John Kempf was born on June 21, 1839, in Saxony, Germany, the son of Caspar (d. 1858) and Margaretha (Hellrich).
His family came to the United States in 1849, and eventually settled in Michigan. Caspar reportedly died at his home in Muskegon County in 1858. By 1860 John was working in the mills in Muskegon, Muskegon County, Michigan, and living with his mother who was a housekeeper. He may have also been splitting his time living and working in Bridgton, Newaygo County.
In any case, John was 22 years old and probably residing in Bridgton when he enlisted in Company C on May 13, 1861. He was reported missing in action on July 1, 1862, at Malvern Hill, Virginia, and returned to the Regiment on November 15 at Camp Pitcher, near Alexandria, Virginia. By December he was reported on detached service working as a teamster and in fact was employed as a teamster with the Brigade wagon train from January of 1863 through February. Although the circumstances are unknown, by November 20 John was in the hospital at Washington, DC, where he remained through December of 1863, and quite likely through February of 1864.
John eventually returned to duty and was shot in the left forearm on May 12, 1864, at Spotsylvania, Virginia. He was “mustered out” on June 27, 1864, at the U.S. general hospital in Detroit, on account of a “gunshot wound of the right forearm seriously implicating the ulna joint, which wound he received while in the line of duty.” His discharge paper also noted that John was “suffering from acute inflammation of the kidneys which has attacked him since he has been wounded. His term of service having expired he is about to be mustered out of the U.S. service” therefore he was not discharged for disability.
After his discharge John returned to Michigan and was hospitalized briefly in Detroit where he John applied for a pension in late June of 1864. But he soon returned to western Michigan, and settled back in Bridgton. It seems likely that John returned to his mother’s home which was at the time apparently located in Muskegon -- although she may have been in Bridgton; in any case, the record is unclear on this.
It is known that John was subsequently treated by Dr. Augustus Maurer of Muskegon, who reported in July of 1864 that John suffered from gangrene around the wounded arm as well as “a kind of general dropsy.” And in fact John died of gangrene at his mother’s home in Muskegon on July 6, 1864. Two other former members of Company H attended him at his death, Joseph Schuler and Gustave Arndt.
In 1864 his mother applied for and received a pension (no. 90,409), drawing $8.00 per month in 1867. She eventually moved to Chicago (probably around 1870) to live with a daughter but soon returned to Michigan and by 1873 was residing in Muskegon (or perhaps in Grand Rapids) still drawing $8.00 per month pension. By 1883 she had returned to Muskegon County and was still drawing her pension.