Page:Southern Historical Society Papers volume 18.djvu/376
Southern Historical Society Papers.
quent religious life to that beginning. Cadet Polk was of an Episcopal family in North Carolina, but had not been baptized in infancy. His baptism now was not hurried; due time was given him to try and examine himself, and know it was no mere sudden impulse of excitement that had taken possession of him. Forty days after my first interview with him, on Sunday, the 25th of May, 1826, he was baptized in the chapel, at morning prayer, in the presence of the corps and an unusually large attendance of officers and professors. Another cadet, William B. Magruder, who still lives, was baptized at the same time.
The service for adult baptism had never been witnessed there before. The circumstances made it an occasion of intense interest among the cadets. Perceiving the intensity with which the mind of Cadet Polk was occupied in preparation for it, and apprehensive that all sorts of rumors had gone to Washington concerning what was going on at the academy as if discipline and order and study were broken up by religion and we had various noisy demonstrations of excitement in the chapel, rumors I need not say without the slightest appearance of foundation. Apprehensive, I say, lest under some strength of emotion my young friend should afford the least excuse for such reports, I charged him to be on his guard, and he promised.
All went on quietly but with the deepest solemnity, till after the last words of the baptismal office, when I addressed a few words of exhortation to the two, ending with the sentence: "Pray your Master and Saviour to take you out of the world, rather than allow you to by reproach on the cause you have now professed." Then he could hold longer, and there came from the depth of his heart an Amen, which spoke to every other heart in the congregation and is remembered to this day.That Amen was recently renewed in my recollection by a letter from a gentleman, a stranger to me. He had just heard of the death of Bishop Polk, and he remembered spending a Sunday at West Point in the spring of 1826, and attending service in the chapel, and that two cadets were baptized, and that I addressed them. He remembered the very words as given above, and he said that one of the cadets responded to them with an Amen, so deep-toned and so uttered as if all his soul were in it, that it made a deep impression on him, and he had the sound of it yet in his ears, and he said he had an impression that one of the two was named Polk. In a few days