Page:Southern Historical Society Papers volume 21.djvu/332

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324 Southern Historical Society Papers.

minds of the people was perhaps not the least fatuous element in the letter.

Enthusiastic as the bishop was in the cause of secession, his thoughts were turned to active participation in the conflict by an incident from which he and his family alone were sufferers. When war became a certainty he removed his wife and children from New Orleans to a house at Sewanee, Tennessee, on the lands where he had hoped to raise his proposed university, and they were barely settled before the house was burned over their heads. " He never doubted," says his biographer, " that the outrage was prompted by political animosity. From that day forward he considered the war against the South not so much as an international war of aggression and conquest, but rather as a war of spoliation, incendiarism, outrage, and assassination, which every man who recognized the first law of nature was bound in duty to resist, with whatever powers of head or hand he had received." In the very words which Dr. Polk has here chosen can be felt something of the exaggeration characteristic of the war period. The bishop himself wrote: " I am satisfied that it was the work of an incendiary, and that it was prompted by the spirit of black Republican hate." Yet, so far as evidence of incendiarism goes, these volumes are so void of it as to suggest the need of a monograph carefully treating the question whether that fire which converted a bishop into a general was not accidental after all. But this wrathful beginning was not followed by hasty acts. The bishop deliberated long before taking up the sword; and when he did take it up he did so with the express determination of laying it down as soon as possible. His letters of resignation to Jefferson Davis were frequent, especially in the early part of the war. They were not accepted, but they had the effect which indecisive conduct on the part of a military leader always has. They raised a feeling of dis- trust. If this was not exemplified in words, it certainly was in the acts of the Confederate government, so-called. Polk was practically the creator of what was styled "the Army of Mississippi." One must suppose when he named the men in succession under whom he wished to serve, or in whose favor he wished to retire from military service, that his alternative was his own supremacy in the department assigned to him. He wanted Albert Sydney Johnston, and Davis sent him Beauregard. He urged the merits of Joseph E. Johnston, and was saddled with Bragg. Beauregard came upon him as a sort