Funeral Services at the Burial of the
Right Rev. Leonidas Polk, D. D.
Together with the Sermon Delivered
In St. Paul’s Church, Augusta, GA.
On June 29, 1864:
To the Right Reverend Stephen Elliott, D. D., Bishop of the Diocese of Georgia, and Presiding Bishop of the Protestant Episcopal Church in the Confederate States.
The undersigned, in behalf of the church, and of the Army and Navy, who mourn together over their sore bereavement, respectfully request, for publication, a copy of the address delivered this day at the funeral of their lamented Father and Brother, Leonidas Polk.
The Intimacy of your relations with this venerable man has well qualified you to delineate a character of peculiar virtues and a life of unusual incident.
It is but justice to the departed that his countrymen should have the benefit of the masterly and appreciative tribute you have paid to him memory.
W. M. Green, Bishop of Mississippi.
Henry C. Lay, Bishop of Arkansas.
J. Longstreet, Lieutenant-General, Army of Virginia.
Josiah Tatnall, C. S. N., Commanding Naval Station, Savannah, Georgia.
George W. Rains, Colonel Commanding Post, Augusta, Georgia
Col. W. D. Gale, Staff of General Polk.
Maj. F. H. Mcnairy, Staff of General Polk.
Maj. Thos. Peters, Staff of General Polk.
Col. H. C. Yeatman, Staff of General Polk.
C. T. Quintard, Chaplain attached to General Polk’s Staff.
M. H. Henderson, Rector of Emmanuel Church, Athens, GA.
Cameron F. Mcrae, Rector of St. John’s Church, Savannah.
WM. H. Clarke, Rector of St. Paul’s Church, Augusta.
W. H. Harrison, Rector Church of the Atonement, Augusta.
W. W. Lord, Rector of Christ Church, Vicksburg, Mississippi.
Sam’l G. Pinkerton, Chaplain, Atlanta, GA.
Thos. J. Beard, Missionary to Army of Tennesse, Diocese of Alabama.
John Neely, Augusta, Diocese of Georgia.
John H. Cornish, Rector of St. Thaddeaus’ Church, Aiken, South Carolina.
George W. Stickney, Chaplain of Post, Columbus, GA.
Presbyter of the Diocese of Louisiana.
To the Right Reverend the Bishops of Mississippi and Arkansas, Gen Longstreet, Com. Tatnall, Col. Rains, and others, assembled at the Funeral Services of Right Reverend Leonidas Polk, D. D.
Gentlemen: I have received your request that I would furnish, for publication, a copy of the address delivered over the remains of my beloved friend, the Right Reverend Leonidas Polk, D. D. late Bishop of Louisiana.
I herewith send a copy of the address, sincerely wishing that it was better worthy of his illustrious memory. It is the tribute of one who loved him as a brother.
Very truly and respectfully,
Your obedient servant,
Augusta, Georgia, July 1, 1864.
Collect for fourth Sunday after Trinity.
O God, the Protector of all that trust in Thee, without whom nothing is strong, nothing is holy: Increase and multiply upon us Thy mercy; that Thou, being our ruler and guide, we may so pass through things temporal, that we finally loose not the things eternal. Grand this, O heavenly Father, for Jesus Christ’s sake our Lord. Amen.
Occasion of his Death.
On Tuesday morning, June 14th, General Johnston, Lieutenant-Generals Polk and Hardee, and Brigadier General W. H. Jackson, accompanied by members of their respective staffs, visited Pine Mountain, an elevated position lying beyond the Confederate lines, and some six miles from the Town of Marietta, for the purpose of making military reconnaissance. Leaving their escorts and horses behind the hill, they proceeded to the top on foot. Their observations having been completed, they were about to return, when a shot from a Federal battery, striking the ground a short distance in front of their position, warned them that their presence had been discovered by the enemy. The group at once separated: Generals Johnston and Polk passing along the brow of the hill, still farther to the left, while the other officers withdrew toward the right and rear. After finishing their survey in that direction the two parted—the former moving around the hill to rejoin his escort, and the latter leisurely retracing his course across the summit. Upon reaching a commanding point he paused for a moment, either to make a final examination of the scene before him, or, as is more probable, to spend a short interval in silent communion with his God.
As he stood thus occupied, his arms folded upon his breast, and his face wearing the composed and reverent look of a humble and trusting worshipper, a second shot was heard, and the cry arose that General Polk had fallen. Colonels Jack and Gale, members of his staff, at once returned to the spot, but life was already extinct. His body, badly torn, was lying upon the ground at full length, with the face upturned, and retaining its last expression of prayerful faith, and the arms, tough broken, still crossed upon the breast.
The enemy’s battery was by this time shelling the hill with great rapidity and precision, and the remains were borne to a place of safety in the rear under heavy fire.
