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JAMES LAWSON KEMPER, CSA - History

JAMES LAWSON KEMPER, CSA - History

GENERAL JAMES LAWSON KEMPER, CSA
VITAL STATISTICS
BORN: 1823 in Madison City, VA.
DIED: 1895 in Orange City, VA.
CAMPAIGNS: First Bull Run, Seven Pines, Seven Days, Second Bull Run,
South Mountain, Antietam, Federicksburg, Gettysburg and Richmond.
HIGHEST RANK ACHIEVED: Major General.
BIOGRAPHY
James Lawson Kemper was born on June 11, 1823, in Madison County, Virginia. Having studied at the Virginia Military Institute, he graduated from Washington College in 1842, then studied law. He served in the Mexican War, and worked to improve the state militia while he served in the state legislature. Largely due to his efforts, the Virginia troops were basically prepared for war when the Civil War began. After the start of the war, Kemper joined the Confederate forces, rising through the ranks while fighting in major battles from the Bull Run (First) to Gettysburg. Promoted to brigadier general on June 3, 1862, he participated in the Battle of Seven Pines and the Seven Days' Campaign. Kemper also took part in the Second Battle of Bull Run, and at South Mountain, Antietam, and Fredericksburg. At Gettysburg, he was wounded and taken prisoner, but was exchanged in 1864 and given a staff position, he was promoted to major general on September 19, 1864 and was assigned to command the defense of Richmond after the evacuation of the Confederate capital. When the Confederacy surrendered, Kemper advised the people of Virginia to accept the end of the war and focus on rebuilding the state. Returning to his law practice, he was elected governor, serving from 1874 to 1877, and retired when his term ended. Kemper died in Orange County, Virginia, on April 7, 1895.

Early life [ edit | edit source ]

Kemper was born in Mountain Prospect, Madison County, Virginia, the son of William and Maria E. Allison Kemper and brother of Frederick T. Kemper (the founder of Kemper Military School). His father was of German ancestry, which had been in Virginia since the colonial era. Ώ] His grandfather had served on the staff of George Washington during the American Revolutionary War, but he himself had virtually no military training. He graduated from Washington College (now Washington and Lee University) in 1842, becoming a lawyer.

After the start of the Mexican-American War, he enlisted and became a captain and assistant quartermaster in the 1st Virginia Infantry, but he joined the service too late (1847) to see any combat action. By 1858 he was a brigadier general in the Virginia Militia.

Kemper was elected to the Virginia House of Delegates in 1853. He became chairman of the Military Affairs Committee, where he was a strong advocate of state military preparedness. In early 1861 he became Speaker, a position he held until January 1863. Much of his term as Speaker coincided with his service in the Confederate States Army.


Kemper was born at Mountain Prospect plantation in Madison County, Virginia, the son of William and Maria Elizabeth (Allison) Kemper. [1] His father's family had emigrated from near what became Siegen, Germany, in the early 18th century. His great-grandfather had been among the miners recruited for Governor Alexander Spotswood's colony at Germanna, Virginia, [2] and his merchant father had moved to the new town of Madison Court House in the 1790s after his own father had died falling from a horse in 1783, leaving his widow to take care of five daughters and a son. By the time young James was born, his paternal grandmother and four aunts also lived at the plantation which William Kemper had bought for $5,541.40 in 1800.

His maternal great-grandfather, Col. John Jasper Stadler, had served on George Washington's staff as a civil engineer and planned fortifications in Maryland, Virginia, and North Carolina during the American Revolutionary War, and his grandfather John Stadler Allison served as an officer in the War of 1812, but died when his daughter Maria was very young. [3] Although several of his paternal ancestors were involved in the German Reformed Church, William Kemper was an elder in the local Presbyterian church and his mother was devout, but also hosted dances and parties that lasted several days. His brother, Frederick T. Kemper later founded Kemper Military School.

James Kemper had virtually no military training as a boy, but his father and a neighboring planter, Henry Hill of Culpeper, founded Old Field School on the plantation to educate local children, including A.P. Hill, who became a lifelong friend. From 1830–1840, Kemper boarded during winters at Locust Dale Academy, which had a military corps of cadets. [4] Kemper later attended Washington College (now Washington and Lee University) and also took civil engineering classes at nearby Virginia Military Institute. At Washington College's graduation ceremony in 1842, 19-year-old Kemper gave the commencement address, taking for a topic "The Need of a Public School System in Virginia." Kemper then returned home, where he joined a Tee-Total (Temperance) Society as well as studied law under George W. Summers of Kanawha County (a former U.S. Representative), after which Washington College awarded him a Master's degree in June 1845. He was admitted to the Virginia bar on October 2, 1846. [5]

After Congress had declared war on Mexico in 1846, President James K. Polk called for nine regiments of volunteers. Kemper and his friend Birkett D. Fry of Kanawha County traveled to the national capital on December 15, 1846, hoping to secure commissions in the First Regiment of Virginia Volunteers. After traveling to Richmond and back to Washington for more networking, Kemper learned that he had been appointed the unit's quartermaster and captain under Col. John Hamtramck. During the Mexican–American War, Kemper received favorable reviews and met many future military leaders, but his unit arrived just after the Battle of Buena Vista and mainly maintained a defensive perimeter in Coahuila province. [6]

Honorably discharged from the U.S. Army on August 3, 1848, Kemper returned to practice law in Madison County, and neighboring Orange and Culpeper Counties. He represented many fellow veterans making land claims, as well as speculated in real estate and helped form the Blue Ridge Turnpike Company (between Gordonsville and the Shenandoah Valley. [7]

Interested in politics, Kemper first campaigned for office in 1850, but lost the contest to become clerk of the Commonwealth's constitutional convention. Promoting himself as pro-slavery, anti-abolitionist, and pro-states' rights, Kemper defeated Marcus Newman and was elected to represent Madison County in the Virginia House of Delegates in 1853 (the year his father died at age 76). [7] A strong advocate of state military preparedness, as well as an ally of Henry A. Wise, Kemper rose to become chairman of the Military Affairs Committee. By 1858, he was serving as a brigadier general in the Virginia militia.

In early 1861, Kemper became Speaker, a position he held until January 1863. Much of his term as Speaker coincided with his service in the Confederate States Army.

After the start of the Civil War, Kemper served as a brigadier general in the Provisional Army of Virginia, and then a colonel in the Confederate States Army, becoming head of the 7th Virginia Infantry. At First Bull Run, Kemper led the regiment as part of Jubal Early's brigade. His regiment was later assigned to Brigadier General A.P. Hill's brigade in Major General James Longstreet's division of the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia. On May 26, Hill was promoted to division command and Kemper, as the ranking colonel, assumed command of the brigade. At Seven Pines, Kemper's brigade attempted to relieve General D.H. Hill's battered troops, but had to retreat from massed enemy artillery fire and did not engage the Union infantry. Nonetheless, Kemper was promoted to brigadier general on June 3. During the Seven Days Battles, Kemper's brigade was held in reserve at the Battle of Gaines's Mill. At the Battle of Glendale, the relatively inexperienced brigade spearheaded Longstreet's attack on the Union lines prior to this, the only general engagement the brigade had faced took place during the Battle of Williamsburg almost two months earlier, when they had been under A.P. Hill's command. Kemper's brigade suffered the fewest losses out of Longstreet's six brigades during the week-long confrontation. Following the Seven Days, General Robert E. Lee reorganized the army, and Kemper became a temporary division commander, commanding half of Longstreet's former division.

At the Second Battle of Bull Run, Kemper's division took part in Longstreet's surprise attack against the Union left flank, almost destroying Major General John Pope's Army of Virginia. Following Second Bull Run, the more senior Brigadier General David R. Jones took over command of the division, while Kemper reverted to brigade command. At the Battle of Antietam, Kemper was positioned south of the town of Sharpsburg, defending against Major General Ambrose E. Burnside's assault in the afternoon of September 17, 1862. He withdrew his brigade in the face of the Union advance, exposing the Confederate right flank, and the line was saved only by the hasty arrival of A.P. Hill's division from Harpers Ferry.

