James Lawson Kemper (1823-1895) Fine content ALS (Autograph Letter Signed) 8'' x 13'' 2pp (front and back of one large sheet). Madison Courthouse, 9/1/83. Fascinating, lengthy letter addressed to Col. Charles Marshal, in which Kemper scrambles to free himself from a failed business venture with former Confederates that was conceived shortly after the Civil War. The letter is full of detail, and provides valuable insight into how prominent ex-Confederates attempted to build financial alliances after the close of hostilities. In part: "Dear Sir, I wish to engage your professional services in a matter of business of much importance to me and requiring attention at Baltimore. It is of so grave a character that it might in an adverse event consign me to pecuniary ruin. I proceed to give you as correct and brief an account of it as I can. Very soon after the close of the war, a number of ex-confederates met in Richmond to take the first steps toward forming the late National Express and Transportation Company..." The letter is in excellent condition with the usual folds and is accompanied by a full typed transcription. Boldly signed at the conclusion, the letter is a remarkably revealing account written by a Confederate legend and Virginia Governor. Kemper's autograph letters are scarce, hence a great opportunity to own a historic manuscript. A superb addition to any Civil War collection. Gauranteed authentic bid with confidence. Member UACC and MS.
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
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,
After the war Kemper worked as a lawyer and served as the governor of
Virginia from January 1, 1874, to January 1, 1878.
He died in Walnut Hills, Orange County, Virginia, where he is buried.