Sir James Kempt
Born: 1765 Scotland
Died: 20 December 1854 London
James Kempt was born in Edinburgh, Scotland. At the age of 18 he was gazetted to the 101st Foot in India in 1783, but on its disbandment two years later he was placed on half-pay. He then took a clerkship in Greenwoods, the army agents and then with Cox & Co. Kempt attracted the notice of the Duke of York, through whom he obtained a captaincy and then, soon after a majority, in the newly raised 113th Foot. But it was long before this regiment suffered the same fate of the old 101st, but Kempt was retained on full pay in the recruiting service.
In 1799 he accompanied Sir Ralph Abercromby to Holland and later to Egypt as an aide-de-camp.
After Abercromby’s death, Kempt remained on his successor’s staff until the end of the campaign in Egypt. In April 1803 Kempt joined the staff of Sir David Dundas, but in the following month he returned to regimental duty, and a little later received a lieutenant-colonelcy in the 81st Foot.
With this new regiment Kempt went under Craig, to the Mediterranean theatre of operations, and at the Battle of Maida on 4th July 1806, Kempt led the light infantry brigade which bore the brunt of the battle.
Kempt was employed from 1807 to 1811 on the staff in North America, temporary-colonel. By the end of 1811, he joined Arthur Wellesley, Marquess of Wellington’s army in Spain with the local rank of major-general, which was on 1st January 1812, made substantive. As one of Thomas Picton’s brigadiers of the fighting Third Division, kempt took part in the attack on la Picaruna fort at Badajoz and was severely wounded in April of that year.
On recovery he was given command of a light brigade of the 43rd and 2 battalions of the 95th Rifles including the 3rd Portuguese light infantry, just in time to fight the Battle of Vitoria on 21st June 1813. Kempt also led his brigade at the Battle of the Pyrenees at the end of July, and at the Battle of the Bidassoa, where his troops stormed French defences near Mont La Rhune on 7th October. He was again wounded while commanding his brigade at the Battle of Nivelle on 10th November.
In 1814, he led his brigade at the battles of Orthez and Toulouse.
After the first abdication of Napoleon, Kempt was transferred once again to North America, where the Anglo-American War of 1812 was still being fought. He commanded a brigade which was intended to attack the vital American post of Sackets Harbour in New York, but logistic problems prevented the attack being made before winter brought an end to campaigning in Canada. News of peace between Britain and America reached Canada in early 1815, and Kempt returned to Europe.
Kempt was appointed to lead the 8th British Brigade in the army Wellington assembled in Belgium to invade France in 1815. The 8th Brigade consisted of the 1/28th, 1/32nd, 2/79th Highland and 1/95th Rifles in Sir Thomas Picton’s 5th Division/
At the Battle of Quatre Bras, Kempt’s brigade was involved in heavy fighting and suffered 638 killed and wounded. At the Battle of Waterloo 18th June, his brigade was again in the thick of it and lost 681 killed and wounded. On Picton’s death, Kempt succeeded to the command of the division. Being a small man, he was quiet and unassuming but proved and excellent and popular officer.
Early in 1815 he was made K.C.B and in July for his services at Waterloo, G.C.B.
In 1828 to 1830 Kempt was Governor of British North America, and at a critical time displayed firmness and moderation. He was afterwards Master-General of the Ordnance. At the time of his death in 1854 he had been for some years a full General.