Another army reorganization after Antietam led to Kemper's brigade being placed in a division commanded by Brigadier General George Pickett, who had been on medical leave since being wounded at Gaines Mill. The division was held in reserve at Fredericksburg, and during the spring of 1863 was on detached duty in the Richmond area. As a result, Kemper also missed the Chancellorsville Campaign.

At the Battle of Gettysburg, Kemper arrived with Pickett's division late on the second day of battle, July 2, 1863. His brigade was one of the main assault units in Pickett's Charge, advancing on the right flank of Pickett's line. After crossing the Emmitsburg Road, the brigade was hit by flanking fire from two Vermont regiments, driving it to the left and disrupting the cohesion of the assault. In spite of the danger, Kemper rose up in his stirrups to urge his men forwards, shouting "There are the guns, boys, go for them!"

This act of bravado made Kemper an obvious target, and he was wounded by a bullet in the abdomen and thigh before being captured by Union troops. However, he was rescued shortly thereafter by Sgt. Leigh Blanton of the First Virginia Infantry Regiment [8] and carried back to the Confederate lines on Seminary Ridge. General Lee encountered Kemper being carried on a stretcher and inquired about the seriousness of his wound, which Kemper said he thought was mortal. He requested that Lee "do full justice to this division for its work today." [9] During the Confederate Army's retreat from Gettysburg, Kemper was again captured by Union forces. He was exchanged (for Charles K. Graham) on September 19, 1863. [10] For the rest of the war he was too ill to serve in combat, and instead commanded the Reserve Forces of Virginia. He was promoted to major general on September 19, 1864.

Kemper was paroled in May 1865. Since his previous house had been destroyed in a raid led by Union officer George Armstrong Custer, his mother-in-law purchased a house for the family in Madison County. Kemper then resumed his legal career. However, the bullet that had wounded him at Gettysburg had lodged close to a major artery and could not be removed without risking his life, so he suffered groin pain for the rest of his life. Nonetheless, he tried to attract northern capital to rebuild the devastated local economy. He and former classmate and Confederate general John D. Imboden also maintained a general legal practice, which because of the times, included much bankruptcy law.

Beginning in 1867, Kemper helped found Virginia's Conservative Party, initially to oppose the new state constitution adopted by a convention chaired by John Underwood (who allied with the Radical Republican faction and opposed allowing former Confederates the vote, among other measures). In 1869 Kemper allied with another former Confederate general turned railroad entrepreneur William Mahone to elect Gilbert C. Walker to the Virginia House of Delegates. [11]

After his beloved wife Bella [12] died in September 1870 of complications from the birth of their seventh child, Kemper's political activities increased. Distraught from the loss, he no longer slept in the house they had shared, but in his law office. [12] Kemper ran for Congress in the 7th Congressional District (after the redistricting caused by the 1870 census), but lost to incumbent John T. Harris of Harrisonburg.

In the 1873 election for Governor of Virginia, as the Reconstruction Era ended and former Confederate soldiers regained voting rights, Kemper handily defeated former Know-Nothing and fellow ex-Confederate turned Republican Robert William Hughes of Abingdon, who won only 43.84% of the votes cast. Kemper's supporters included former Confederate Generals Jubal Early and Fitzhugh Lee as well as Mahone and noted raider John Singleton Mosby. However, former Governor and Confederate General Henry A. Wise supported Hughes.

Kemper served as Virginia's Governor from January 1, 1874, to January 1, 1878. He lived frugally, using his son Meade (d. 1886) as his secretary. Kemper trimmed the state budget where possible, and late in his term advocated taxing alcohol. One major political controversy involved whether to repay the state's war debt. Kemper allied with the Funder Party to pay it off the Readjuster Party (which Mahone came to lead) opposed him. Gov. Kemper also enforced the civil rights provisions in the new state constitution, despite having opposed it originally. His February 1874 veto of a new law passed by the General Assembly that attempted to transfer control in Petersburg from elected officials (including African Americans) to a board of commissioners appointed by a judge was sustained by Virginia's Senate, although the law's proponents hanged him in effigy. General Early also vehemently disagreed with Kemper's 1875 decision to allow a militia unit of African Americans to participate in the dedication of a statue of General Stonewall Jackson. Gov. Kemper also attempted prison reform and built public schools despite budget shortages. His last major public reception, in October 1877, hosted President Rutherford B. Hayes who opened the state fair in Richmond. [11] One modern historian analogized Kemper's Conservative philosophy (and that of other Virginia Redeemers) to that of Gov. Wade Hampton of South Carolina. [13]

