John Alexander McClernand

John Alexander McClernand
John A. McClernand(01085v).jpg
Member of the United States House of Representatives for Illinois' 6th district
In office
November 8, 1859 – October 28, 1861
Preceded byCharles D. Hodges
Succeeded byAnthony L. Knapp
Member of the United States House of Representatives for Illinois' 2nd district
In office
March 4, 1843 – March 3, 1851
Preceded byZadok Casey
Succeeded byWillis Allen
Member of the Illinois House of Representatives
In office
In office
Personal details
BornMay 30, 1812
Breckinridge County, Kentucky
DiedSeptember 20, 1900(1900-09-20) (aged 88)
Springfield, Illinois
Political partyDemocratic
Spouse(s)Sarah McClernand,
Minerva McClernand
ChildrenEdward John McClernand
OccupationMilitary officer
ProfessionPolitician, lawyer
Military service
AllegianceUnited States of America
Branch/serviceUnited States Army
Union Army
Years of service1832, 1861–1864
RankUnion Army major general rank insignia.svg Major General of Volunteers
Battles/warsBlack Hawk War
American Civil War

John Alexander McClernand (May 30, 1812 – September 20, 1900) was an American lawyer and politician, and a Union general in the American Civil War. He was a prominent Democratic politician in Illinois and a member of the United States House of Representatives before the war. McClernand was firmly dedicated to the principles of Jacksonian democracy and supported the Compromise of 1850.

McClernand was commissioned a brigadier general of volunteers in 1861. His was a classic case of the politician-in-uniform coming into conflict with career Army officers, graduates of the United States Military Academy. He served as a subordinate commander under Ulysses S. Grant in the Western Theater, fighting in the battles of Belmont, Fort Donelson, and Shiloh in 1861–62.

A close friend and political ally of Abraham Lincoln, McClernand was given permission to recruit a force to conduct an operation against Vicksburg, Mississippi, which would rival the effort of Grant, his department commander. Grant was able to neutralize McClernand's independent effort after it conducted an expedition to win the Battle of Arkansas Post, and McClernand became the senior corps commander in Grant's army for the Vicksburg Campaign in 1863. During the Siege of Vicksburg, Grant relieved McClernand of his command by citing his intemperate and unauthorized communication with the press, finally putting an end to a rivalry that had caused Grant discomfort since the beginning of the war. McClernand left the Army in 1864 and served as a judge and a politician in the postbellum era.

Early life and political career

McClernand was born in Breckinridge County, Kentucky, near Hardinsburg, but his family moved to Shawneetown, Illinois, when he was quite young. His early life and career were similar to that of another Illinois lawyer of the time, Abraham Lincoln. He was largely self-educated and was admitted to the Illinois bar in 1832. In that same year he served as a volunteer private in the Blackhawk War (Lincoln briefly served as a captain).

In 1835 McClernand founded the Shawneetown Democrat newspaper, which he edited. As a Democrat he served in 1836 and from 1840 to 1843 in the Illinois House of Representatives.[1]

He served in the United States House of Representatives from 1843 until 1851. He was known for his bombastic oratory and his adherence to Jacksonian principles. His dislike of abolitionists generated favor among his constituents, many of whom were originally natives of slaveholding states, as he was. McClernand vigorously opposed the Wilmot Proviso. He was an important ally to Illinois Senator Stephen A. Douglas. Douglas played a crucial role in formulating the Compromise of 1850, and McClernand served as a liaison for him the House of Representatives during the debate over the proposed compromise.[citation needed] McClernand also served as Chairman of the Committee on Public Lands from 1845 to 1847 and on the Committee on Foreign Affairs from 1849 to 1851. In 1850, McClernand declined to be a candidate for renomination, and his term expired in 1851.[1]

McClernand was again elected to the House to fill a vacancy caused by the death of Thomas L. Harris. His term began on November 8.[1] He was a strong Unionist and introduced the resolution of July 15, 1861, pledging money and men to the national government. In 1860 he was defeated in a bid for the speakership of the House of Representatives; the coalition of representatives opposing him objected to his moderate views on slavery and the importance of retaining the Union.

McClernand supported the campaign of his friend, Stephen Douglas, in the 1860 presidential election. He served as one of his campaign managers during the divisive Democratic presidential nomination convention held in Charleston, South Carolina in 1860.

In November 1842, McClernand married Sarah Dunlap of Jacksonville, Illinois, a close friend of Mary Todd Lincoln. Sarah was a daughter of James Dunlap, who served as a quartermaster in the Union Army during the Civil War, eventually appointed to the rank of brevet major general. John and Sarah's son, Edward John McClernand, was notable as a U.S. Army brigadier general in the Indian Wars and later in the Philippines. After Sarah's death, McClernand married her sister, Minerva Dunlap.[2]