Portrait of Leonidas Polk

In May 1864, Confederate President Jefferson Davis ordered Leonidas Polk to bring his Army of Mississippi east to help defend Atlanta, Georgia. A month later, a Union artillery shell killed Polk on Pine Mountain, near Marietta, Georgia on June 14, 1864. [Wikimedia Commons]

Leonidas Polk - Facts

April 10, 1806 - June 14, 1864

Key facts about Confederate Lieutenant General Leonidas Polk, an ordained Episcopal bishop who was killed by a Union artillery shell at Pine Mountain, near Marietta, Georgia, on June 14, 1864.

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Full Name:

  • Leonidas Polk

Birth Date:

  • April 10, 1806

Birth Location:

  • Raleigh, North Carolina

Parents:

  • William and Sarah (Hawkins) Polk

Education:

  • United States Military Academy (1827)

Occupation:

  • Military officer
  • Clergyman

Career Summary:

  • Second Lieutenant (USA)
  • Episcopalian Bishop
  • Major General (CSA)

Spouse:

  • Frances Ann Deveraux (1830)

Nickname(s):

  • The Fighting Bishop

Place of Death:

  • Pine Mountain, near Marietta, Georgia

Date of Death:

  • June 14, 1864

Place of Burial:

  • Christ Church Cathedral, New Orleans, Louisiana

Significance:

  • Leonidas Polk was the second son and third of eleven children born to William and Sarah (Hawkins) Polk.
  • Leonidas Polk’s father was a colonel in the Revolutionary War, who acquired a great deal of land working as a surveyor.
  • Leonidas Polk attended United States Military Academy from July 1, 1823 to July 1, 1827.
  • Leonidas Polk ranked eighth in his class of 38 cadets at the United States Military Academy.
  • During his four years at West Point, Polk became close friends with Jefferson Davis who would go on to become the first and only President of the Confederate States of America.
  • During his senior year at West Point, Polk joined the Episcopal Church.
  • Upon graduating from the United States Military Academy, Polk was brevetted to second lieutenant of artillery on July 1, 1827, but he never served with his unit.
  • Leonidas Polk resigned his commission on December 1, 1827, and entered the Virginia Theological Seminary.
  • On Good Friday, April 9, 1830, Bishop Richard Channing Moore ordained Leonidas Polk as a deacon in the Episcopal Church.
  • On May 6, 1830, Leonidas Polk married Frances Ann Deveraux. Their marriage, which lasted 34 years, produced ten children, eight of whom survived to adulthood.
  • In 1833, Leonidas Polk moved his family, along with a large number of slaves, to Maury County, near Columbia, Tennessee, where he established a plantation on a sizable tract of family land.
  • Leonidas Polk was one of the more prominent planters (and the largest slaveholder) in Maury County, Tennessee.
  • In 1838 the Episcopal Church named selected Leonidas Polk to serve as the missionary bishop of the southwest, a vast area encompassing Arkansas, Louisiana, Alabama, Mississippi, the Republic of Texas, and part of the Indian Territory.
  • In September 1841, the Episcopal House of Bishops elected Leonidas Polk to the bishopric of the Louisiana Diocese.
  • In 1841 Bishop Polk purchased Leighton Plantation near Thibodaux Louisiana where he moved his family along with 400 slaves who cultivated his sugarcane.
  • When the Civil War began, Jefferson Davis offered Polk a commission as a major general in the Provisional Confederate Army, effective June 25, 1861. Davis placed Polk in charge of Department No. 2, which encompassed the area along the Mississippi River from the Red River in Louisiana up to Paducah, Kentucky.
  • Leonidas Polk committed one of the bigger blunders of the Civil War, violating Kentucky’s neutrality by ordering Brigadier General Gideon Johnson Pillow to occupy Columbus, Kentucky, on September 4, 1861, thus ending any hopes the South had for persuading the Kentucky to join the Confederacy
  • On September 21, 1861, Leonidas Polk was placed in command of the 1st Division of the Western Department.
  • Leonidas Polk’s defiance of the authority of superior offices was characteristic of his demeanor throughout the Civil War.
  • By February, in the face of Polk’s obstinacy, Johnston ordered General Pillow and 5,000 men from Polk’s command to reinforce the garrison at Fort Henry, which Ulysses S. Grant was preparing to attack. When Fort Henry and Fort Donelson fell into Union hands, Johnston decided to withdraw and concentrate his forces at Corinth, Mississippi.
  • On March 5, 1862, Leonidas Polk was named commander of the 1st Corps of the Army of Mississippi.
  • Leonidas Polk participated in the Battle of Shiloh (April 6–7, 1862), the Battle of Perryville (October 8, 1862), the Battle of Stones River (December 31, 1862 – January 2, 1863), the Tullahoma Campaign (June 24 – July 3, 1863), and the Battle of Chickamauga (September 19 – 20, 1863).
  • Beginning in 1862, Leonidas Polk unsuccessfully used his close relationship with Jefferson Davis in a prolonged campaign to have General Braxton Bragg relieved of his command.
  • Jefferson Davis promoted to Polk to lieutenant general on October 11, 1862, effective October 10.
  • After the Battle of Chickamauga (September 19 – 20, 1863) Braxton Bragg relieved Leonidas Polk of his command and wrote to President Jefferson Davis that “Gen’l Polk by education and habit is unfit for executing the plans of others. He will convince himself his own are better and follow them without reflecting on the consequences.”
  • In December 1863, Jefferson Davis transferred Leonidas Polk to command the Department of Mississippi and East Louisiana.
  • While serving as commander of the Department of Mississippi and East Louisiana, Leonidas Polk was unsuccessful in halting Major General William T. Sherman’s raid against Meridian, Mississippi (February 14-20, 1864).
  • In May 1864, Jefferson Davis ordered Leonidas Polk to bring his Army of Mississippi east to help defend Atlanta, Georgia.
  • Leonidas Polk was killed by a Union artillery shell on June 14, 1864, on Pine Mountain, near Marietta, Georgia.
  • On June 29, 1864, Leonidas Polk was buried under the altar of Saint Paul’s Church in Augusta, Georgia.
  • In 1945, Leonidas Polk’s remains, along with those of his wife, were removed from Georgia and re-interred at Christ Church Cathedral in New Orleans.
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Citation Information

The following information is provided for citations.

  • Article Title Leonidas Polk - Facts
  • Coverage April 10, 1806 - June 14, 1864
  • Author
  • Keywords Leonidas Polk
  • Website Name American History Central
  • Access Date July 30, 2021
  • Publisher R.Squared Communications, LLC
  • Original Published Date
  • Date of Last Update April 29, 2021
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