Jeremiah Clemens

Photo by Mathew Brady (Library of Congress)
 Politician, U.S. Senator, Soldier, Author, and Delegate for Madison County to Alabama's Secession Convention

Born:December 28, 1814, Huntsville, AL
Died:May 19, 1865, Huntsville, AL
Buried:Maple Hill Cemetery, Huntsville, AL


•  Second cousin to Mark Twain

•  US Senator. Served as a United States Senator from Alabama from 1849 to 1853. Also served as a Member of the Alabama State Legislature. A second cousin of legendary author Mark Twain (Samuel Clemens), he was also the author of novels including "Bernard Lyle," "Mustang Gray," "The Rivals," "A Tale of the Times of Aaron Burr and Alexander Hamilton," and "Tobias Wilson, a Tale of the Great Rebellion." (bio by: Graveaddiction - FindaGrave

•  "The name of Jeremiah Clemens is associated with the history of Madison. He was the son of James Clemens, who came from Kentucky and settled in this county as early as 1812. His mother was the sister of Hon. Archie E. Mills, who represented Limestone in 1838, and of John F. Mills, sheriff of Madison at one time. The son was born in Huntsville, December 28,1814. His parents were wealthy, and gave him every educational advantage. He took a course at Lagrange, then graduated at the State University in 1833, and read in the law school of Transylvania University. In 1834 he was admitted to the bar, and opened an office in Huntsville. When the trouble with the Cherokees arose he volunteered as a private. In 1838 he was appointed federal district attorney for the northern and middle districts of this State, an office he held only a few months. The three succeeding years he represented Madison in the house of representatives. In 1842 he raised a company of volunteers to serve in Texas, and, soon after entering the service of the lone star republic, was chosen lieutenant colonel of a regiment. Returning, he again represented the county in 1843, and was re-elected in '44 When the "ten regiment bill" passed congress, March 1847, he received a commission as major of the 13th Infantry. He soon became lieutenant colonel, and, in April '48, was promoted to the colonelcy of the Ninth Infantry. "When the war closed he left the army. He was an unsuccessful candidate against Mr. Cobb of Jackson for representative in congress in 1849, but was elected to the federal senate over ex-Gov. Fitzpatrick for the unexpired term of Hon. D. H. Lewis. His career in the senate was brilliant, and he left it in 1853 with a national fame. In 1856 he was a candidate for elector for the State on the Fillmore ticket, and the same year published "Bernard Idle," a romance couched in gorgeous diction, and abounding in thrilling episode. This was followed within two years by "Mustang Gray" and "The Rivals," works of a similar order. In 1859 he removed to Memphis to edit a newspaper in association with Gen. Borland of Arkansas, but the scheme was short-lived. He was elected to the constitutional convention of 1861, and voted against but afterwards signed the secession ordinance. He was about that time appointed major general of the State forces by Gov. Moore, but was engaged in no active service. During the federal occupancy of Huntsville he again became a Unionist, and visited the North. While there he published a pamphlet which greatly misrepresented his fellow-citizens. It was near the close of the war that he died in Huntsville. Col. Clemens was five feet ten inches in highth, slender and erect, with dark eyes and straight dark hair. Worn cavalierly, his hair gave a poetic expression to his pale and effeminate features, which wore of a decidedly intellectual cast. He was not eloquent, but was polished and elaborate in his language, and very winning and fascinating to persons of culture. His speeches required preparation, and, like those of Demosthenes, "smelt of the lamp'; but were models of elegant diction. He was dissipated at times, and, when Mr. Yancey urged him in private to forsake his habits while they were electors in 1856 and canvassing, he replied that he was obliged to drink to bring his genius down to a level with Mr. Y's. He married a daughter of Mr. John Reed, a Huntsville merchant. His only child married a Mr. King of Georgia, killed at Chicamauga, and is now the wife of Dr. Townsend of Philadelphia." - Brewer's Alabama History

