John Doby Kennedy was born on January 5, 1840 in Camden, South Carolina, the son of a Scots immigrant. John was a student at South Carolina College for two years and was a first lieutenant in a Camden militia company, the Camden Light Infantry.
On October 28, 1857 he married Elizabeth Cunningham. They had seven children together.
A wealthy man, Kennedy’s personal estate was valued at $335,000 in 1860, which included ownership of sixty slaves.
Kennedy had just been admitted to the bar when South Carolina seceded. He enlisted in April of 1861 and was elected captain of Company E of the Second South Carolina Infantry Regiment, which was under the command of Colonel Joseph Kershaw.
The Second South Carolina was sent to Virginia and fought at the First Battle of Manassas, where Kennedy was badly wounded. He recovered to take Kershaw’s place as colonel when Kershaw was promoted to brigadier general in February of 1862.
Kennedy commanded the Second South Caroina at the Battle of Savage’s Station before contracting a fever which kept hiim out of action until the beginning of the Maryland Campaign.
At the Battle of Sharpsburg he was again wounded, shot in the foot in his Achilles tendon leading a charge across the Hagerstown Pike during the morning fighting.
Kennedy returned to his regiment in time for the Battle of Fredericksburg in December of 1862, where he and his South Carolinians defended Marye’s Heights. He fought at Chancellorsville and Gettysburg, where his regiment fought on the Rose farm and he was badly wounded leading a charge against a Union battery near the Peach Orchard.
Kennedy recovered from his wound by November in time to rejoin his regiment, which was with Longstreet in the Knoxville Campaign. In the fighting around Knoxville Kennedy was wounded yet again.
Kennedy returned from this wound to command his regiment at the Wilderness, where he suffered his fifth wound. He almost died from loss of blood, and did not return to command until December, when his South Carolinians were with Early’s Army in the Shenandoah Valley. Kennedy was given command of the brigade, whose leadership had been badly thinned, as senior colonel.
In December of 1864 Kennedy and his brigade were brought back to South Carolina at the request of South Carolina Governor Andrew Magrath. He was made a temporary Brigadier General and assigned to Lafayette McLaws’ Division of Hardee’s Corps. He led his brigade in the Carolina campaign until the surrender at Greensboro.
During the war Kennedy was wounded a total of six times and was hit an additional fifteen times by spent balls.
After the war he became a planter until he was finally able to established his law practice in 1877. Although elected to the U.S. Congress in 1865 he was refused his seat when he declined to take the Oath of Allegiance.
Elizabeth Kennedy died in 1876. John married Harriet Boykin, and the couple had one child together.
In 1878 Kennedy was elected to the South Carolina legislature, and in 1880 he was elected Lieutenant Governor. He served for two years but lost the Democratic party nomination for Governor in 1880. In 1886 President Cleveland appointed him Counsul-general in Shanghai, China, a post he held for three years. He returned to Camden and resumed his law practice until his death.
John Kennedy died of a stroke on April 14, 1896. He is buried in Camden’s Quaker Cemetery. He is memorialized by a chapter of the United Daughters of the Confederacy.