As his term of office ended (the state Constitution forbidding his re-election), Kemper (with his six surviving children and various domestic animals) returned to farming and his legal practice. He sold the Madison County home and purchased a house known as Walnut Hills, which overlooked the Rapidan River and Blue Ridge Mountains and was near the Orange County courthouse. [11] However, complications from the inoperable bullet worsened, and eventually paralyzed his left side. Kemper died on April 7, 1895 and was buried in the family cemetery.

Virginia erected a historic marker at Kemper's former home, [14] which has now been restored by the Madison County Historical Society and other organizations, and is available for receptions and other activities. [15] It is part of the Madison Courthouse historic district. [16] His papers are held by the Library of Virginia. [17]

Because Kemper (like Mahone) supported education of African-Americans, some schools for African-Americans founded during his governorship were named after him, including Kemper School No. 4 in the Arlington District of Alexandria County, Virginia. [18] [19]

Also, the Kemper Street Industrial Historic District in Lynchburg, Virginia straddles the former Lynchburg and Durham Railroad, construction of which began in May, 1887 the Norfolk and Southern Railroad acquired the line in 1898, which spurred that district's industrial growth. [20]

Actor Royce D. Applegate portrayed Kemper in two films, Gettysburg (1993) and Gods and Generals (2003).


Biography

James Lawson Kemper was born on the Mountain Prospect plantation of Madison County, Virginia on 11 June 1823 to a family of merchants his father's family came to the Thirteen Colonies from Siegen, Germany in the early 1700s. Kemper attended Locust Dale Academy from 1830 to 1840, attending military classes in the winter, and he graduated from Washington College (Washington and Lee University) after attending some engineering classes at the Virginia Military Institute. Kemper enlisted in the US Army volunteers during the Mexican-American War and was put on garrison duty in Coahuila, Mexico, having arrived after the Battle of Buena Vista. After being discharged in 1848, he practiced law back in Virginia, and he was elected to the Virginia House of Delegates in 1853, serving as Speaker of the House from 1861 to 1863. Kemper was also a Brigadier-General in the state militia.

Civil War

Kemper served as a Colonel of the Confederate States Army at the start of the American Civil War in 1861, leading a regiment as a part of Jubal Early's brigade at the First Battle of Bull Run. On 3 June 1862, after gallant service in the Peninsula Campaign, Kemper was promoted to Brigadier-General, and he fought at Second Bull Run, Antietam, and the Battle of Gettysburg, during which he led his brigade in an assault on Union positions during George Pickett's charge. Kemper urged his men to go for the Union artillery, but he was wounded in the abdomen and thigh by Union musketballs. Kemper fell from his horse and was briefly captured, but he was rescued by his troops as the Confederate attackers began to withdraw. During the retreat from Gettysburg, Kemper was again captured, but he was exchanged for Charles K. Graham on 19 September 1863. He was too ill to hold another field command for the rest of the war, serving as commander of the Reserve Forces of Virginia (with the rank of Major-General after 19 September 1864). In May 1865, he was paroled at the end of the war.

Political career

Kemper and John D. Imboden worked together as lawyers after the war's end, and he lost the 1870 7th congressional district elections due to gerrymandering. Kemper won the 1873 election for Governor of Virginia as a Democratic Party member, trimming the state budget where possible, advocating the taxation of alcohol, building new public schools, enforcing civil rights legislation (although he did not want for African-American troops to be present at the dedication of a monument to Stonewall Jackson), and pushing for prison reform. After he left the governorship, he returned to farming and to law, and he died in 1895 at the age of 71.


