Notes from the past…


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Another Dr. Kennedy

Dr. N. B. Kennedy’s older brother, John F. Kennedy, that is…I have stayed very focused the past 2 days, and have been able to develop a pretty decent overview of the life of “Dr. John”. Unfortunately, the story ended in tragedy, as Dr. John may have committed suicide with an overdose of laudanum. His life in a nutshell:

  • Born in Sumter County, Alabama on 10 Jun 1826.
  • Traveled to and studied in Europe quite a bit in the mid 1850′s.
  • Became an MD, setting up practice in Lauderdale Station, Mississippi with younger brother Dr. Sydney P. Kennedy.
  • Joined the 14th Mississippi Infantry Regiment ca. 1862, was captured at the fall of Fort Donelson, sent to Camp Douglas in Illinois as a POW, paroled later in 1862.
  • Married Mary Longstreet Lyles on 17 Nov 1863 in Macon, Misssissippi. Mary was the daughter of Dr. William Durham Lyles, head of medicine at the Battle of Shiloh, later head of the Confederate hospitals at Lauderdale, Mississippi, and may have been the head of the medical department for the entire Confederate Army.
  • A son, Charles Clark Kennedy, was born in 1865.
  • A second son, John F Kennedy (Jr), was born in 1867.
  • Dr. Kennedy died on 10 Sep 1867, possibly of a laudanum overdose, and is buried at the Lauderdale Cemetery, Lauderdale County, Mississippi.

Of note, John’s wife can be found in the 1870 census for Lauderdale, Mississippi, remarried to Henry C. Cullum. John, Jr. is listed in the household, but Charles Clark Kennedy is not.

So what happened to Dr. Kennedy that may have caused his suicide? Possibilities include an injury or illness received during the Civil War that caused a drug dependency, the mental trauma of seeing so much death and destruction during that conflict, the possible death of son Charles, easy access as a physician to laudenum, a combination of all of these factors, or none of the above. If he did die by his own hand, he would become one more in a long line of ancestors along that family with some type of mental illness. I am aware of 3 suicides, several cases of alcoholism, at least 2 NCM’s (declared legally incompetent), and several with depression among my Kennedy ancestors.
One particularly interesting document I found at Ancestry.com is Dr. Kennedy’s POW record from March 1862: