Joseph Kerin was born in Ireland. He enlisted in Company B, 2nd U.S. Dragoons on January 3, 1853. He joined the company in Texas the following month, and served at Fort Belknap until 1855. In the fall of 1855, the company moved from Fort Belknap to Fort Riley, Kansas. Kerin was involved with his company in the Kansas troubles in 1856, and accompanied the Mormon expedition to Utah in 1857 before his enlistment expired on January 3, 1858.
Kerin returned to the army five months later, enlisting in the General Mounted Service at Carlisle Barracks, Pennsylvania on August 5, 1858. He served there as a private, corporal, sergeant and finally first sergeant of the Permanent Troop until October 1861.
He served as the Drill Instructor for the Anderson Troop, Pennsylvania Volunteers in September 1861, and was appointed a second lieutenant, 6th U.S. Cavalry on October 26, 1861.
Lieutenant Kerin joined the regiment the following month, and was assigned to Captain John Savage’s Company H. He accompanied the regiment to the Peninsula in March 1862, and distinguished himself several times during the campaign. He was engaged in the siege of Yorktown and the battle of Williamsburg, where he captured a Confederate captain. He also participated in engagements at Slatersville, New Kent Court House, Cumberland landing, White House, New Bridge, Mechanicsville, and Hanover Court House. He was brevetted first lieutenant on May 27, 1862 for gallant and meritorious service at the battle of Hanover Court House. He was also present during the destruction of bridges on the North Anna River and the action at Ashland. Following the engagement at Ashland, he served as an acting assistant general for the brigade of regular cavalry during the pursuit of Stuart during his first ride around the Army of the Potomac and the first three days of the Seven Days Battles. He rejoined his company following the retreat to Harrison’s Landing, and was engaged at Charles City, Haxall’s Landing and New Market Road.
In the absence of Captain Savage, he commanded Company H from September 1862 to April 1863. During the Maryland campaign, he saw action at Sugar Loaf Mountain, Antietam, scouting in Loudon and Fauquier counties, the pursuit of Stuart on his second ride around the Army of the Potomac, and an action at Charlestown. Lieutenant Kerin was then appointed Provost Marshall of the Cavalry Division, Army of the Potomac, in which capacity he served during the actions at Philomont, Unionville, Upperville, Barbour’s Crossroads, Amissville, and the battle of Fredericksburg. Kerin was promoted to first lieutenant, 6th Cavalry on December 23, 1862.
Kerin rejoined the regiment in March 1863, and was present with his company during Stoneman’s Raid. He was taken prisoner while fighting at Beverly Ford during the battle of Brandy Station, and spent the remainder of the war in various Confederate prisons. He was confined at Libby Prison, Virginia, Macon, Georgia and Charleston and Columbia, South Carolina. He escaped once on his way to Columbia by jumping from the train, but was recaptured. He escaped a second time from Columbia, but was recaptured by the aid of dogs. Lieutenant Kerin was exchanged in March 1865, and was brevetted captain on April 1, 1865 for gallant and meritorious service in the battle of Beverly Ford on June 9, 1863.
After spending a month with the regiment in Maryland, he was assigned to duty mustering volunteer regiments from June 1865 to January 1866. Lieutenant Kerin returned to the regiment in Texas, serving seven months with it before he was promoted to captain on July 28th.
Following his promotion, he served on a military commission in Houston before he was transferred back to Carlisle Barracks. After a brief stint of recruiting duty, he was assigned command of the Permanent Troop. He also served as the Treasurer and an Instructor of Tactics at Carlisle Barracks until April 1867. Another stint of recruiting followed this assignment until December 1868, this time Philadelphia and Boston, with a brief return to Carlisle for strike duty over the holidays of 1867-1868.
Captain Kerin served with his regiment at Fort Richardson, Texas until April, when he was assigned to two months of regimental recruiting duty. Following this, he was in charge of the Shreveport Arsenal and grounds until November 1869.
Captain Joseph Kerin retired from the army on June 28, 1878 and died on September 24, 1890.
Carter, W. W., From Yorktown to Santiago with the 6th U.S. Cavalry (Baltimore, the Lord Baltimore Press, 1900).
Heitman, Francis B. Historical Register and Dictionary of the United States Army (Washington: Government Printing Office, 1903), page 594.
Henry, Guy V. Military Record of Army and Civilian Appointments in the United States Army, Volume II (New York: D. Van Nostrand Publishing, 1873), pg 119-120.
Muster Rolls, 6th U.S. Cavalry, NARA, M744