War Years

With the coming of the war Kemper once again volunteered for military service. Commissioned a colonel in the 7th Virginia Infantry in May 1861, Kemper was promoted to brigadier general after the Battle of Seven Pines–Fair Oaks (1862) and commanded a brigade in George E. Pickett ‘s Virginia division. He balanced his field duties while serving as Speaker of the House.

Kemper’s commendable soldiery came to an end on the third day at Gettysburg, when, during Pickett’s Charge , he caught a minié ball in the thigh at Cemetery Ridge. Taken prisoner, Kemper was exchanged in September 1863 for Union general Charles K. Graham. Still suffering from paralysis of the left leg, Kemper was declared unfit for active duty. He was nevertheless promoted to major general in September 1864 and commanded the Virginia Reserve Forces until May 2, 1865, when he was paroled in Danville .


The "Register of Commissioned and Warrant Officers of the United States Navy and Marine Corps" was published annually from 1815 through at least the 1970s it provided rank, command or station, and occasionally billet until the beginning of World War II when command/station was no longer included. Scanned copies were reviewed and data entered from the mid-1840s through 1922, when more-frequent Navy Directories were available.

The Navy Directory was a publication that provided information on the command, billet, and rank of every active and retired naval officer. Single editions have been found online from January 1915 and March 1918, and then from three to six editions per year from 1923 through 1940 the final edition is from April 1941.

The entries in both series of documents are sometimes cryptic and confusing. They are often inconsistent, even within an edition, with the name of commands this is especially true for aviation squadrons in the 1920s and early 1930s.

Alumni listed at the same command may or may not have had significant interactions they could have shared a stateroom or workspace, stood many hours of watch together… or, especially at the larger commands, they might not have known each other at all. The information provides the opportunity to draw connections that are otherwise invisible, though, and gives a fuller view of the professional experiences of these alumni in Memorial Hall.


--> Kemper, James Lawson, 1823-1895

James Lawson Kemper (1823-1895) was a Virginia legislator, Confederate soldier and governor of Virginia (1874-1878).

From the description of Papers, 1800-1894 (bulk 1841-1888). (Unknown). WorldCat record id: 86172341

Kemper was an alumnus of Washington College (Class of 1842) and a Madison County and Richmond, Va., lawyer Virginia governor (1874-1878).

From the description of Letters : to James Lawson Kemper, 1868-1877. (Washington & Lee University). WorldCat record id: 319065043

Madison County and Richmond, Va., lawyer Virginia governor (1874-1878).

From the description of Papers : of James Lawson Kemper, 1837-1903. (Virginia Historical Society Library). WorldCat record id: 29553105

James Lawson Kemper was born 11 June 1823 at "Mountain Prospect" in Madison County, Virginia, to William Kemper (1776-1853) and Maria E. Allison Kemper (1787-1873). He attended the Locust Dale Academy, then Washington College (now Washington and Lee University) in Lexington, Virginia, graduating in 1842. He read law under George W. Summers (1804-1868) of Kanawha County, (West) Virginia, and received a master's degree from Washington College. Admitted to the bar 2 October 1846, Kemper returned to Madison County to practice law. When the Mexican War began, Kemper was appointed captain in the First Virginia Regiment and served until the end of the war. In 1853, Kemper was elected to the House of Delegates and served until 1863. He was Speaker of the House from 1861 to 1863. When the Civil War began, Kemper was appointed colonel of the 7th Virginia Infantry. Due to his performance at the battle of Seven Pines, Kemper was promoted to brigadier general. He was wounded in Pickett's Charge on 3 July 1863, and was captured by Union troops a few days later. Exchanged in September 1863, he returned to his command. Kemper was put in command of the reserve forces of Virginia in 1864. After the war ended, Kemper returned to his law practice in Madison County and pursued business interests. He was elected governor of Virginia in 1873 and served from 1874 to 1878. Much of his term was spent in dealing with Virginia's debt. After he left the governor's office, Kemper returned to Madison County, then moved to Orange County in 1882. Kemper married Cremora Conway Cave (ca. 1837-1870) 4 July 1853 in Madison County, and they had seven children. Kemper died 7 April 1895 in Orange County and buried at the family cemetery at "Walnut Hills" in Madison County.


