Polk, Leonidas

Polk, Leonidas,

1806–64, American Episcopal bishop and Confederate general in the Civil War, b. Raleigh, N.C. He left the army to study for the ministry and was ordained in 1831. He served as missionary bishop of the Southwest (1838–41) and bishop of Louisiana (1841–61) and was the principal founder of the Univ. of the South, Sewanee, Tenn. (1857). In the Civil War he became a major general (June, 1861) in the Confederate army and was at first engaged in the defense of the Mississippi River. He commanded a corps at Shiloh (Apr., 1862), was promoted to lieutenant general shortly after fighting at Perryville (Oct.), and commanded the Confederate right at Murfreesboro (Dec., 1862–Jan., 1863). In the Chattanooga campaign Braxton Bragg accused him of dilatoriness at Chickamauga (Sept.) and had him relieved. Polk assumed command of the Army of Mississippi (Dec.) and fought in the Atlanta campaign until he was killed (June, 1864) at Pine Mountain, Ga.


See biography by J. H. Parks (1962); K. Elgin, The Episcopalians (1970).

Polk, Leonidas

(1806–64) clergyman, soldier; born in Raleigh, N.C. He graduated from West Point (1827), but having been converted in his senior year, he resigned his commission shortly after graduating and studied for the Episcopalian ministry. By 1841 he was the Episcopal Bishop of Louisiana, where he also owned a sugar plantation with 400 slaves. He helped establish the University of the South at Sewanee, Tenn. His West Point classmate, Jefferson Davis, urged him to accept an appointment as a general, and he soon found himself in the thick of action, defeating Grant at Belmont, commanding large forces at Shiloh, Perryville, Stone's River (all 1862), and Chickamauga (1863). Gen. Braxton Bragg ordered him to be court-martialed for not following orders at Chickamauga, but President Davis reinstated him. Polk was killed in action near Pine Mountain, Ga., in June 1864, and although Davis lavished the highest praise on him as a military leader, most of his peers felt his real talents lay in his ministry.