civil war

Bishop Leonidas Polk (1806-1864) was a native of North Carolina and legal resident of Maury County, Tenn. where he was a planter and Episcopal Bishop of Louisiana.  The West Point graduate and Confederate lieutenant general was a close friend of General Albert Sidney Johnston and President Jefferson Davis.  All of Tipton Confederate soldiers served under his command during various phases of the War.  In the ante bellum days Bishop Polk preached at Randolph and Ravenscroft.

The hillock known as Pine Mountain near Marietta, Ga. would be memorable for most all of Tipton’s Confederate soldiers.  It is significant because it was there that Lieutenant General Leonidas Polk was killed in action.

That morning, elements of Major General William B. Bate’s Division and Lieutenant Rene’ T. Beauregard’s South Carolina Battery occupied the most forward salient of the Confederate position.  Generals’ Joseph E. Johnston, William J. Hardee, William H. “Red” Jackson, Polk and many staff officers rode up to Pine Mountain to view the Federal lines.  Colonel William S. Dilworth commanding the Florida Brigade mounted the parapet and began pointing out enemy artillery positions, deployments, etc., to the generals.

One third of a mile across the way in the Union lines, about 11 a.m., Major General William T. Sherman noticed the group of Confederate officers peering at his troops dispositions through their field glasses.  

“How saucy they are!” Sherman exclaimed, and ordered General O. O. Howard to “make them take cover.”  

Obeying, Howard ordered a battery to fire three volleys at the Rebel officers.  Obeying, Chief of artillery Captain Peter Simonson instructed the 5th Indiana battery to fire several shots to determine the range followed by the three volleys.

The first Union projectile struck a nearby tree and prompted Rebel Colonel Dilworth to jump down from the rampart and urge the generals to run to safety.  The officers then began to scatter.  The second Union solid shot (a three-inch 10-pounder shell) made a direct hit on General Polk, killing him instantly.  He was hit in the left side which passed through his chest, breaking both arms and ripping away his lungs and heart.  Needless to say the Rebel officers and soldiers were overcome with grief.  One observer noted the lifeless body of the general fell with his feet toward the enemy.

Polk’s body was carried by litter bearers to a hospital at Marietta where Dr. J. N. Simmons took off the bloody shreds of General Polk’s coat.  He found inside the left pocket the Book of Common Prayer and in the right pocket was found four copies of Chaplain Charles T. Quintard’s Balm For the Weary and Wounded; three of them were dated June 12, 1864 and inscribed by Polk who had intended on presenting one each to Generals’ Johnston, Hardee and Hood; all were saturated with blood.

The body of General Polk was conveyed to Atlanta where  Charles Todd Quintard, Tennessee soldier, chaplain and Bishop of the Episcopal Church, met the train.  Bishop Quintard was among the escort to carry the remains to lay in State at the altar of St. Luke’s Church.  The bishop-general was dressed in his gray uniform; on his breast rested a cross of white roses and beside his  casket lay his sword.  Quintard recalled “throughout the following morning, thousands of soldiers and citizens came to pay their last tribute of affection.”  Following the funeral the body was carried to Augusta and eventually to his family at Asheville, N.C. for temporary burial.

Polk is best remembered as the Protestant Episcopal Bishop who temporarily sat aside his religious duties to serve as a Confederate general.  Polk was the “projector and originator” of the University of the South.  His vision for “building up an educational institution upon broad foundations, for the promotion of social order, civil justice, and Christian truth; to be centrally located within the Southern States...was duly organized in 1857.”  

Under his leadership the university obtained title to nearly 10,000 acres of land on Sewanee Mountain with an endowment of half a million of dollars.

Jeff Ireland is The Leader's sports editor. To contact him, call 901-476-7116 or email jireland@covingtonleader.com.​

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