HON. J. WARREN KEIFER, president of the Lagonda National Bank, at Springfield and one of the oldest and ablest members of the National Congress, has long been one of Ohio's honored and distinguished citizens. He was born on Mad River, Clark County, Ohio, January 30, 1836 and is a son of Joseph and Mary (SMITH) KEIFER.

Joseph KEIFER was born at Sharpsburg, Maryland, December 28, 1784 and died in Clark County, Ohio, April 13, 1850, having come to this country in 1812. He had qualified himself for the civil engineering profession and while the main occupation of his life was farming, his professional knowledge was of use in the development of these then wild regions, the construction of highways and other work of a civilizing tendency. He married Mary SMITH, who was born January 31, 1799, in Losantiville (now Cincinnati), and died at Yellow Springs, Clark County, March 23, 1879. Through his mother General KEIFER traces his ancestral line to England. The SMITH family was one early established in New Jersey and in 1790, a branch removed to Ohio.

J. Warren KEIFER was educated in the public schools and at Antioch College. Upon completing his collegiate course, he returned to the home farm and between the intervals of agricultural labor he devoted himself assiduously to the study of law. After further student work in the law office of ANTHONY and GOODE, he was admitted to the bar in 1858, at Springfield, Ohio.

Almost before the young lawyer had an opportunity to prove his ability, the Civil War was precipitated upo the country and his ambitions, like those of hundreds of his fellow citizens, fell into abeyance before the great wave of patriotic enthusiasm that swept Ohio. He no longer saw before him forensic triumphs and the judicial toga, the picture of a disrupted country filling his whole vision. He enlisted in defense of the Union on April 19, 1861, being among the first to proffer his services. They were so prolonged and of so distinguished a character that their records appear in every contemporary history of Ohio. On April 27, 1861, he was commissioned major of the Third Ohio Volunteer Infantry, for a period of three months and before the expiration of that time was commissioned for three years. He participated in the battle of Rich Mountain, July 11, 1861 and in the same year was on the field at Cheat Mountain and Elk Water, West Virginia. On February 12, 1862, he was commissioned Lieutenant Colonel of the Third Ohio Infantry Regiment and was present at the capture of Bowling Green, Kentucky; Nashville, Tennessee and Huntsville and Bridgeport, Alabama.In April 1862, he led an expedition into Georgia and performed an important service in destroying the saltpeter works at Nickajack Cave. On September 30, 1862, he was commissioned Colonel of the 110th Regiment, Ohio Volunteer Infantry and being assigned to General Milroy's division in West Virginia, was placed in command of a brigade and the post at Moorefield. On June 13th, 14th and 15th, 1863, was fought the battles of Winchester, in which Colonel KEIFER was twice wounded.

On July 9, 1863, Colonel KEIFER was assigned to the Third Army Corps, Army of Potomac, which pursed General LEE'S army and fought at Wapping Heights. In August 1863, Colonel KEIFER was dispatched with his command to New York City to suppress riots and enforce the draft. This work successfully accomplished, in September he rejoined the army and November 27, 1863, he took part in the battle of Mine Run. On March 24, 1864, he was transferred to the Sixth Army Corps. At the battle of the Wilderness, May 5, 1864, he was seriously wounded, but in August following, in spite of his disability, he resumed command of his brigade. His adoring soldiers saw their commander, with his wounded arm still in a sling, fighting at their head under General SHERIDAN and WRIGHT through the battles of Opequon, Fisher's Hill and Cedar Creek, down to Shenandoah Valley, having his horse shot from under him in the first named battle. Recognition of his bravery and indomitable courage was shown by President LINCOLN, who brevetted him a Brigadier General.

In December, 1864, with his own corps, General KEIFER rejoined the Army of the Potomac in front of Petersburg and March 25, 1865, he led a successful assault which received commendation in general orders; on April 2, he charged with his division in the final assault which carried the main works and resulted in the capture of Petersburg and Richmond: Quoting from an authority: "April 5, his command aided in cutting off the retreat of LEE'S Army and forced it to give battle on the 6th at Sailor's Creek, the wings of the army (General KEIFER commanding the left) being forced forward, surrounded and effected the capture of above 6,000 of the enemy, including Generals EWELL, KERSHAW, CUSTIS LEE, BARTON, CORSE, HUNTON and other officers of high rank."

