Kemper, Samuel (unknown–1814)

By: Harris Gaylord Warren

Type: Biography

Published: 1952

Updated: November 6, 2019

Samuel Kemper, filibuster, was born in Fauquier County, Virginia, and moved with his father to Ohio in 1800. The next year Samuel, Reuben, and Nathan Kemper took up their residence in southwestern Mississippi and West Florida. Frequently in trouble with Spanish authorities, the Kemper brothers led an abortive rebellion in West Florida in 1804. Kemper operated a tavern at Pinckneyville until he became a major in the Gutiérrez-Magee expedition. He led the advance guard, which forced Royalist defenders of Nacogdoches to retreat and paved the way for the village's occupation on August 12, 1812. When Augustus W. Magee died at La Bahía on February 6, 1813, Kemper became commander of the American contingent.

At that time Simón de Herrera and Manuel María de Salcedo were besieging La Bahía; but under Kemper's leadership the filibusters defeated the Royalists and forced them to retreat to San Antonio. On March 19, 1813, Kemper and Gutiérrez marched toward the capital of Texas, San Antonio, with an army of 800 men. Ten days later they defeated the Royalists in the battle of Rosillo, an engagement that turned into a rout when Kemper and Reuben Ross led a furious charge against the Spanish forces. Salcedo attempted to parley for the capitulation of San Antonio, but Kemper demanded and received an unconditional surrender. Accompanied by several officers, he dined with Salcedo and Herrera on April 1, and on the next day Salcedo disarmed his men. The murder of Salcedo, Herrera, and other officers on April 3 disgusted Kemper, and he decided to withdraw from the expedition. He accepted a furlough from Gutiérrez, arrived at Natchitoches, Louisiana, on May 7, 1813, and reached St. Francisville, Louisiana, on May 26. Other filibuster leaders attempted to interest Kemper in efforts to renew the fight; but, seriously ill, he refused their invitations and died at St. Francisville in 1814.

Isaac Joslin Cox, The West Florida Controversy, 1798–1813: A Study in American Diplomacy (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Press, 1918). Julia Kathryn Garrett, Green Flag Over Texas: A Story of the Last Years of Spain in Texas (Austin: Pemberton Press, 1939). Harris Gaylord Warren, The Sword Was Their Passport: A History of American Filibustering in the Mexican Revolution (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1943).

  • Exploration
  • Explorers (American)
Time Periods:
  • Spanish Texas

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.

Harris Gaylord Warren, “Kemper, Samuel,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed May 22, 2022,

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

November 6, 2019

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