Jeremiah Clemens, a reluctant
Confederate who soon returned to the Union fold, was born on December 28, 1814,
in Huntsville, Alabama. His father, James Clemens, was a well-to-do Kentuckian
who removed to Alabama; his mother was Minerva Mills. Young Clemens was educated
at La Grange College and at the University of Alabama. Deciding to enter the
field of law, Clemens completed a law course at Transylvania University in
Kentucky, returning to Alabama in 1834- Soon after graduation, Clemens was
appointed a federal district attorney. He developed a promising legal career (in
partnership with Senator Clement Clay) and occasionally made forays into
politics. From 1839 to 1842 and from 1843 to 1844, Clemens represented Madison
County in the state legislature. He served in the Alabama war against the
Cherokee Indians, raised a company of volunteers in the war for Texas
independence, and rose to the rank of lieutenant colonel. At the outbreak of the
Mexican War Clemens joined the U.S. Army as major of the newly raised 13th
Infantry. Promoted to lieutenant colonel in the 9th Infantry, he served as a
supply officer until his mustering-out in 1848. Returning to Alabama, Clemens
lost a race for the U.S. Congress (1849) but in the same year won election (as a
Democrat) to the U.S. Senate. In the Senate Clemens was famed for his eloquence
in debate. When his Senate term expired Clemens dabbled in writing historical
novels, with some success. Moving to Memphis in 1859, he briefly edited the
Memphis Eagle and Enquirer. In 1860, Clemens, whose political views had altered
over the years, was elected president of Tennessee's "Opposition" (Whig party)
state convention. At the Constitutional Union party's national convention he was
one of the Tennessee delegates.
In 1861 Clemens was elected to the Alabama Secession Convention and chosen chairman of the Committee of Military Affairs. Clemens was one of two leaders of the anti-secessionist, "cooperationist" minority. Bowing to the inevitable, Clemens signed the secession ordinance. As both a sop to the cooperationist minority and a recognition of his military experience, Clemens was appointed major general of the newly minted army of the "republic of Alabama." General Clemens spent the early part of 1861 organizing Alabama forces, inspecting defenses, and badgering the War Department for arms. The organization of the PACS left Clemens without a command. Political opposition blocked his appointment to any Confederate post. His health declined and he once again soured on the southern cause. In 1862 the ex-general is said to have volunteered as a Confederate private. By mid-1862, again an avowed Unionist, Clemens removed to Philadelphia and from there called for the South to surrender. Clemens returned to Huntsville toward the close of the war, dying there on May 21,1865. According to one source, "he was a man of genuine ability, gifted, but erratic and over-ambitious, and at times his career was seriously affected by his dissipated habits." Another source credits Clemens with inventing the popular drink the "Tom and Jerry." He is buried in Maple Hill Cemetery, Huntsville.
Clemens' rank of general in the Alabama state army qualifies him to be considered a Confederate general.
Reference: More Generals in Gray. Bruce S. Allardice. A companion volume to Generals in Gray. Louisiana State University Press. Baton Rouge. LA.