1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Polk, Leonidas
|←Polk, James Knox||1911 Encyclopædia Britannica, Volume 21
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POLK, LEONIDAS (1806-1864), American soldier, was born at Raleigh, North Carolina, on the 10th of April 1806, and was a cousin of James Knox Polk, president of the United States. He was educated at West Point, but afterwards studied theology and took orders in the Protestant Episcopal Church in 1831. In 1838 he became missionary bishop of the South-West, Arkansas, Indian Territory, Louisiana, Alabama and Mississippi, and in 1841 he was consecrated bishop of Louisiana. His work in the Church was largely of an educational kind, and he played a prominent part in movements for the establishment of higher educational institutions in the South. At the outbreak of the Civil War in 1861 he resigned his bishopric and, like many other clergymen and men of religion, entered the army which was raised to defend the Confederacy. His rank in the hierarchy and the universal respect in which he was held in the South, rather than his early military education, caused him to be appointed to the important rank of major-general. He fortified the post of Columbus, Kentucky, the foremost line of defence on the Mississippi, against which Brigadier-General U. S. Grant directed the offensive reconnaissance of Belmont in the autumn. In the following spring, the first line of defence having fallen, Polk commanded a corp at Shiloh in the field army commanded by Albert Sidney Johnston and Beauregard. In October 1862 he was promoted lieutenant-general, and thenceforward he commanded one of the three corps of the army of Tennessee under Bragg and afterwards was in charge of the Department of Alabama, Mississippi and East Louisiana. He was killed in the fighting in front of Marietta, while reconnoitring near Pine Mountain, Georgia, on the 14th of June 1864.
See Life, by his son W. M. Polk, (1893).