He was born in Duplin County, North Carolina on February 12, 1838 and graduated from the University of North Carolina. His occupation prior to the war was a lawyer. He enlisted as Captain of Co. C, 12th North Carolina State Troops on April 15, 1861. He later became Captain of Co. A, 43rd North Carolina State Troops on March 6, 1862. Kenan was promoted to Lt. Col. on March 20, 1862 and then to Col. on April 21, 1862. He was wounded and captured at Gettysburg, not released until his parole on March 14, 1865. After the war, Kenan married Sallie Dortch in 1866 and lived in Kenansville. He died in Raleigh, North Carolina on December 23, 1911.