Campbell Slemp

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Campbell Slemp
Campbell Slemp.jpg
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Virginia's 9th district
In office
March 4, 1903 – October 13, 1907
Preceded by William F. Rhea
Succeeded by C. Bascom Slemp
Member of the Virginia House of Delegates from Lee County, Virginia
In office
December 3, 1879 – December 4, 1883
Preceded by Lee S. Fulkerson
Succeeded by John B. McLin
Personal details
Born December 2, 1839
Turkey Cove, Lee County, Virginia
Died October 13, 1907 (aged 67)
Big Stone Gap, Wise County, Virginia
Political party Republican
Spouse(s) Nancy B. Slemp
Children 3 sons including C. Bascom Slemp, 3 daughters
Alma mater Emory and Henry College
Profession farmer, politician
Military service
Allegiance  Virginia
 Confederate States
Service/branch Virginia Militia
 Confederate States Army
Rank Confederate States of America Colonel.png Colonel (CSA)
Commands 21st Virginia Infantry Battalion
64th Virginia Infantry
Battles/wars

American Civil War

Campbell Slemp (December 2, 1839 – October 13, 1907) was a farmer and Confederate officer in southwest Virginia who became a Readjuster Democrat after Congressional Reconstruction and served in the Virginia House of Delegates. He eventually joined Republican Party and won election to the United States House of Representatives from Virginia's 9th congressional district and controlled federal patronage in the Commonwealth from 1903 to 1907. Slemp died unexpectedly at home while in office, after which his son C. Bascom Slemp succeeded to the seat for more than a decade, until ousted during the rise of the Byrd Organization.

Early and family life[edit]

Born near Turkey Cove in Lee County, Virginia, to Sebastian Smyth Slemp (1810-1859; whose grandfather had emigrated from Germany) and his wife, the former Margaret Reasor (1811-1871), both of families long prominent in the region, Campbell Slemp had an older brother, Henderson Clinton Slemp (1831-1901), and two elder sisters, Nervesta Overton Slemp Flanary (1834-1914) and Alpha Slemp Habern (1836-1893). He attended Emory and Henry College in Emory, Washington County, Virginia. He left when his father Sebastian Slemp died in 1859.[1] Before the American Civil War, Campbell Slemp farmed and tended to real estate investments.

Campbell Slemp married Nancy Brittain Cawood (nicknmaed "Namie" 1840-1908) on July 25, 1861. Her ancestors had fought in the American Revolutionary War (Stephen Cawood of Washington County, Virginia was a drummer in Col. Byrd's regiment, and his son Berry Cawood served under George Rogers Clark in the expedition which captured Kaskasia and Vincennes, and received a land grant because of that service).[2] They would have three sons and three daughters: Emma M. Slemp (1865-1889), Henry C.M. Slemp (b./d. 1868), Susan Jane Slemp Newman (1869-1935), C. Bascom Slemp (1870-1943), William Moses Slemp (1873-1912) and Laura Alpha Drucilla Slemp (1877-1900).[3][4]

Military career[edit]

During the Civil War, Slemp volunteered for the Confederate States Army and joined Company A of the 21st Virginia Infantry Battalion, becoming the laters commanding officer. By November 1862 the unit had been consolidated with another company into the 64th Virginia Mounted Infantry. Slemp rose in rank from captain to lieutenant colonel and finally colonel on December 14, 1862.[5]

The unit defended the border between Virginia and both Tennessee and Kentucky, particularly the strategic Cumberland Gap and the strategic resources of lead mines and salt works at Saltville, Virginia. The Cumberland Gap was initially fortified by Confederate General Felix Zollicoffer (a former Tennessee Congressman), and contested by Unionist Tennessean Capt. Powhatan Carter. Although Zollicoffer was killed in action in the January 1862 during the first Kentucky invasion, Union Generals George H. Thomas and later William T. Sherman had difficulty securing the Cumberland Gap. At Pound Gap in nearby Wise County, Virginia, Slemp was among the Confederates opposed by Union Col. (later General and President) James Garfield, who forced their retreat.

When Union Major General George Morgan was sent to secure the Cumberland Gap, Colonels William M. Churchwell and James E. Rains pleaded for reinforcements but their pleas were ignored; so they destroyed the supplies and evacuated. When the Union troops tried to secure the gap they likewise failed to receive reinforcements, so Confederate Generals Stevenson and Edmund Kirby Smith were able to retake it in September 1862 as Morgan evacuated into Kentucky. The next fall Union Gen. Ambrose Burnside was sent to take the gap and he delegated the job to an Irishman, John F. De Courcy. He got Confederate Gen. John W. Frazer drunk and believing that many Union troops were coming so in the nearly bloodless Battle of Cumberland Gap, Frazer surrendered his three regiments with 2300 men on September 9, 1863 to fewer than 500 Union soldiers. However, Col. Slemp and Maj. McDowell managed to escape with many men, and also evacuated about 400 Confederates from the Pinnacle nearby.[6][7]

