Thomas J. Clingman, U.S. Senator and Confederate General

Photo of portrait of Thomas Clingman. Image courtesy of NC Museum of History.

An image of  Clingman from
the N.C. Museum of History

On July 27, 1812, Thomas Clingman was born at Huntsville, in what is now Yadkin County. Clingman is known for both his service as a U.S. Senator and Confederate general and for boosting the development of western North Carolina. The highest peak in the Great Smoky Mountain range is named Clingman’s Dome in his honor.

Clingman served in the state House of Representatives, state Senate and U.S. House of Representatives before being appointed to fill a vacated U. S. Senate seat in 1858. He was the last Southerner to leave the Senate in 1861.

During the Civil War, Clingman rose quickly to the position of brigadier general. Despite his unremarkable military career, he was prevented from returning to political office due to the provisions of his amnesty.

Clingman worked to promote the popularity of western North Carolina, publicizing the region through writing and lectures. For more than 10 years, Clingman engaged in a fierce debate with Elisha Mitchell about which peak was the tallest in North Carolina. In 1858 geographer Arnold Guyot, having determined that what became Mount Mitchell was 39 feet taller, named Clingman’s Dome for its proponent.

Read more in A History of Mt. Mitchell and the Black Mountains: Exploration, Development, and Preservation from N.C. Historical Publications.

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2 responses to “Thomas J. Clingman, U.S. Senator and Confederate General”

  1. 11cvmshistoricthoughts says :

    I am looking for a portrait of Senator Clingman painted by George Henry Story, anyone know the where it might be? I am preparing a presentation telling about the artist and Clingman from the artists notes. The artist is my great – great Uncle, I tell his stories in my career as a professional storyteller.

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