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HEMPSTEAD, Junius Lackland
HEMPSTEAD, Junius Lackland. (Dubuque, IA, Nov. 14, 1842--Jennings, Louisiana, September 16, 1920). At the age of eleven, Junius was sent to Fieldings College in St. Charles, Missouri. He showed artistic talent and won first prize and $75 at the St. Louis fair for the "Best Original Statuette in Marble." He called his work "The Gladiator." The following year he won the same award and $100 for a figure in Carrara marble he called "A Highlander." The sponsor of the award offered to pay all expenses to send Junius to Paris and Italy for six years of further study. Stephen HEMPSTEAD, Junius' father, however chose to send his son to the Virginia Military Institute in Lexington, Virginia. (1)
Only eight months after Junius' arrival at the Institute, Virginia voted to secede from the Union. In response to one of their teachers volunteering for military service in the Confederacy, his students joined him. Hempstead was initially left at VMI to guard their small arsenal. Soon, however, he was ordered to help guard five wagons full of gunpowder 150 miles to Harper's Ferry.
We marched all the way on foot, and were dusty enough, and tired enough when we reached out destination. We had a soldier's welcome from the VMI graduates, and also a royal welcome, from the volunteers there assembled.
The commanding officer appointed Hempstead and the other who guarded the gunpowder as "drill masters." With the evacuation of Harper's Ferry on June 14, 1861, Hempstead became part of activity meant to destroy property useful to the North. On June 19th:
I was ordered on much extra, hazardous and rough duty. At Martinsburg we burned the railroad bridge and made steam on a number of locomotives, that we sent crashing over the deep chasm, and piled them one on another.
Hempstead did not provide detail on other battles and there are no official records of his service in the 5th Virgina Infantry. On August 12, 1861 almost all the officers at Camp Harman, near Centerville, Virginia wrote to Confederate President Jefferson DAVIS asking that Hempstead be given a commission in the Regular Confederate State's Army.
Early in the spring of 1862, his mother attempted to visit him in Charlestown, Virginia. By the time he received it, the letter was a month old, but he entered the city in disguise. His mother had left and he was hidden in a closet by an aunt. Upon returning to Confederate lines, he reported all that he had seen to General "Stonewall" Jackson.
Hempstead's commission was received in 1862 and he was elected lieutenant of Company F of the 25th Virginia Regiment. According to official records, he was seriously wounded in the shoulder at the Second Battle of Manassas. He was wounded and captured on May 5, 1864 at the Battle of the Wilderness.
On May 17th, 1864 Hempstead was taken as a prisoner to Ft. Delaware. On August 20th he and 599 other Confederate officers were shipped to a stockade on Morris Island, South Carolina. There they were confined, four men to a tent, within range of both Union and Confederate guns for forty-two days. Hempstead was later moved to Fort Pulaski, Georgia north of Savannah along the coast. A diary he had been keeping since a prisoner was lost. It was found years later and returned to Hempstead's family and was published in the February 1981 issue of Civil War Times Illustrated.
Hempstead and all but seventeen of the former officers stoically refused to take the oath of allegiance until March 1865. He returned to Dubuque and began a book about the wartime experience of the six hundred officers.
I have not written it for any other purpose than to show the other side of the question. I cannot sit by a hear of Andersonville and other Southern prisons and hear them run down our brave South, when they themselves have acted a hundred times more brutally.
Hempstead and the officers he was imprisoned with formed the Society of the Immortal Six Hundred. Hempstead served as the president for five years while efforts were made to erect a monument in their memory. This did not occur nor work toward getting a law passed to compensate them for their treatment.
Hempstead was bitter toward VMI for ignoring the contributions he and members of his class made during the war. Eventually the alumni association encouraged the school to include all students who attended the Institute in the school directory.
Unable to reestablish himself in Dubuque, Hempstead moved to Chicago. By the time of his mother's death on January 4, 1871 he had moved to Memphis. In the 1880s he lost contact with his wife and children and moved to Louisiana. His only social contacts were reportedly veterans associations and the "600 Society." He became a writer whose best known works include: "The Conspirator"-a tragedy in five acts (1880), "The Mill of the Gods"--a tragedy in four acts (1882), Parnassian Niches (1892), A Chequered Destiny (1905) and Brain Rambles (poetry) (1905). (2)
1. Granstra, Pat. "Separate Lives, Shared Misery: A Look at Two of the “Immortal Six Hundred” Part I". Online: http://www.civilwarprimer.com/page/20/
2. Moulton, Charles Wells, The Magazine of Poetry, Vol. 4, 1892, p. 175. Online: http://books.google.com/books?id=wAYTAAAAIAAJ&pg=PA177&lpg=PA177&dq=Junius+Lackland+Hempstead+%28dubuque%29&source=bl&ots=sAUhQmggXc&sig=UwY49nZl_YoZj5nqjUACHR8o8o4&hl=en&sa=X&ei=DOKgU4K6MIWkyATCh4GgBw&ved=0CFIQ6AEwBw#v=onepage&q=Junius%20Lackland%20Hempstead%20%28dubuque%29&f=false
3. Seymour, Ron. "Junius Hempstead" 1842 - 1920 Author, Sculptor, Soldier. Online: http://iagenweb.org/dubuque/bio/Hempstead_J.htm