Page:Southern Historical Society Papers volume 18.djvu/379
General Leonidas Polk.
But now there were cadets of a new principle of action. The compliment was paid them of believing they would do their duty. Two were chosen, one of whom was Polk. The chaplain hearing of it, and desirous of an acknowledgment of the reason, he took his stand beside his friend Colonel Thayer, as the companies were marching out to form the evening parade. Forth came his two beloved boys with their companions. One of them was an ungraceful looking soldier. As they approached, the chaplain said to the superintendent, "Colonel, why have you chosen those two cadets for orderly sergeants? As for one of them, Polk, I do not wonder; he is a fine looking fellow and marches well, but the other is a mere slouch." "The truth is," answered my friend, "we had to take them." Then relating the necessity as above stated, he said, "I thought these young men could be relied on to do their duty at all hazards." He was right. They did it. They were memorialized and threatened, and the alternative was put to them either to resign or allow the traditional right practice to go on. They quietly answered that neither would be right, and after a while they had no difficulty.
During his course, from the date above given, Cadet Polk was a frequent guest at my house, and much beloved in my family; always maintaining a most consistent walk, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord, and beloved among his fellow cadets. He graduated July 1, 1827, and was made brevet second lieutenant artillery. But he never entered upon service. He took leave of absence to December 1st of the same year, and then resigned. His health was not strong. He had inherited a tendency to pulmonary disorder, and it was thought that foreign travel would be of service, and he went abroad. I gave him a letter to Olenthus Gregory, whose book on the Evidences, etc., had been so connected with the progress of his mind in divine things. In it I related the good it had done under God's blessing. Dr. Gregory was then professor of mathematics in the Military College at Woolwich, and the author of scientific works then used as text-books in the West Point Academy.He was a beautiful example of the highest character for scientific research and attainments, with the humblest and simplest spirit of Christian faith and life. He was delighted to receive his young guest, and to perceive the freshness, devotedness and simplicity of his religious character. Mr. Polk was made an inmate of his house, and greatly enjoyed the society of his distinguished host.