Col. Slemp was convicted of dereliction of duty on November 7, 1863, at a court martial in January 1864, was removed from command and dismissed from the army. The incident related to his moving captured wagons on that date, about two weeks after Union raiders had burned the 64th Virginia's camp near Jonesville. Although many Virginia legislators had urged that General "Grumble" Jones stop the proceedings (and Slemp's Lt.Col. Auburn L. Pridemore attempted to press charges against Gen. Jones for his actions on the same day), charges were pressed by Capt. H. Brown of the 8th Virginia Cavalry and Major Rhea of Tennessee. Col. Slemp hurt his own cause by slipping house arrest in Abington to return home.[8]

Nonetheless, Slemp remained a loyal Confederate throughout the war, surrendering after General Lee's surrender at Appomattox Courthouse. He received his parole at the Cumberland Gap in Tennessee on May 2, 1865, with others of the 64th Virginia.

Political career[edit]

After the war ended, Slemp received a pardon, and resumed farming. He became politically involved in the Readjuster Party, aligning with former Confederate General William Mahone who was consolidating railroads in Virginia and Tennessee.[9]]

His older brother Henry C. Slemp had been elected to the Virginia Senate in 1875, and served one term in the part-time position. In 1879, Lee County voters elected Campbell Slemp to the Virginia House of Delegates, where he served (part-time) and was re-elected once. He unsuccessfully ran for the state senate in 1883. Although a Democrat up to that time, Slemp like Malone became a Virginia State Republican party leader. Slemp made an unsuccessful bid for Lieutenant Governor on Mahone's ticket in 1889, which lost badly. However, he was a Presidential elector for Harrison, and later President McKinley.

In 1903 voters of Virginia's 9th congressional district (nicknamed the "Fighting Ninth" in part for its close elections and many party changes) elected Slemp to the United States House of Representatives. Slemp defeated 2-term Democrat William F. Rhea (a generation younger than the Major Rhea who had testified against him), who had defeated 2-term Republican James A. Walker (last commander of the Stonewall Brigade) in 1898.

President Theodore Roosevelt, a fellow Republican, let Slemp control federal patronage in the Commonwealth,[10] Slemp won re-election twice (over J. C. Wysor in 1904 and then Robert P. Bruce in 1906). The Norfolk and Western Railway and textile mills expanded into his district.

Death and legacy[edit]

Slemp died unexpectedly at his home at Big Stone Gap in Wise County, Virginia on Sunday, October 13, 1907. Following his interment in the family cemetery in Lee County, Virginia, his son C. Bascom Slemp was selected to fill his Congressional seat, and won re-election several times until unseated (as the last Virginia Republican in Congress) during the rise of the Byrd Organization. The younger Slemp served as the United States Representative for the 9th District of Virginia from 1907 to 1922, and established the Slemp Foundation as well as the Southwest Virginia Museum.

See also[edit]


References[edit]

  1. ^ Rose Slemp Quillen, "Col. Campbell Slemp" in Historical Sketches of Southwest Virginia, Southwest Virginia Historical Society Publication No. 6 (March 1970) p. 20 indicates probate of Sebastian Slemp's estate included the sale of ten slaves, mostly children, on November 24, 1859. His brother Henry C. Slemp, mother Margarett and sister Alpha Slemp owned several slaves in the 1860 U.S. federal census. Close inspection of those schedules and Virginia slave census schedules not available online may show Campbell Slemp did as well.
  2. ^ Sons of American Revolution Application for Campbell Bascom Slemp, dated March 1924, available online
  3. ^ 1880 U.S. Federal Census for Turkey Cove, Lee County, Virginia
  4. ^ findagrave no. 13440382
  5. ^ Memorial p. 26
  6. ^ Lorence T. Wagner, "Cumberland Gap During the Civil War" in Bicentennial History of Lee County Virginia 1792-1992, p. 31
  7. ^ Memorial p. 15, speech by Mr. Gaines of West Virginia
  8. ^ Jefrrey G. Weaver, 64th Virginia Infantry (Lynchburg, H.E. Howard, Inc. The Virginia Regimental Histories Series; 1992) pp. 1-5
  9. ^ Speech of Rep. Jones, available at http://babel.hathitrust.org/cgi/pt?id=uva.x004873490;view=1up;seq=9 Campbell Slemp, late a representative from Virginia, Memorial addresses delivered in the House of Representatives frontispiece 1909
  10. ^ Memorial pp. 12, 22


U.S. House of Representatives
Preceded by
William F. Rhea
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Virginia's 9th congressional district

March 4, 1903 – October 13, 1907
Succeeded by
C. Bascom Slemp