Rev. John Keogan and the Grand Army of the Republic

September 2023
Anna Louise Bates, Church Historian

As we approach Patriot Day, the memorial date designated to commemorate the devastation of 9/11/2001, it seems appropriate to celebrate the life of a patriot pastor who served the Union Army during the U.S. Civil War. John Keogan of Sullivan County, NY, was twenty-four years old when he volunteered and was, on September 18, 1861, commissioned second lieutenant in the First Battalion of Mounted Rifles, New York State Volunteers. He was promoted to First Lieutenant the following year. He left the Army in November 1862 due to “rheumatism, contracted in the army.” (New York Conference, 1903, Memoirs, p. 115).

A lifelong Methodist, John had made the decision to pursue the ministry before his service in the Army. When he returned from the War, he continued his training and became a licensed preacher in 1863. He completed his studies at Concord Biblical Institute in 1866 and was ordained that year.  He served seventeen appointments in the New York Conference, including New Paltz.

His love for country and appreciation for members of the armed services shone through in several of the addresses he gave in New Paltz during his pastorship. The New Paltz Times reported that, in his speech at a Memorial Day observance in 1883, he commemorated “heroes, whose last resting places were on the hillsides and plains North and South … lying side by side, being treated alike on this Memorial Day.” (New Paltz Times, June 6, 1883, p. 3). 

Keogan died at his home in Kingston in 1903 and was buried with full military honors. Regarding his service to the Methodist Church, his memoir notes that he was “a man of deep religious experience and unspotted Christian character.” (Conference Journal, 1903). May Keogan’s example of fairness and simple faith inspire us all.