Duncan Lamont Clinch

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General Duncan Lamont Clinch

Duncan Lamont Clinch (April 6, 1787 – October 28, 1849) was an American army officer and served as a commander during the First and Second Seminole Wars. He also served in the United States House of Representatives, representing Georgia.

Early life[edit]

Clinch was born at "Ard-Lamont", a plantation in Edgecombe County, North Carolina on April 6, 1787. He was the son Joseph Clinch, Jr. (1754–1795), an American Revolution veteran of both the Continental Army and the North Carolina Militia who attained the rank of colonel. Joseph Clinch also served in political office, including justice of the peace and member of the North Carolina House of Commons. Duncan Clinch was educated in the local schools and by private tutors, and joined the United States Army as a first lieutenant in 1808.

Military career[edit]

Clinch was initially assigned to the 3rd Infantry Regiment. He was promoted to captain in 1810, lieutenant colonel in 1813, colonel in 1819, and brigadier general in 1829.

He served primarily on frontier posts in what were then the southwestern United States. When the First Seminole War broke out in 1816 he commanded forces in southern Georgia, and was ordered by General Andrew Jackson to attack Seminole positions at Negro Fort, an abandoned British post along the Apalachicola River which had become a safe haven for escaped slaves, and recover runaway slaves in hiding at the fort.

Supported by gunboats, Clinch's attack on the outpost caused a major incident when an explosion, resulting from naval artillery hitting the fort's powder magazine, resulted in the deaths of hundreds of Seminoles and slaves, contributing to the beginning of the First Seminole War.

I had been taught when living at St. Augustine to regard General Clinch as a strict unfeeling disciplinarian but I learned how good men are often maligned. To me he was the reverse, for his bearing was most fatherly, always available to others and beaming with kindness. Picture the image of an old gray-haired man of 5 ft. 10 inches, of muscular build, weighing over 250 pounds, sitting upon the dirt floor, giving counsel and comfort to a poor dying private soldier. That was the true General Duncan L. Clinch, called by his contemporary officers The Spartan General. His ways were plain and simple, living in a tent like all the other soldiers, excepting he had a bed and mattress to sleep upon. His food was plain and many times I saw him dining with his staff on pork and beans, occasionally getting a beef day like the rest of us. Now and then he would have an extra dish of Indian Corn. He only drank water and many times I fetched a pitcher for him from the large round pond or spring outside the Camp. When we lived at the Driver's house, I lived with him, my medicine chest being close to his door. I was the first he saw on rising in the morning and the last at night and when we were in the field, my Hospital tent was immediately in front of the General's. So plain were his habits that he was no burden to the Army for even when on the move his only requisition was a campstool. Other Generals such as Scott required a band of music, with a company of professional cooks and servants in attendance.

- Steward John Bemrose Second Seminole War 1865.

Clinch saw service during the Second Seminole War including the Battle of the Withlacoochee before resigning from the Army in 1836.

He lived on a plantation near St. Mary's, Georgia. In an 1844 special election he was elected to Congress as a Whig, filling the vacancy caused by the death of John Millen. He served in the 28th Congress, February 15, 1844 to March 3, 1845, and did not run for reelection to a full term in 1844

Clinch died in Milledgeville, Georgia on December 4, 1849, after a long struggle with erysipelas.[1] He was buried at Bonaventure Cemetery in Savannah, Georgia.[2]

Honors[edit]

Clinch County, Georgia was named for Clinch.[3] In the Civil War, the 5th Georgia Volunteer Infantry's first company was also named after him, as the regiment originated from clinch county.[4]

Fort Clinch (and Fort Clinch State Park) on Amelia Island, Florida is named for Clinch. The Fort is at 2601 Atlantic Avenue, Fernandina Beach, Florida 32034.

Family[edit]

Duncan Lamont Clinch married three times, first to Elizabeth Houstoun,[5] then to Eliza Bayard McIntosh,[6] finally to Sophia Hume Clinch,[7] to whom he was married at the time of his death.[8]

His son, Colonel Duncan Lamont Clinch Jr., commanded the 4th Georgia Cavalry CSA during the American Civil War. This unit fought at the Battle of Olustee in Florida, and also in the Atlanta campaign later in 1864.

He was also the father-in-law of Robert Anderson (Civil War), commander of Fort Sumter.

Another son, Captain Nicholas Bayard Clinch (1832 - 1888), was commander of "Clinch's Light Battery", or as "Clinch's Artillery Company", a division of older brother Duncan's 4th Georgia Volunteer Cavalry CSA and an inventor.[9][10]

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

References[edit]

Further reading[edit]

  • Covington, James W. The Seminoles of Florida, Gainesville: University Press of Florida, 1993.
United States House of Representatives
Preceded by
John Millen
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Georgia's at-large congressional district

February 15, 1844 – March 3, 1845
Succeeded by
District inactive