Leonidas Polk was born in Raleigh NC on April 10, 1806 to a prominent Raleigh North Carolina family. He was in his second year at the University of North Carolina when he obtained an appointment to West Point in 1823. At West Point he became friends with Sidney Albert Johnston, Jefferson Davis, Robert E Lee, Joe Johnston, as well as Nathanial Buford, brother to John Buford. While at the Point he had a religious experience and became the first cadet to be baptized there. He graduated 8th in a class of 38 in 1827 and was commissioned a second lieutenant in the Army. Six months later he resigned his commission and entered The Virginia Seminary in Richmond to become an Episcopal Priest. He was ordained a deacon in 1830 then a priest in 1831. He married his childhood sweetheart Miss Francis Devereux during this time.
In the years that followed he would become a plantation owner, with plantations in Tennessee, Louisiana and Mississippi. He and his wife would have eight children. He would also rise through the ranks of the Episcopal Church, first as a Missionary Bishop then finally the Bishop of Louisiana. He was The founding father of the University of the South in Sewanee, and led the other Southern bishops to assist him in the movement for Southern education in the South, by Southerners.
The turning point of his life came when militant abolitionists firebombed his home at Sewanee with his wife and three young daughters inside while he was away on Church business in April 1861. They fortunately escaped harm, but he was enraged that anyone would harm innocent women and children. He went to Richmond to convince his West Point friend Jefferson Davis the need for a strong military leader to unite the Mississippi Valley states militias into one Army. Polk had wanted Lee or Sidney Albert Johnston for the job and was surprised when Davis offered the position to him. He initially turned the offer down but finally accepted the offer to be a Major General on a temporary basis until Sidney Albert Johnston could take over. On June 28, 1861 his commission in the provincial Army of the Confederacy was approved. On July 4th 1861 he is put in charge of the Confederate Department Number 2, which comprised of the western portions of the fledgling Confederacy. This would later become the Army of Mississippi.
The Bishop was a reluctant General submitting his retirement three times and being refused three times by Davis. He would be able to step down as overall commander when Sidney Albert Johnston arrives in September 1861, being appointed as a Corps commander instead. Polk would lead his Corps at Belmont, Shiloh, Perryville, Murfreesboro, Chickamauga, and oppose Sherman during the Atlanta Campaign.
On June 14, 1864, atop of a small hill known as Pine Mountain Georgia, Gen Polk is scouting Sherman's lines with Generals Johnston and Hardee. The Bishop is struck by a 3 inch Hotchkiss shell fired a Federal Artillery Battery, the 5th Indiana Battery, commanded by Capt. Peter Simonson, killing him instantly.
His funeral rivaled that of Stonewall Jackson's and was attended by many of the dignitaries of the time. General Longstreet was also in attendance. He was buried in a crypt of St. Paul's Church in Augusta Georgia. In 1945 he and his wife were exhumed and re-interred in the Christ Church Cathedral, New Orleans Louisiana.
Lt General Leonidas Polk is portrayed by Greg Stull. Greg is an SCV member and a member of the 21st NC re-enactor group. He has had a keen interest in the War of Northern Aggression for over 40 years. He is also a descendant of the Bishop. His desire to educate others on the truth and to honor those brave soldiers in the conflict has led him to join Lee's Lieutenants and living history.