Kempt, James (DNB00)

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KEMPT, Sir JAMES (1764–1854), general, born 1764, was son of Gavin Kempt of Botley Hill, Southampton, and of Edinburgh, by his wife, the daughter of Alexander Walker of Edinburgh. On 31 March 1783 he was gazetted ensign in the lately raised 101st foot in India, in which he became lieutenant 16 Aug. 1784, and was placed on half-pay when the regiment was disbanded in April 1785. Nine years afterwards he was brought on full pay into the 58th foot. According to a story current in the service, he was at one time a clerk in the house of Greenwoods (afterwards Cox & Co.), army-agents, and in that capacity was favourably noticed by the Duke of York. On 30 May 1794 he was appointed captain 113th foot. He helped to raise that regiment in Ireland, was appointed major in it 18 Sept. 1794, and when the regiment was afterwards broken up, was retained on full pay as inspecting field-officer of recruiting at Glasgow. He was placed on regimental half-pay in 1798, and the year after became aide-de-camp to Sir Ralph Abercromby [q. v.], then commanding the forces in North Britain, whom he accompanied to Holland with the advance of the Duke of York's army. He brought home the despatches from the Helder, and was present in every engagement except that of 10 Sept. 1799, when he was in England. He returned with Sir Ralph Abercromby to Scotland, and was his aide-de-camp and military secretary in the Mediterranean in 1800, and in Egypt in 1801, and held the same post under General John Hely-Hutchinson, baron Hutchinson [q. v.], after Abercromby's death, during the rest of the campaign, including the advance and capture of Cairo and the siege of Alexandria; he received the Turkish gold medal. In April 1803 he was appointed aide-de-camp to Sir David Dundas (1735–1820) [q. v.], then in command of the southern district, with headquarters at Chatham, and in May the same year was made major 66th foot, and on 23 July lieutenant-colonel 81st foot. In command of the 1st battalion of that corps he went to the Mediterranean with Sir James Henry Craig [q. v.], and served in the expedition to Naples in 1805, and in Sicily, including the descent on Calabria, where the light brigade under Kempt bore the brunt of the fight at the battle of Maida, 2 July 1806 (see Bunbury, Narrative). He was quartermaster-general in North America in 1807–11, and having obtained the brevet of colonel during that period (1809), was appointed to the staff of the army in the Peninsula, with the local rank of major-general, in November 1811. Wellington wrote, ‘I have a high opinion of General Kempt from all I have heard of him’ (Gurwood, v. 387), and appointed him to a brigade of Picton's division. Kempt became major-general on 1 Jan. 1812. He commanded the attack on La Picurina during the last siege of Badajoz (ib. v. 561), and led Picton's assault on the castle of Badajoz, on the night of 6 April 1812, but was very severely wounded early in the attack (ib. v. 577–8). On recovering from his wound, he rejoined the army in the Peninsula, and commanded a brigade of the light division (43rd and two battalions 95th rifles) in the campaigns of 1813–14 at Vittoria, the combat of Vera, and the battles of Nivelle, Nive, Orthez, and Toulouse (ib. vii. 50, 135). At Nivelle, where he was wounded in the attack on La Petite Rhune, but remained in the field, he commanded one of the brigades despatched from Bordeaux, 6 June 1814, to Quebec, to reinforce the army in Canada. He was made K.C.B. 2 Jan. 1815, and was advanced to G.C.B. 22 June 1815. He commanded the 8th brigade (28th, 32nd, 79th), forming part of Picton's division at the battles of Quatre Bras and Waterloo, and, on Picton's fall, succeeded to the command of the division (ib. viii. 147–50), which he held with the army in France. He was appointed lieutenant-governor of Portsmouth in 1819, and afterwards held the governorship of Nova Scotia until 1828. From 10 July 1828 to 24 Nov. 1830 he was governor-general of Canada. His conduct during a period of political difficulty was commended by the Duke of Wellington; on 8 Dec. 1830 he was nominated a privy councillor. He was afterwards master-general of the ordnance from 1834 to 1838.

Kempt became G.C.H. in 1816; had the foreign orders of Maria Theresa in Austria, St. George in Russia, and William the Lion in the Netherlands; a gold cross and clasps for Maida, Vittoria, Nivelle, Nive, Orthez, and Toulouse; the silver medal with bars for Egypt and Pyrenees, and the Waterloo medal. He held the lieutenant-governorship of Fort William, Inverness, from 1812, and was in succession colonel-commandant 60th foot in 1813, and colonel of the 3rd West India regiment 1819, of the 81st foot 1819, of the 40th foot 1829, of the 2nd queen's 1837, and of the 1st royals 1846. He became a lieutenant-general in 1825, and general in 1841. He died in South Audley Street, London, 20 Dec. 1854, aged 90. He was a man of rather small stature and quiet, unassuming manners, was an excellent and popular officer, and a clever man.

[Dod's Knightage, 1854; Philippart's Royal Military Calendar, 1820, iii. 193; Army Lists and Gazettes under dates; Bunbury's Narrative of Passages in the late War (London, 1854); Napier's Hist. Peninsular War (rev. ed. 1851), and Cope's Rifle Brigade, period 1812–14; Siborne's Waterloo; Ross-Lewin's Life of a Soldier (London, 1830), vol. ii., account of Waterloo campaign; Gurwood's Wellington Desp. vols. v–viii.; Wellington Supplementary Desp. vols. viii–xiv. and xv. (index); military documents and returns catalogued in Reports on Canadian Archives (Ottawa, 1882–90); Henry's Events of a Military Life (London, 1843), ii. 149 et seq.; Gent. Mag. new ser. 1855, xliii. 188.]

H. M. C.