Thomas Lanier Clingman

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Thomas Lanier Clingman
General Thomas Clingman.jpg
(Library of Congress Picture)

Thomas Lanier Clingman

Thomas Clingman : Biographical Sketch

Thomas Lanier Clingman was born at Huntsville, N.C., July 27, 1812, son of Jacob and Jane (Poindexter) Clingman. His grandfather, Alexander Clingman, a native of Germany, emigrated to Pennsylvania, served in the continental army, was captured in General Lincoln's surrender, and after the war made his home in Yadkin, now Surry County, becoming allied by marriage with the Patillo family. Young Clingman was graduated by the University of North Carolina, and law at Hinsboro, where in 1835 he was elected to the legislature as a White, beginning a career of national prominence in politics. Relocating to Asheville in 1836, he won considerable fame in a public discussion, concerning a proposed railroad, with Colonel Memminger, of South Carolina, and was elected to the State senate. He speedily assumed leadership in the Whig Party, and in 1843 was elected to Congress, where he served in the lower house until 1858, continuously with the exception of the twenty-ninth Congress. In 1858 he was appointed United States senator to succeed Asa Biggs, and at the end of this term was elected. He participated in many famous debates in Congress, and attained a position of leadership in national affairs. His speech on the causes of the defeat of Henry Clay led to a duel with William L. Yancey, of Alabama. On January 21, 1861, he withdrew from Congress with the other Southern members, and in May was selected to bear assurances to the Confederate Congress that North Carolina would enter the Confederacy. Volunteering for the military service, though nearly fifty years of age, he was elected colonel of the Twenty-fifth North Carolina infantry, and eight months later was promoted brigadier-general. In the department of science he was distinguished in law, statecraft and war. He explored the mountains of North Carolina, establishing the fact that they contained the loftiest peaks of the Appalachian range, one of the chief of which, measured by him in 1855, now bears his name (Clingman's Dome); opened the mica mines of Mitchell and Yancey counties; made known the existence of corundum, zircon, rubies and other gems in the State; furnished valuable evidence of the depth of the atmosphere by his observations on the August meteor of 1860, and affirmed long before the days of Edison that sound might in some way be transmitted with the speed of electricity. He published several volumes, including his public addresses. In later years the unselfish services which had brought him fame left him without the comforts of life, and the close of his days was a pathetic illustration of how the world may forget. He died at Morgantown, November 3, 1897. In Clingman's honor, Tennessee's highest mountain, also partly in North Carolina, was named Clingman's Dome. (Recommended reading: Clingman's Brigade in the Confederacy, 1862-1865.)

"I regret this assault more than any one I ever ordered." General U. S. Grant after the Confederates routed the Union forces at Cold Harbor

Clingman was an ardent lawyer, Fire-Eater, and one of the most outspoken politicians of his era. His proslavery and states' rights positions climaxed with his quote to Congress, "Do us justice and we stand with you; attempt to trample on us and we separate!" He initially commanded the 25th North Carolina Infantry Regiment and subsequently Clingman's Brigade.

General Robert E. Lee's trust and esteem for Clingman were vividly reflected when Lee ordered  Clingman to defend Richmond, Virginia. Later, at Lee's request, General Clingman and his "Bonnie Blue Boys" greatly assisted in routing the Union forces at the Battle of Cold Harbor, Virginia. General Ulysses S. Grant was a West Point graduate and veteran of the Mexican-American War, and he wrote of Cold Harbor, "I regret this assault more than any one I ever ordered." General Grant was elected the Eighteenth President of the United States. Clingman's principal services were witnessed in: the defense of Goldsboro; defense of Sullivan's island and Battery Wagner during the attack on Charleston; the attack on New Bern in February 1864; the defeat of Butler at Drewry's bluff, May 1864; the Battle of Cold Harbor, where he was wounded; the repulse of the Federal attack on Petersburg, June 17th, and the battle on the Weldon railroad, August 19th. In the latter fight, he was severely wounded and was unable to rejoin his command until a few days before the surrender at Greensboro. After the war, he was a delegate to the national Democratic convention of 1864. Clingman was a contemporary and dear friend with the only white Cherokee Chief, William Holland ThomasThomas was a senator and during the Civil War commanded Thomas' Legion of Cherokee Indians and Highlanders.

(Bibliography listed below.)

Recommended Reading: Clingman's Brigade in the Confederacy. Description: On November 11, 1862, Brigadier General Thomas Lanier Clingman, despite a lack of formal military training, was named commander of four regiments sent to the eastern counties of North Carolina to prevent Federal troops from making further inroads into the state. Clingman has been called one of North Carolina’s most colorful and controversial statesmen, but his military career received little attention from his contemporaries and has been practically ignored by later historians. Like Clingman, the brigade, composed of the 8th, 31st, 51st, and 61st regiments of North Carolina Infantry, has been both praised and condemned for its performance in battle. Continued below...
About the Author: Retired research assistant from the Bowman Gray School of Medicine in Winston-Salem, Frances H. Casstevens, is also the author of Out of the Mouth of Hell: Civil War Prisons and Escapes, Tales from the North And the South, and The Civil War and Yadkin County, North Carolina (1997, Winner, 1998 Willie Parker Peace Award—North Carolina Society of Historians). She is a lifelong resident of Yadkin County.