•  "CLEMENS, JEREMIAH, lawyer and author, U. S. senator, was born December 28, 1814, in Huntsville, and died May 21, 1865, at that place; son of James Clemens, who came from Kentucky to Alabama, and settled in Madison County in 1812. His mother was a sister of Hon. Archie E. Mills, who represented Limestone County in the State legislature in 1838, and of John Mills, at one time sheriff of Madison County. He attended LaGrange College, and the University of Alabama, and was graduated from the latter institution, 1833. He studied law at Transylvania University; was admitted to the bar in 1834, and opened a law office in Huntsville. When the trouble with the Cherokee Indians broke out that same year, he volunteered in the U. S. Army as a private. He was appointed U. S. district attorney for the northern district of Alabama by President Van Buren in 1838, and represented Madison County in the State legislature in 1839, 1840, and 1841. He raised a company of riflemen and with them joined the Texan revolutionists in 1842, serving in the army as lieutenant-colonel. Returning to Alabama in 1843, he was again elected to the State legislature that year, and re-elected in 1844. In the latter year, he also served as presidential elector. When war with Mexico was declared, he raised a company of volunteers and was commissioned major of the Thirteenth U. S. infantry, March 3, 1847. He was promoted lieutenant-colonel, April, 1848, and colonel of the Ninth infantry, July 6, 1848. He was discharged July 20, 1848, and remained in Mexico as chief of the depot of purchases. Mr. Clemens was an unsuccessful candidate against Mr. Cobb of Jackson for representative in congress in 1849, but was elected to the U. S. senate over ex-Gov. Fitzpatrick for the unexpired term of Hon. Dixon H. Lewis, December 3, 1849. He served through the Thirty-first and Thirty-second congresses. He was a presidential elector for Alabama on the Fillmore ticket in 1856, and in 1858 took up his residence in Memphis, Tenn., assuming the editorship of the 'Eagle and Enquirer' in association with Gen. Borland. That enterprise was short lived, and he returned to Alabama. He was a member of the secession convention of Alabama of 1861, and was opposed to immediate secession, preferring what was known as the co-operative policy after consultation with the other southern states. After he ascertained that the ordinance of secession would pass by a large majority, he voted for it assigning reasons for so doing, which have been published in 'The History and Debates of the Convention of the People of Alabama,' by William R. Smith. He was appointed major-general of the state militia by Gov. Moore in 1861, but was engaged in no active service. During the Federal occupancy of Huntsville, he again became a Unionist, and visited the North. In 1864 he advocated the re-election of President Lincoln. Mr. Clemens wrote several novels including 'Bernard Lyle,' 1853, a historical novel; 'Mustang Gray,' 1857; 'The Rivals,' 1859, a story of the times of Aaron Burr and Alexander Hamilton; 'Tobias Wilson, or a Tale of the Great Rebellion,' 1865; and left incomplete a history of the war. A manuscript volume containing copies of his correspondence with Gov. A. B. Moore and others at the beginning of the War of Secession, when he was in command of the state troops, is in the possession of his only child, Mrs. V. W. Townsend, of Mexico. In politics he was first a Whig, and later a Democrat . Married: December 4, 1834, Mary L. Read, daughter of John Read, a merchant at Huntsville. Children: 1. Mary R., m. (1) a Mr. King of Georgia, who was killed in the battle of Chickamanga, (2) Dr. W. W. Townsend of Philadelphia, resides at San Pedro de los Finos, Tacubaya, D. F., Mexico. Last residence: Huntsville." - Alabama Biography

•  "We are out; we have bid adieu to the Stars and Stripes, and abandoned the high privilege of calling ourselves American citizen. l am not ashamed to confess that I could not restrain my tears when the old banner which I have followed through so many dangers was torn down, and the flag of Alabama was raised in its place. I cannot restrain them now when l am writing, but the deed is done, a new era has dawned, and all that I can promise is that no effort shall be spared on my part to prevent it from becoming an era of disgrace. If we are not already involved in a war, we soon will be. There is no hope of peace, and he is but little better than a madman who dreams of a long exemption from invasion. I shall meet it as & soldier should, and fight through it as long as a hope remains." - CDND

•  "Clemens reentered politics in the secession crisis. He led the Unionist forces in North Alabama and was elected to the state's secession convention. In a dramatic speech he declared disunion to be "wrong" and "treason." He nevertheless signed the ordinance of secession and wrote a crucial letter declaring "every [convention] member from North Alabama stands pledged to abide by the action of the Convention." His endorsement dampened opposition to the Confederacy in North Alabama in 1861. That same year he was appointed major general of Alabama. Failing to receive a powerful Confederate military commission that he believed was due him because of his military experience, Clemens led Alabama Unionists in opposition to the Confederacy by 1862, earning the title of "archtraitor" among Confederates in his home state. He traveled between Huntsville and Philadelphia until his death, producing anti-Confederate political documents and writing a Unionist novel, Tobias Wilson: A Tale of the Great Rebellion (1865)." - Bio of the Day

Related Links:

•  Alabama Biography - History of Alabama and Dictionary of Alabama Biography, Volume 3 By Thomas McAdory Owen, Marie Bankhead Owen, © 1921, pp. 348-9.

•  Bio of the Day - by Amos J. Wright, Jan 2, 2007 (Originally found at

•  Biographical Directory of the US Congress - US Congressional Bio

•  Brewer's Alabama History - Alabama, Her History, Resources, War Record, and Public Men: From 1540 to 1872 By Willis Brewer, © 1872, p 362.

•  CDND - California Digital Newspaper Collection. Sacramento Daily Union, Volume 20, Number 3087, February 18, 1861. Atlantic Intelligence

•  Encyclopedia of Alabama - Bio

•  Encyclopedia of Alabama - Entry on the Know Nothing Party, Clemens ran for office with this party.

•  FindaGrave - Bio by Graveaddiction. Photo Of Clemens added by "The Mystery Man". Photo os the tombstone by Stonewall (Originally found at In Find a Grave.)

•  Flickr: - Photo of home by Joseph Richardson, March 28, 2008.

•  Ghost Stories and Haunted Places - Posted by Jessica Penot, author of Haunted North Alabama, © 2010 (Originally found at

• - Percentage of votes missed in the US Senate

•  Jonathon White's Blog - Letter explaining his vote for secession. (Originally found at

•  Library of Congress - Photo by Mathew Brady

•  New York Times - His speech before his vote for seccession

•  New York Times Obituary - NYT obituary (may require payment to view)

• - photo (Originally found at

•  Ranker - Books By Jeremiah Clemens (Originally found at

•  Wikipedia

The Following Pages Link to this Page:
•  Alabama Biography
•  Brewer's Alabama History