The Resource Executive letter books of Governor James L. Kemper

Executive letter books of Governor James L. Kemper

Executive letter books of Governor James L. Kemper, 1874-1877
Executive letter books of Governor James L. Kemper
Inclusive dates
  • The executive letter books contain the outgoing correspondence of Governor James L. Kemper between 1874 and 1877, arranged chronologically. Letters were written by Governor Kemper, clerk P. F. Howard, Secretary of the Commonwealth James McDonald, and personal secretaries Meade C. Kemper, S. Bassett French, Baker P. Lee, and Charles Rutledge Whipple. Kemper corresponded with a variety of individuals in federal and state government as well as important private indiviudals, on issues including the state war debt, prisoners and the Penitentiary, the state volunteer militia, the Petersburg city government bill veto, requests for patronage, the Centennial International Exhibition of 1876 in Philadelphia, the Virginia Military Institute and other cadet groups, boundary disputes with West Virginia and Maryland, and the Foley statue of Stonewall Jackson. The letter book also includes a number of messages addressed to the Senate and House of Delegates of Virginia
  • Correspondents in the federal government include President Ulysses S. Grant; Stephen V. Benet, Chief of Ordnance; Treasurer Francis E. Spinner; William W. Belknap and J. Donald Cameron, secreatries of war; Rufus Ingalls, Acting Quartermaster General; and George H. Williams, attorney general. Kemper also corresponded with other governors including James Black Groome and John Lee Carroll of Maryland; John J. Jacobs, West Virginia; Thomas A Hendricks, Indiana; James M. Smith, Georgia; Curtus Hook Brogden and Zebulon B. Vance, North Carolina; Augustus H. Garland, Arkansas; John S. Phelps, Missouri; and Samuel J. Tilden, New York
  • Significant correspondents in Virginia include Raleigh T. Daniel, state attorney general; Francis H. Smith, the Superintendent of VMI; John Letcher, former governor and member of the House of Delegates; Colonel William Lamb; Dr. Francis T. Stribling; Judge William J. Robertson; Rev. Maximilian J. Michelbacher; William B. Taliaferro; Reuben Ragland; Dr. James B. McCaw; Elizabeth Van Lew; Samuel C. Armstrong; Fitzhugh Lee; James G. Field; John S. Barbour, Jr; and the chief and councilmen of the Pamunkey nation. Other correspondents include Jubal Early; Mary Anna Jackson, widow of Stonewall Jackson; P. G. T. Beauregard; Bradley T. Johnson; sculptor Joel Tanner Hart; Hugh McCulloch, former Secretary of Treasury; naturalist Henry A. Ward; Maryland politician Montgomery Blair; James Gordon Bennet, Jr., publisher of the New York Herald; A. Dudley Mann; A. J. B. Beresford Hope; and W. W. Corcoran
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  • Accessioned
  • Described
Additional physical form
Also available on microfilm (Misc. reel 6193)
Biographical or historical data
  • 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. Kemper also was appointed a general in the Virginia militia in 1858. 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. On 12 March 1874, Kemper created controversy and angered his Conservative contemporaries by vetoing a bill to transfer control of Petersburg's city government from elected Republican officials to a board of commissioners appointed by a city judge. Governor Kemper also played an integral part in the unveiling of John Henry Foley's statue to Stonewall Jackson on Capitol Square.
  • 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.
Cataloging source
Executive letter books of Governor James L. Kemper
These records are part of the Governor's Office record group (RG# 3)
Arranged chronologically.
  • The Library of Virginia
Cumulative index finding aids
  • Inventory
  • Inventory
Governing access note
For preservation purposes, please use microfilm (Misc. reel 6193)
Organization method
Organized into the following series: I. Executive letter books of Governor James L. Kemper
Terms governing use
There are no use restrictions.
Type of unit
v. (689 p.)



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Library Locations

    • Library of VirginiaBorrow it
      800 East Broad Street, Richmond, VA, 23219, US
      37.5415632 -77.4360805
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