General KEIFER again distinguished himself. On information reaching him, at this time, that a body of the enemy was concealed in a dense forest to the right, he rode in person to find out if the information was correct and came suddenly upon the Confederate troops. The shades of night were fortunately falling and the air was clouded with the smoke of battle and when he shouted to the waiting troops the command "forward" they followed after him, suspecting nothing. The great moment came when the edge of the wood was reached and discovery was made that they had been obeying the commands of a Union officer. It probably has never yet been thoroughly explained why he was not pierced then by a hundred Confederate bullets, but possible his unflinching courage and cool presence of mind so excited the admiration of the Confederate officers that they permitted him to escape to his own troops. The latter soon surrounded the Confederate body, capturing all of them. Later, General KEIFER used his influence in having the Confederate officers paroled from Johnson's Island. His corps was later sent to aid in the capture of General JOHNSTON'S army in North Carolina and he was present at the capitulation of General JOHNSTON, as he had been at that of General LEE. Thus was ended a military service scarcely equaled by any other officer in detail. In 1866 he was tendered a commission as Lieutenant Colonel of the Twenty-sixth United States Infantry, but this honor he declined.

Many years after General KEIFER added another page of his military career. In April 1898, when war with Spain was declared, he was again ready for service, although sixty-two years of age. Appointed a Major General by President MCKINLEY, he served in command of the Seventh Army Corps at Miami and Jacksonville, Florida and embarked at Savannah, with 16,000 men for Cuba, establishing his headquarters at Buena Vista, just outside the ancient city of Havana. He was in command of the United States military forces, which took possession of that city, January 1, 1899. In May 1899, he was mustered out of the military service and quietly resumed his interrupted law practice in Springfield. This practice has covered a period of fifty years and at present General KEIFER is associated in law partnership with his two sons, William W. and Horace C.

The political life of General KEIFER also covers a long period and as a statesman he has won the commendation and admiration of his fellow-citizens in equal degree as a soldier. From 1868 until 1870, he served with marked efficiency as a member of the Ohio State Senate and he is the author of many of the most important laws adopted during that period. In 1876 he was sent as a delegate to the Republican National Convention and in the same year was elected to Congress, where he served continuously from 1877 until 1885. In December 1881, he was chosen speaker of the House, which position he filled with his usual distinction, enjoying the prestige of being the first and only Ohio man who was selected for this office, until March 4, 1883. The public records shows how untiring were his labors for the welfare of his country. Following his service in the Spanish American War, General KEIFER was again called into public life and in 1904 he was again elected to Congress. He was re-elected again and again and still, like a sturdy oak, stands as the representative of his district at Washington. As a matter of fact there are few members of the House of Representatives who can trace their service back so far as can Ohio's favorite son, Joseph Warren KEIFER.

On March 22, 1860, General KEIFER was married to Eliza STOUT, who was born in Springfield, Ohio. He and his wife have been the parents of three sons and one daughter. Joseph Warren (now a member of the Nebraska Legislature), who resides in Nebraska, William W. and Major Horace C. both of whom are associated with their father in the practice of law. Margaret E. who is now deceased. Major H.C. KEIFER is a member and officer of the Ohio National Guard.

General KEIFER has served almost continuously as President of the Lagonda National Bank, at Springfield, since 1873. From 1870-1878 he served as one of the trustees of the Soldiers' and Sailors' Orphan Home, at Xenia, having organized its Board of Control in 1868. As a member of the Grand Army of the Republic, he has done much for the interests of the soldiers and has been honored with official position. So full has been his life of active participation in public matters that it is remarkable to find that beside his close study in connection with an immense legal practice, he has found the time to turn his attention to literature. He wrote his political history, "Slavery and Four Years of War," in 1895-6, but interesting addenda was made after the Spanish American War, prior to the issuance of the book, in 1900. The work is comprehensive and convincing.

Since beginning public life, General KEIFER has been noted for his oratory and he has not yet ceased gathering laurels. At the annual banquet of the Pittsburgh Board of Trade, held at Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, March 26, 1907, he delivered an eloquent address on "The Panama Canal," having recently returned from a trip to the canal zone. He resides in a beautiful home, which stands at No. 1220 East High Street, Springfield, Ohio.

Source: History of Clark County and Representative Citizens

EXCERPT FROM SLAVERY AND FOUR YEARS OF WAR by J. W. Keifer photographs from his book


EXCERPT FROM SLAVERY AND FOUR YEARS OF WAR by J. W. Keifer relating to family

Link to biography of J.W. Keifer, as former speaker of the U. S. House of Representatives.