History

On July 3, 1863, in the blistering heat of late afternoon, General James Lawson Kemper stood high in his stirrups, urging thousands of gray-clad soldiers across the deadly open space between two contending armies, just south of Gettysburg. With thousands of Virginians and North Carolinians, Kemper and fellow officers continued their desperate thrust toward Federal lines. That assault failed, and the ensuing repulse of 13,000 Confederates marked a turning point in the American Civil War. General Kemper fell wounded from his horse and was carried from the field with what appeared to be a mortal wound. Yet he not only survived this injury–he became the last governor of Virginia’s reconstruction era, binding up the wounds of war and enforcing the civil rights of newly freed slaves. After his departure from the Governor’s mansion, Kemper bought a farm in Orange County, and there built a large brick house in 1882 overlooking the Rapidan River. Today, we know that place as “Walnut Hills.”

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