JAMES LAWSON KEMPER, CSA - History

James Lawson Kemper (1823-1895)

James Lawson Kemper (June 11, 1823 - April 7, 1895) was a lawyer, a Confederate general in the American Civil War, and a governor of Virginia. He was the youngest of the brigade commanders, and the only non-professional military officer, in the division that led Pickett's Charge, in which he was wounded and captured.

Kemper was born in Mountain Prospect, Madison County, Virginia, brother of F. T. Kemper (the founder of Kemper Military School). His grandfather had served on the staff of George Washington during the American Revolution, but he himself had virtually no military training.

He graduated from Washington College (now Washington and Lee College) in 1842, becoming a lawyer.

After the start of the Mexican-American War, he enlisted and became a captain and assistant quartermaster in the 1st Virginia Infantry, but he joined the service too late (1847) to see any combat action.

By 1858 was a brigadier general in the Virginia Militia. He also served three terms as a Virginia legislator, rising to become the Speaker of the House of Delegates and the chairman of the Military Affairs Committee, where he was a strong advocate of state military preparedness.

After the start of the Civil War, Kemper served as a brigadier general in the Provisional Army of Virginia, and then a colonel in the Confederate States Army, commanding the 7th Virginia Infantry starting in May 1862. His regiment was assigned to A.P. Hill's brigade in James Longstreet's division of the Army of the Potomac from June 1861 to March 1862. He saw his first action at the First Battle of Bull Run.

After a gallant performance at the Battle of Seven Pines during the Peninsula Campaign, Kemper was promoted to brigadier general on June 3, 1862, and briefly commanded a division in Longstreet's Corps. Upon the return to duty of wounded Maj. Gen. George E. Pickett, Kemper reverted to brigade command, the highest role in which he would serve in combat.

At the Second Battle of Bull Run, Kemper's brigade took part in Longstreet's surprise attack against the Union left flank, almost destroying John Pope's Army of Virginia.

At the Battle of Antietam he was south of the town of Sharpsburg, defending against Ambrose E. Burnside's assault in the afternoon of September 17, 1862. He withdrew his brigade in the face of the Union advance, exposing the Confederate right flank, and the line was saved only by the hasty arrival of A.P. Hill's division from Harpers Ferry.

At the Battle of Fredericksburg, his brigade was held in reserve.

In 1863 Kemper's brigade was assigned to Pickett's division in Longstreet's Corps, which means that he was absent from the Battle of Chancellorsville while the corps was assigned to Suffolk, Virginia. But the corps returned to the army in time for the Gettysburg Campaign. At the Battle of Gettysburg, Kemper arrived with Pickett's division late on the second day of battle, July 2, 1863. His brigade was one of the main assault units in Pickett's Charge, advancing on the right flank of Pickett's line (and, thus, on the right flank of the entire assault). After crossing the Emmitsburg Road, his brigade was hit by flanking fire from two Vermont regiments, driving it to the left and disrupting the cohesion of the assault. Kemper rose on his spurs to urge his men forward, shouting "There are the guns, boys, go for them!" This bravado made him a more visible target and he was wounded by a bullet in the abdomen and thigh and captured by Union forces. He was rescued by Confederate forces, but was too critically injured to be transported during the retreat from Gettysburg and was left behind to be treated and recaptured. Newspaper accounts at the time claimed he was killed in action and Robert E. Lee sent condolences to his family. He was exchanged on September 19, 1863. From then until the end of the war he was too ill for combat (the bullet that struck him could not be removed surgically and he suffered from groin pain for the remainder of his life) and commanded the Reserve Forces of Virginia. He was promoted to major general on September 19, 1864.

After the war Kemper worked as a lawyer and served as the governor of Virginia from January 1, 1874, to January 1, 1878.


JAMES LAWSON KEMPER, CSA - History

Framed and matted signature, “J L. Kemper”. Framed with a reproduction image and a simulated info plaque. Frame measures 10” x 19” visible portion of paper that signature is on measures 4 ½” x 1 ½”. Overall excellent condition.

