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 Major-General James Lawson Kemper was born in Madison county, Va., June 11, 1823, of a family descended from John Kemper, of Oldenburg, who settled in Virginia in 1714, in the ‘Palatinate Colony.’ He was educated at the Virginia military institute and Washington college, where he took the degree of master of arts, and his subsequent study of the law was pursued at Charleston, Kanawha county. In 1847 he was commissioned captain in the volunteer army by President Polk, and he joined General Taylor's army after the battle of Buena Vista. Subsequently he became prominent in the political life of the State, and served ten years as a member of the house of delegates, two years as speaker, and for a number of years as chairman of the committee on military affairs. He was also president of the board of visitors of the Virginia military institute. On May 2, 1861, he was commissioned colonel of Virginia volunteers and assigned to the command of the Seventh regiment of infantry. Joining his regiment at Manassas he rendered efficient special service to General Beauregard in procuring him 200 wagons. He was in battle at Blackburn's ford, and on July 21st, assigned to the brigade commanded by Col. Jubal A. Early, he aided in striking the final blow on the extreme left of the Federal line, which immediately preceded the rout of McDowell's forces. Three days after this battle his regiment was assigned to the brigade commanded by General Longstreet, and subsequently by A. P. Hill, under whom Colonel Kemper, with the Seventh regiment, was in the hottest of the fight at Williamsburg. Immediately after this he was given command of the brigade which had been successively under Longstreet, Ewell and A. P. Hill, and he fought his regiments with distinguished skill and courage during the first day at Seven Pines and throughout the Seven Days fighting before Richmond. At Frayser's he made a gallant advance over difficult ground, broke the enemy's line and captured a battery. With Longstreet's corps he reached the scene of battle at Manassas, August 29, 1862, and in the subsequent fighting served in command of a division consisting of his own, Jenkins', Pickett's and N. G. Evans' brigades. At South mountain he commanded his brigade, and in conjunction with Garnett, the two commands not exceeding 800 men, met Hatch's force of 3,500 before Turner's
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