Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Kemper's Grave

Kemper's Grave, marker F-17 in Orange County, VAOrange 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.

Kemper's Grave, marker F-17 along U.S. Route 15 in Orange County, VA

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


  1. I don't know if you keep up this blog or will see this comment. I just stumbled on your blog this morning while I was looking for historical places to take my 15 year old son this summer. Your blog is great!

    1. Thanks for visiting my blog, I still check my comments and I still go out and take new photos of markers in several states. Working as the pastor of two churches does not give me much time to post new markers. I have another 2,000 markers I can post in the future and most will have to wait until I retire in a few years.