Note Written and Signed by Confederate Gen. James L. Kemper




Note Written and Signed by Confederate Gen. James L. Kemper - James Lawson Kemper was a Confederate general during the American Civil War (1861–1865), who later served as governor of Virginia (1874–1877). Kemper volunteered in the Mexican War (1846–1848), but returned to his civilian life as a lawyer. He served five terms in the Virginia House of Delegates (1853–1863), including time as Speaker of the House (1861–1863). There he garnered a reputation for honesty and attention to duty. Kemper volunteered for service in 1861, and with his promotion in June 1862 became the Confederacy’s youngest brigade commander. Badly wounded at Gettysburg in July 1863, Kemper oversaw the Virginia Reserve Forces for the remainder of the war. He helped found the Conservative Party during Reconstruction (1865–1877). Soundly defeating the Republican candidate in the 1873 gubernatorial race, Kemper found himself, as governor, at odds with previous supporters over his progressive stance on civil rights, prison reform, and public school improvements. Still suffering from his wound, Kemper retired to his law practice, and died in Orange County in 1895.

This short, but poignantly sad note, written by Gen. Kemper, in obvious pain and distress, states that he is indeed in pain and unable to sign a proper autograph. His “signature” on this note is comprised of the three initials of his name. Selling his Madison homestead in 1878, Kemper moved his family to Walnut Hills, his last home, near Orange Court House, Virginia, and resumed his law practice. He lived, as he noted, a life of “quietude,” suffering increasing pain and eventual paralysis of his left side. Kemper died on Sunday, April 7, 1895. This note seemingly was penned near the end of his life.

The note has been nicely framed and matted, along with a reproduction of a wartime photograph of the General. The frame appears to be from the mid-19th century. The frame measures as follows: 11.75” x 9”; the autographed note measures: 8.5” x 2.5” (at its widest area).