have even seen him listed as James on some of the records. His real name was Joseph "Brooks" Kessel and that I am sure of. I can remember sitting on my grandfather’s knee as a boy at his old log cabin home and hearing his Civil War stories. Each time he told them they became more exciting than before. He talked about all of the generals and battles and said that the worst battle that he was in was near a red brick bridge someplace down in the Valley of Virginia. He said it was terrible.

The reason that he joined the war with his friends was because he wanted some adventure. His family was fortunate as they were never harassed during the whole of the war or the family was never divided on the issues of the war. The first organized outfit that he and his friends met up with was a Southern outfit of cavalry. They said, ‘You can’t join unless you have a horse’. One of the boys that he was with had a horse and the other three or so were on foot. By some strange chance grandpa and the others showed up the next morning with horses. His horse was valued at $100 and each soldier was valued at $10! This made him laugh every time he told the story.

Grandpa Brooks was an imposing figure of a man who was well over six feet tall and his feet were so large that he had to have special shoes made by a shoemaker that were from sizes fourteen to sixteen. One such story relates to him being captured by the Yankees in the Valley of Virginia. When he was captured he had lost both of his shoes and was barefooted. This unfortunate situation turned out to be a blessing in disguise for Brooks. As night fell he decided that he would try to make an attempt at escape. Realizing that he could walk more quietly without shoes on, he carefully and quietly made his way out of the Yankee camp and made his escape and rejoined his command.

Grandpa always admired J.E.B. Stuart and said that he had served under him during the war. At the end of the war grandpa said that he had to walk all of the way home after being released by the Yankees. They gave him no food or clothing and no help of any kind and just sent him on his way. For this he was bitter as all of the West Virginia, Yankee soldiers all got food, clothing, a silver dollar and were given a medal at the end of the war. The southern soldier got nothing at all. When he returned home his uniform was in rags and not fit to wear ever again.

After the war he became a preacher and was a Southern Methodist preacher at Pleasant Hill in Jackson County, West Virginia. The church that he preached at is still standing and is taken care of by a trust. It is used on occasions and is in good repair. Grandpa was an imposing man who stood about six feet four inches tall and weighed about two hundred and fifty pounds. When he preached he drew a crowd. He would preach anywhere people would let him. People came near and far to hear him preach and he was well known in his community. He was a very clean man and did not smoke or have bad habits. He did have a sense of humor though. One time they were having a social at the church and as socials go each person would bring a designated dish or item for the congregation to eat. It was decided that they would have ice cream and to do this they needed ice, milk, salt and sugar. Grandpa stood at the pulpit and said, ‘ All you ladies giving milk stand up!’

My dad and I took grandpa to two of the Blue & Grey Reunions in Ripley, West Virginia sometime around the early 1920’s. We took grandpa and his rocking chair and put them in the wagon. When we got to Ripley we unloaded grandpa and his rocker and dad and I went to put up the horses and feed them under the shade of a tree. The next thing we knew grandpa was in a fight with a Yankee soldier! Both of them were setting in their rockers and beating each other with their cains. The Yankee had slurred grandpa and the Confederacy and grandpa had called him an Old S.O.B. The fight was easily broken up as my dad and I pulled their rockers apart so that they couldn’t get at each other anymore. He enjoyed the reunions greatly and was always proud when he wore his ribbons and medals on the breast of his coat. There were always a lot of stories told at the reunions but I think that he told the biggest and best stories there.

He had a forty-acre farm in the Parchment Valley and his church was not far at Pleasant Hill (The property where the church sets had belonged to his father and was part of his farm at one time). Grandpa tried to farm but I guess you would call him a gentleman farmer as he loved to fish. He was a sportsman and it did not bother him at all to see his neighbors plowing and putting in corn or reaping the fields while he leisurely spent the day fishing in the creek. He is buried at Pleasant Hill Cemetery near his church.

It is said that he deserted but he did not! At that late stage of the war his command was cut up and he was separated from his friends and officers along with Gus Tabor. As they could not make it back to their regiment they simply left and went home as many soldiers of the Southern Confederacy did.

After the war the old Confederate veterans promoted grandpa as he said. His friends and neighbors all knew him as Colonel and all of his mail was addressed to him as Colonel Joseph Brooks Kessel. All of his mail came that way and I still have one of the envelopes addressed to him in this manner. "

According to Cornelia Kessel Smith, Brooks Kessel’s niece, " Uncle Brooks preached at Pleasant Hill Southern Methodist Church and held a great many revivals there. Most of the stories around my childhood home had to do with his church work. By the time he was old and his hair was white he had lived down deserting from the Confederate army. Gus Tabor was an outsider and came home with Brooks and saw his sister who he later married. Mrs. Tabor ran the family. She even sold her feather ticks off of her bed so that her children could go to college.

Uncle Brooks was a firebrand preacher. One time while preaching to the congregation (he being about 80 years of age then) the Holly Spirit took a hold of him and he said that he felt like he could fly. He climbed to the top of the pulpit and said that he was as light as a feather and then jumped off and he came right down on the floor and knocked himself out. His sermons were riveting and a thing that people talked about for years after he had passed.

One story that I remember deals with Old Major Harphold from the Union Army (Harphold lived on Foster Ridge past Foster Chapel Church). Major Harphold came down the road with a young man and a young woman who were in his employment at his farm. As he passed a man on the road he said, ‘ I am looking for a preacher.’ The man said, ‘One lives at the end of the creek’. Uncle Brooks lived further on. When Major Harphold came to Uncle Brooks’ farm he met Uncle Brooks along the road and asked him if he was a preacher of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Uncle Brooks said that he was. Major Harphold explained the delicate situation to Uncle Brooks. He told Major Harphold that wouldn’t he rather have the two married in his denomination since Major Harphold was not of the Southern Methodist faith. Major Harphold said that there was not time for that as this was an emergency and that it did not mater, as he had to marry these two as quickly as possible to make things right in the eyes of God and for the two to stay under his roof. Major Harphold further noted that he had heard good things about Uncle Brooks as a preacher and that would do for him even if he were a former Confederate soldier. The young man and woman were married on the spot and Major Harphold thanked Uncle Brooks and headed back home with the newlyweds in tow. Major Harpold and Uncle Brooks were good friends after that." Brooks was born on April 17, 1841 and died July 17, 1925. Family records do show that his full name was Joseph "Brooks" Kessel. He married his wife Eliza Straley on 9-9-1866. To this union they had ten children. Brooks and his wife, Eliza are both burred at Pleasant Hill Cemetery in Jackson County, West Virginia.