Lieutenant Kelley entered the Naval Academy as midshipman in February, 1853, and remained there until June, 1857. Shortly after he received his first orders to sea, and joined the steam frigate Mississippi, Captain William C. Nicholson, ordered to the East Indies. Returning in that ship to Boston in January, 1860, after having visited the ports in China and Japan open to foreigners, he again returned to the academy, passed his final examination in June, 1860, and received orders to the sloop-of-war Brooklyn, under command of Captain Farragut, who was directed by the department to superintend the survey of the Chiriqui Lagoon. In December, same year, he was ordered as master to the sloop-of-war St. Mary's, in the Pacific, and while attached to that vessel, received his commission as a lieutenant. In 1863, wearied of the inactivity of the life he was leading, he applied for active service, was detached, came home and on the 21st of April received orders to the frigate Sabine, Commodore Rangold, where he remained for more than a year as executive officer, until October, 1863, the ship then going out of commission at Boston. He then applied to the department for service on an iron clad, and was ordered to the Monitor Tecumseh, Commander T. A. M. Craven, then nearly completed. On the 23d April, 1864, she sailed for and arrived safely at Hampton Roads, and, after a short stay on James River, left for Mobile to assist in the reduction of that place, under the gallant Farragut (for whom, personally and professional, Mr. Kelley has always entertained the highest regard and admiration), and, in leading the fleet past the forts, the Tecumseh was blown up by a torpedo, and totally destroyed with nearly all her officers and crew, among them the brave and accomplished Chief Engineer, John Faron, an ornament to his profession, and who was mainly instrumental in saving the Monitor Weehawken, Capt. John Rodgers, in a fearful gale of wind, on her passage from New York to Hampton Roads.
Lieut. Kelley was a young man of great promise, superior ability, of a genial temperament, a good son, and ardent friend, with no superior, as an officer in his grade, in the service. While on the Sabine, and ever since, he enjoyed the confidence and friendship of Commodore Rangold in the fullest sense of the terms. He was respected by officers and men for his attention to duty and his uniform, though strict, justice in carrying out the discipline of the ship. He also won the entire confidence of Captain Craven by the skill and energy he displayed in preparing the Tecumseh for sea. He leaves, to mourn his sad loss, a father, mother and brother, besides a large circle of friends, to whom he had endeared himself by his kindness of heart, his urbanity and gentlemanly deportment. THe writer, one among the number, has enjoyed uninterruptedly, the closest intimacy with him for the past seven years, and his earnest prayer is, that he may have been one of the fortunate ones that escape that dreadful calamity, to again gladden the hearts of his family and friends and be of service to his country in this her greatest hour of need.