James Lawson Kemper (June 11, 1823 – April 7, 1895) was a lawyer, a Confederate general in the American Civil War, and the 37th Governor of Virginia. He was the youngest of the brigade commanders, and the only non-professional military officer, in the division that led Pickett's Charge, in which he was wounded and captured but rescued.

Kemper was born in Mountain Prospect, Madison County, Virginia, the son of William and Maria E. Allison Kemper and brother of Frederick T. Kemper (the founder of Kemper Military School). His father was of German ancestry, which had been in Virginia since the colonial era.[1] His grandfather had served on the staff of George Washington during the American Revolutionary War, but he himself had virtually no military training. He graduated from Washington College (now Washington and Lee University) in 1842, becoming a lawyer.

After the start of the Mexican-American War, he enlisted and became a captain and assistant quartermaster in the 1st Virginia Infantry, but he joined the service too late (1847) to see any combat action. By 1858 he was a brigadier general in the Virginia Militia.

Kemper was elected to the Virginia House of Delegates in 1853. He became chairman of the Military Affairs Committee, where he was a strong advocate of state military preparedness. In early 1861 he became Speaker, a position he held until January 1863. Much of his term as Speaker coincided with his service in the Confederate States Army.

After the start of the Civil War, Kemper served as a brigadier general in the Provisional Army of Virginia, and then a colonel in the Confederate States Army, becoming head of the 7th Virginia Infantry. At First Bull Run, Kemper led the regiment as part of Jubal Early's brigade. His regiment was later assigned to Brig. Gen. A.P. Hill's brigade in Maj. Gen. James Longstreet's division of the Confederate Army of the Potomac from June 1861 to March 1862. On May 26, A.P. Hill was promoted to division command and Kemper got the brigade. After a gallant performance at the Battle of Seven Pines during the Peninsula Campaign, Kemper was promoted to brigadier general on June 3, 1862. Leading the brigade through the Seven Days Battles, he then became a division commander after Robert E. Lee reorganized the army (commanding half of James Longstreet's old division).

At the Second Battle of Bull Run, Kemper's division took part in Longstreet's surprise attack against the Union left flank, almost destroying Maj. Gen. John Pope's Army of Virginia. Afterwards, his division was merged into General David R. Jones's command and Kemper reverted to brigade command. At the Battle of Antietam he was south of the town of Sharpsburg, defending against Maj. Gen. Ambrose E. Burnside's assault in the afternoon of September 17, 1862. He withdrew his brigade in the face of the Union advance, exposing the Confederate right flank, and the line was saved only by the hasty arrival of A.P. Hill's division from Harpers Ferry.

When George Pickett returned to duty after Antietam, he took command of the troops Kemper had led at Second Bull Run. In 1863, the brigade was assigned to Pickett's Division in Longstreet's Corps, which meant that he was absent from the Battle of Chancellorsville, while the corps was assigned to Suffolk, Virginia. However, the corps returned to the army in time for the Gettysburg Campaign.

At the Battle of Gettysburg, Kemper arrived with Pickett's Division late on the second day of battle, July 2, 1863. His brigade was one of the main assault units in Pickett's Charge, advancing on the right flank of Pickett's line. After crossing the Emmitsburg Road, his brigade was hit by flanking fire from two Vermont regiments, driving it to the left and disrupting the cohesion of the assault. Kemper rose on his stirrups to urge his men forward, shouting "There are the guns, boys, go for them!"

This bravado made him a more visible target and he was wounded by a bullet in the abdomen and thigh and captured by Union troops. He was rescued by Sgt. Leigh Blanton of the 1st Virginia and was carried back to Confederate lines on Seminary Ridge. General Robert E. Lee encountered Kemper being carried on a stretcher and inquired about the seriousness of his wound, which Kemper said he thought was mortal. He requested that Lee "do full justice to this division for its work today." During the Confederate Army's retreat from Gettysburg, Kemper was again captured by Union forces. He was exchanged (for Charles K. Graham) on September 19, 1863. For the rest of the war he was too ill for combat, and commanded the Reserve Forces of Virginia. He was promoted to major general on September 19, 1864.

