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Thomas Lanier Clingman, 1812-1897


Thomas Lanier Clingman, 1812-1897


Thomas Cingman was a prominent political leader from the high country of North Carolina. Born in a little town called Huntsville, Clingman served in the House of Representatives and then in the U.S. senate prior to North Carolina's secession. After North Carolina seceded, Clingman served in the Confederate Army. By examining speeches and writings of a political figure from the North Carolina mountains, perhaps we can better understand the thoughts and ideologies of The mountain people prior to the Civil War.


Kornegay, Dustin


Thomas Clingman is often overlooked in the history of the Civil War yet he played an extremely crucial role in the political realm in the years prior to 1861. Clingman was Southern through and through yet secession was not on his agenda. He adamantly fought to save the Union. His plan required the implementation of Southern rights throughout the National party system. He felt as if a fair balanced approach would silence radicals on both the Northern and Southern side. It was until North Carolina seceded that he gave up on peace and joined the Southern cause.(637, Harris) This shows that even some Southerners wanted to savage the Union. It shows how strongly Southerners believed in the institution of slavery and the societal norms which were common in the South. It is ironic that Clingman had the same ultimate goal that the Union had. How similar were Clingman’s views to other Southerner’s? Or how similar were they to the people of the North Carolina mountains who were his constituents when he served in the House of Representatives? It just goes to show that generalizations should not be used when studying history, especially Civil War history. As a mountain man himself, Cingman understood the isolated feeling of many of the people he represented. In order to appeal to his constituents he often tried to portray himself as an independent though he was a member of the Whig party prior to the war and the democratic party after. Clingman also fought against the political powers of central North Carolina who had a hold on North Carolina politics. Though this pleased the mountain people, it also created many powerful enemies in the central part of the state who held a firm grip on political power after the war. Clingman shows how the issues, ideas, and beliefs were complex and varied from one person to the next, further proving that no generalizations should be made. Ultimately Clingman was a unique, often forgotten Southerner. Revealing pieces of his life will broaden ones understanding of the Civil War.


Harris, William. "Review of Thomas Lanier Clingman:Fire Eater from the Carolina Mountains." The Journal of Southern History. 66. no. 3 (2000): 636-638. (accessed April 11, 2012).

Thomas Jeffrey, Thomas Lanier Cingman: Fire Eater from the Carolina Mountains, (Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1998).


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Kornegay, Dustin, Thomas Lanier Clingman, 1812-1897, Civil War Era NC, accessed February 25, 2024,