Kemper and West Florida
Born in Fauquier County, Virginia, Kemper and his brothers Nathan and Samuel settled in Feliciana, near Baton Rouge, Spanish West Florida, shortly after 1800. Expelled from the province by the Spanish authorities in a dispute over land titles, the Kemper brothers organized a small force in the Mississippi Territory and returned, declaring West Florida to be independent. They attempted to capture Baton Rouge in 1804, but were defeated, having failed to gain the support of local Anglo-American settlers, most of whom were satisfied with Spanish rule on account of Spain's liberal policy of land grants and its protection of slavery. The following year Spanish forces captured all three brothers while on U.S. soil, but they were rescued by U.S. forces as they were being taken down the Mississippi River.
In 1810, during the rebellion against Spanish rule by the British and American settlers (who made up the majority of inhabitants), Reuben Kemper and Joseph White were authorized to invite the inhabitants of Mobile and Pensacola to join in the revolt. Kemper crossed into the Mississippi Territory, but U.S. forces, not wishing to provoke Spain into war, and fearing Kemper's intentions, arrested him.
He was more fortunate than his colleagues, who were seized by the Spanish and sent as prisoners to El Morro, in Havana, Cuba. Nevertheless, the rebellion succeeded and the Republic of West Florida came into existence. However, it would last only 90 days before it was annexed by the United States.
In 1812-13 Kemper took part in the Gutiérrez-Magee Expedition into Spanish Texas, fighting to help free Mexico from Spanish rule. He also served as a colonel under Andrew Jackson at the Battle of New Orleans in January 1815.
Kemper then settled down peacefully as a planter in Mississippi. He died in 1826 in Natchez, Mississippi, aged 55 or 56.
Kemper County, Mississippi, is named for him.
- Samuel Kemper, his brother.
- David A. Bice, The Original Lone Star Republic: Scoundrels, Statesmen and Schemers of the 1810 West Florida Rebellion, Heritage Publishing Consultants, 2004.
- Andrew McMichael, "The Kemper 'Rebellion': Filibustering and Resident Anglo American Loyalty in Spanish West Florida", Louisiana History, vol. 43, no. 2 (Spring 2002), p. 140.
- Andrew McMichael, Atlantic Loyalties: Americans in Spanish West Florida, 1785-1810, University of Georgia Press, 2008.
- Reuben Kemper article at AllRefer.com.
- Kemper references in the Florida Parishes of Louisiana