It had not been possible to remove the bullet that had wounded Kemper at Gettysburg, and he suffered from groin pain for the rest of his life. After the war he worked as a lawyer and served as the first Governor of Virginia after Reconstruction from January 1, 1874, to January 1, 1878 having defeated Republican Robert W. Hughes with 43.84% of the vote. Jones (1972) argues that Kemper and like-minded Conservatives implemented racial policies which were less anti-Negro and which gave fuller recognition than historians have conceded. The Virginia Redeemers attempted to shape race relations to conform to what C. Vann Woodward has defined as the Conservative philosophy. Jones concludes that Kemper and the Virginia Redeemers deserve to rank in history alongside the Wade Hamptons and other proponents of the Conservative philosophy.

Kemper died in Walnut Hills, Orange County, Virginia, where he is buried.

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Kemper's Grave

Orange County, VA
Marker No. F-17

Marker Text: A mile south is the grave of James Lawson Kemper, who led his brigade of Virginia troops in Pickett's charge at Gettysburg, July 3, 1863, and fell desperately wounded. He became a major-general in 1864. Kemper was governor of Virginia, 1874-1878.

Location: On Route 15, north of Orange, near Rapidan River bridge, near Orange/Madison County line. Marker is grouped with marker Z-12 (Madison/Orange County). Erected by the Virginia Conservation Commission in 1948.

  My last post was about the residence of Confederate General James L. Kemper in Madison, VA who commanded a brigade of Gen. George E. Pickett's division during Pickett's Charge on the third day of the Battle of Gettysburg. Kemper though seriously wounded survived his wounds.

  After 1882, Kemper moved to this area of Orange County, VA, just across the county line from Madison County, VA.  By 1858 Kemper was a brigadier general in the Virginia Militia. He also served three terms as a Virginia legislator, rising to become the Speaker of the House of Delegates at the start of the Civil War and the chairman of the Military Affairs Committee, where he was a strong advocate of state military preparedness.

Photo taken looking south on Route 15.  Road in the background on the right is the road leading to Kemper’s grave, but is on private property.  Click any photo to enlarge.

  After the start of the Civil War, Kemper served as a brigadier general in the Provisional Army of Virginia, and then a colonel in the Confederate States Army, commanding the 7th Virginia Infantry starting in May 1862. His regiment was assigned to A.P. Hill's brigade in James Longstreet's division of the Army of the Potomac from June 1861 to March 1862. He saw his first action at the First Battle of Bull Run or First Manassas.

  After a gallant performance at the Battle of Seven Pines during the Peninsula Campaign, Kemper was promoted to brigadier general on June 3, 1862, and briefly commanded a division in Longstreet's Corps. Upon the return to duty of wounded Maj. Gen. George E. Pickett, Kemper reverted to brigade command, the highest role in which he would serve in combat.

  At the Second Battle of Bull Run or Second Manassas, Kemper's brigade took part in Longstreet's surprise attack against the Union left flank, almost destroying John Pope's Army of Virginia.

  At the Battle of Antietam he was south of the town of Sharpsburg, defending against Ambrose E. Burnside's assault in the afternoon of September 17, 1862. He withdrew his brigade in the face of the Union advance, exposing the Confederate right flank, and the line was saved only by the hasty arrival of A.P. Hill's division from Harpers Ferry. At the Battle of Fredericksburg, his brigade was held in reserve.

  In 1863, Kemper's brigade was assigned to Pickett's division in Longstreet's Corps, which means that he was absent from the Battle of Chancellorsville while the corps was assigned to Suffolk, Virginia. But the corps returned to the army in time for the Gettysburg Campaign. See my previous marker on Kemper about details about the Battle of Gettysburg.

  After the war Kemper continued his work as a lawyer and served as the governor of Virginia from January 1, 1874, to January 1, 1878.  He died April 7, 1895 in Walnut Hills, Orange County, Virginia, near this marker, where he is buried. I attempted to find Kemper's grave one day during a visit here. Kemper's gravesite is located on private property and is not accessible without permission. I did manage to find a web site that had a photo of his gravesite. Photo at Find a Grave Web site