Leonidas Polk

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Leonidas Polk, The Fighting Bishop

Leonidas Polk (April 101806June 14, 1864) was a Confederate general who was once a planter in Maury County, Tennessee, and a cousin of President James K. Polk. He also served as bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Louisiana and was for that reason sometimes known as The Fighting Bishop.

Early Life

Born in Raleigh, North Carolina in 1806, Polk attended the University of North Carolina briefly before entering the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. During his senior year, he joined the Episcopal Church and resigned his commission. He was ordained as a deacon in 1830. That year, he married Frances Ann Deveraux and became assistant to Bishop Richard Channing Moore in Richmond, Virginia.

In 1832, Polk moved his family to the vast Polk "Rattle and Snap" tract in Maury County, Tennessee, and constructed a massive Greek Revival home he called "Ashwood Hall." With his four brothers in Maury County, he built a family chapel, St. John's Church, at Ashwood. He also served as priest of St. Peter's Chuch in Columbia, Tennessee. He was appointed Missionary Bishop of the Southwest in 1838 and was elected Bishop of Louisiana in 1841.

Bishop Polk was the leading founder of the University of the South in Sewanee, Tennessee, which he envisioned as a national university for the South and a New World equivalent to Oxford and Cambridge.

The War

At the outbreak of the Civil War, Polk pulled the Louisiana Convention out of the Episcopal Church of the United States. His friend and former roommate at West Point, Jefferson Davis, prevailed upon Polk to accept a commission in the Confederate States Army. Polk agreed and was commissioned Major General commanding Department No. 2 in 1861. He organized the Army of Mississippi and a part of the Army of Tennessee, in which he later served as lieutenant general. Following disagreements with the army's commander, Braxton Bragg, Polk was transferred to Mississippi and later took charge of the Department of Alabama, Mississippi, and East Louisiana. Ordered by Bragg's successor, Joseph E. Johnston, to join his forces with the Army of Tennessee in the Atlanta campaign, Polk was killed by an artillery shell at Pine Mountain near Marietta, Georgia, on June 14, 1864. He was buried in Augusta, Georgia, and in 1945, his remains and those of his wife were reinterred at Christ Church Cathedral in New Orleans.

The Leonidas Registry Research Project has proposed this text for the marker on Pine Mountain, Georgia ( [1] (

Upon the death in 1863 of first Episcopal Bishop of Tennessee, Rt. Rev. James H. Otey, the Bishop-General Leonidas Polk, C.S.A., first Bishop of Louisiana, became the Chancellor and President of the Board of Trustees of The University of the South at Sewanee, Tennessee, of which he led the founding in 1857 and consecrated the Cornerstone in 1860. While serving in the Confederate Army of Tennessee as a corps commanding Lieutenant-General, Polk was killed atop Pine Mountain the morning of June 14, 1864, by a shell from the enemy's artillery. After funeral services Atlanta, at his burial in Augusta he was eulogized by first Bishop of Georgia, Rt. Rev. Stephen Elliott, Presiding Bishop of the Confederacy. His remains were later reinterred in New Orleans by his former L. Polk

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