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 Leonidas Polk

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Leonidas Polk

  • Birth 10 Apr 1806 Raleigh, Wake County, North Carolina, USA
  • Death 14 Jun 1864 Kennesaw, Cobb County, Georgia, USA
  • Burial New Orleans, Orleans Parish, Louisiana, USA
  • Plot Front floor sanctuary, right of pulpit
  • Memorial ID 4419

Civil War Confederate Lieutenant General. A cousin of President James K. Polk, he was born in Raleigh, North Carolina to a very wealthy father. While attending the University of North Carolina, he received an appointment to West Point where he was an excellent student graduating 8th in his class along with his best friend the future President of the Confederacy Jefferson Davis. Another person at the Point would have an influence upon Polk. The Episcopal Chaplain would direct his life toward a religious vocation. After leaving the Military Academy, Leonidas Polk resigned his 2d Lieutenant's commission and entered the Virginia Theological Seminary. Ordained, he would travel by boat, horse, rail and mail carriage throughout Mississippi and Louisiana as a missionary spreading religion and constructing churches. six years later, he was name bishop of Louisiana and took on the task of establishing an Episcopal school of higher learning, The University of the South, located in Sewanee, Tennessee. While Bishop of Louisiana, he became a prosperous sugarcane planter and owned the Leighton Plantation at Thibodaux which was worked by a large number of slaves brought from his wife's plantation in North Carolina. During the secession crisis, West Point grads were forced to chose sides and Leonidas shed his clerical garments and severed his relationship with the Episcopal Church. His friendship with now President Jeff Davis bore fruit and with no military talent was appointed a major general with a high command in the West. He directed a corps in several major battles: Shiloh, Perryville, Murfreesboro and Chichamaunga. Under the Command of General Braxton Bragg, Polk's incompetents was instrumental in the Confederate defeat at Stone's River. Strained relations between Braxton and Polk reached the breaking point when at Chickamauga he was ordered to attack at dawn but failed to carry out his assignment resulting in a Bragg order for court-marshal. Again his friendship with President Davis was useful. Polk was detached from the Army of Tennessee and placed in command of the Department of Alabama, Mississippi, and East Louisiana. Failure again, his army was no obstacle in the path of Union General Sherman. His Army was sent to reinforce the Army of Tennessee in northwest Georgia. While reconnoitering the union positions from atop Pine Mountain, the uncle of Brig General Lucius E. Polk was killed by an artillery shell. Death had succeeded where his military exploits failed The highest ranking officer to die in the southern cause had become a martyr. His body was recovered and brought to Augusta, Georgia where a mass was held at St. Paul's Church . Episcopal bishops from throughout the South participated in the solemn service. Many soldiers who fought under the bishop-general attended the funeral. He was buried in a crypt at the church. His legacy is not his mediocre military career but his labors as a Episcopal clergyman. The University of the South today is a top liberal arts college and seminary of the Episcopal Church. It has produced 24 Rhodes Scholars, six Fulbright Scholars while its school of theology has provided the church with an unending supply of leaders and bishops. There are dozens of churches spread around Louisiana and Mississippi functioning today while boasting corner stones laid by him. The ultimate is Christ Church Cathedral in New Orleans and in 1945, the bodies of both the bishop and his wife were transferred from the crypt in Augusta and honored by re interment here. His military legacy is honored by a tall shaft erected on Pine Mountain upon the spot where he was killed. It is located on private property but accessible. A detailed inscription highlights his extraordinary life. Fort Polk named for Leonidas is the largest military installation in Louisiana and originally called Camp Polk. Built in 194l, the facility has been closed and reopened many times to meet the countries need for military preparedness. It is located near Leesville.

Bio by: Donald Greyfield





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  • Maintained by: Find A Grave
  • Added: 1 Feb 1999
  • Find A Grave Memorial 4419
  • Find A Grave, database and images ( : accessed ), memorial page for Leonidas Polk (10 Apr 1806–14 Jun 1864), Find A Grave Memorial no. 4419, citing Christ Church Cathedral, New Orleans, Orleans Parish, Louisiana, USA ; Maintained by Find A Grave .