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Recommended Reading: Civil War High Commands (1040 pages) (Hardcover). Description: Based on nearly five decades of research, this magisterial work is a biographical register and analysis of the people who most directly influenced the course of the Civil War, its high commanders. Numbering 3,396, they include the presidents and their cabinet members, state governors, general officers of the Union and Confederate armies (regular, provisional, volunteers, and militia), and admirals and commodores of the two navies. Civil War High Commands will become a cornerstone reference work on these personalities and the meaning of their commands, and on the Civil War itself. Errors of fact and interpretation concerning the high commanders are legion in the Civil War literature, in reference works as well as in narrative accounts. Continued below...

The present work brings together for the first time in one volume the most reliable facts available, drawn from more than 1,000 sources and including the most recent research. The biographical entries include complete names, birthplaces, important relatives, education, vocations, publications, military grades, wartime assignments, wounds, captures, exchanges, paroles, honors, and place of death and interment. In addition to its main component, the biographies, the volume also includes a number of essays, tables, and synopses designed to clarify previously obscure matters such as the definition of grades and ranks; the difference between commissions in regular, provisional, volunteer, and militia services; the chronology of military laws and executive decisions before, during, and after the war; and the geographical breakdown of command structures. The book is illustrated with 84 new diagrams of all the insignias used throughout the war and with 129 portraits of the most important high commanders.


Recommended Reading: Generals in Gray Lives of the Confederate Commanders. Description: When Generals in Gray was published in 1959, scholars and critics immediately hailed it as one of the few indispensable books on the American Civil War. Historian Stanley Horn, for example, wrote, "It is difficult for a reviewer to restrain his enthusiasm in recommending a monumental book of this high quality and value." Here at last is the paperback edition of Ezra J. Warner’s magnum opus with its concise, detailed biographical sketches and—in an amazing feat of research—photographs of all 425 Confederate generals. Continued below...

The only exhaustive guide to the South’s command, Generals in Gray belongs on the shelf of anyone interested in the Civil War. RATED 5 STARS!


Recommended Reading: Generals in Blue: Lives of the Union Commanders (Hardcover). Description: More than forty years after its original publication, Ezra J. Warner’s Generals in Blue is now available in paperback for the first time. Warner’s classic reference work includes intriguing biographical sketches and a rare collection of photos of all 583 men who attained the rank of general in the Union Army. Here are the West Point graduates and the political appointees; the gifted, the mediocre, and the inexcusably bad; those of impeccable virtue and those who abused their position; the northern-born, the foreign-born, and the southerners who remained loyal to the Union. Continued below...

Warner’s valuable introduction discusses the criteria for appointment and compares the civilian careers of both Union and Confederate generals, revealing striking differences in the two groups. Generals in Blue is that rare book—an essential volume for scholars, a prized item for buffs, and a biographical dictionary that the casual reader will find absorbing.


Recommended Reading: The Civil War in North Carolina. Description: Numerous battles and skirmishes were fought in North Carolina during the Civil War, and the campaigns and battles themselves were crucial in the grand strategy of the conflict and involved some of the most famous generals of the war. Continued below...

John Barrett presents the complete story of military engagements across the state, including the classical pitched battle of Bentonville--involving Generals Joe Johnston and William Sherman--the siege of Fort Fisher, the amphibious campaigns on the coast, and cavalry sweeps such as General George Stoneman's Raid.

Recommended Reading: Confederate Military History Of North Carolina: North Carolina In The Civil War, 1861-1865. Description: The author, Prof. D. H. Hill, Jr., was the son of Lieutenant General Daniel Harvey Hill (North Carolina produced only two lieutenant generals and it was the second highest rank in the army) and his mother was the sister to General “Stonewall” Jackson’s wife. In Confederate Military History Of North Carolina, Hill discusses North Carolina’s massive task of preparing and mobilizing for the conflict; the many regiments and battalions recruited from the Old North State; as well as the state's numerous contributions during the war. Continued below...

During Hill's Tar Heel State study, the reader begins with interesting and thought-provoking statistical data regarding the 125,000 "Old North State" soldiers that fought during the course of the war and the 40,000 that perished. Hill advances with the Tar Heels to the first battle at Bethel, through numerous bloody campaigns and battles--including North Carolina’s contributions at the "High Watermark" at Gettysburg--and concludes with Lee's surrender at Appomattox.

Bibliography: Dictionary of American Biography; Jeffrey, Thomas. ‘Thunder From the Mountains: Thomas Lanier Clingman and the End of Whig Supremacy in North Carolina.’ North Carolina Historical Review 56 (October 1979): 366-95; Kruman, Marc. ‘Thomas L. Clingman and the Whig Party: A Reconsideration.’ North Carolina Historical Review 64 (January 1987): 1-18; University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill; Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies; National Archives and Records Administration.

Try the Search Engine by entering: Thomas Clingman Senator North Carolina, Confederate General NC, US House of Representatives Biography, Summary, History Thomas Lanier Clingman Picture, Photo, Photographs, Pictures, Facts Details Essay.

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