In the left pocket of his coat was found his Book of Common-Prayer, and in the right four copies of a little manual entitled “Balm for the Weary and Wounded.” Upon the fly-leaf of three of these had been written the names respectively of “General Jos. E. Johnston,” “Lieutenant-General Hardee,” Lieutenant-General Hood,” “with the compliments of Lieutenant-General Leonidas Polk, June 12th 1864.” Upon that of the fourth was inscribed his own name. All were saturated with his blood.
The General-in-Chief at once made known the great loss which his army had sustained, in the following order:
“HEAD-QUARTERS, ARMY OF TENNESSEE
In the Field, June 14, 1864
“General Field Orders, No. 2.
“COMRADES! You are called to morn your first captain, your oldest companion-in-arms. Lieutenant-General Polk fell to-day at the outpost of this army—the army he raised and commanded—in all of whose trails he has shared—to all of whose victories he contributed.
“In this distinguished leader we have lost the most courteous of gentlemen, the most gallant of soldiers.
“The Christian, patriot, soldier, has neither lived nor died in vain. His example is before you—his mantle rests with you.
J. E. Johnston, General.
“Official: Kinloch Falconer, A. A. G.”
The members of his military staff not feeling at liberty to determine upon the place of his interment without consultation with his family and friends, sent telegraphic dispatches to his eldest son, then in Montgomery, Ala., and to Bishop Elliott, at Savannah, to meet the body at Augusta, as it was their intention to proceed with it to that point.
On reaching Atlanta the body was received by a committee appointed for the purpose by the Mayor of the city, and taken directly to St. Luke’s Church. It continued lying in state for several hours, and then, after appropriate religious services and an impressive eulogy pronounced by the Rev. Dr. Quintard, Rector of the Church and Chaplain attached to the staff of General Polk, was conveyed to the depot under a proper military escort, attended by a large concourse of sympathizing citizens.
A car having been provided expressly for their use. The immediate attendants proceeded with it to Augusta, and upon their arrival, early the following morning, were met by the Rectors, Wardens, and Vestrymen of St. Paul’s Church and the Church of the Atonement. The remains were reverently conveyed to St. Paul’s Church, where a guard of honor had been stationed to receive them by the Commandant of the Post.
Upon consultation at Augusta with such members of General Polk’s family as could be gathered at the spot, and with Bishop Elliott, it was decided to be most appropriate to commit his remains to the keeping of the Diocese of Georgia, whose Bishop had now become the Senior Bishop of the Church in the Confederate States, until the Church of Louisiana should claim them as her rightful inheritance. The following invitation was accordingly issued:
“The Bishops, Clergy, and Laity of the Protestant Episcopal Church in the Confederate States, the officers of the Army and Navy of the Confederate States, and the citizens generally, are invited to attend the funeral services of the Rt. Rev. Leonidas Polk, D. D., from the City Hall of Augusta, Georgia, on Wednesday, the 29th of June. The procession will move from the City Hall to St. Paul’s Church. His remains will be deposited in the church-yard of St. Paul’s until the war closes.
“Senior Bp. Of Prot. Epis. Ch. In C. S. A.”
After remaining two days in St. Paul’s Church, the body, by the direction of Col. Geo. W. Rains, commanding the Post, enclosed in a leaden coffin and placed in an apartment of the City Hall tendered for the purpose by the city authorities, where it was left under a proper guard until the morning of June 29th.
Upon the day appointed—being, by a happy coincidence, the Feast of St. Peter the Apostle—the local military force of Augusta, consisting of one full regiment of infantry, a battery of light artillery, and a company of cavalry, was drawn up on Telfair St., in the rear of the City Hall, at half-past nine o’clock, A.M. The Case enclosing the remains was brought and placed within the hearse by soldiers detailed for the purpose. The hearse was draped in the flag of the Confederate States, with its broad folds of white and its starry cross of Trust and Truth upon a field of blood, and surmounted with wreaths of bay and laurel, and a cross of evergreen and snow-white flowers.
The military escort, under Major I. P. Girardey, headed by the Palmetto Band, began its solemn march, the Colonel commanding the Post and His Honor the Mayor of the city on horseback, immediately preceding the hearse. Wardens and Vestrymen, representing St. Paul’s Church, Augusta, St. John’s, Savannah, and the Church of the Atonement, Augusta, accompanied the remains on either side as pall-bearers. After them, under the direction of Captain C. A. Platt, the remainder of the funeral cortège was arranged in the following order:
The Military Family of General Polk, with the clergy and
Citizens of Louisiana.
The Reverend Clergy.
Officers of the Army and Navy.
Members of the City Council.
Civil Officers of the Confederate Government.
Members of the Medical and Legal Professions.
While the imposing procession was passing along the principal streets of the city, houses and balconies and walks were thronged with multitudes who had come out to pay the respects of loving homage to the departed Christian soldier. All places of business were closed. The band played appropriate dirges, and the bell of St. Paul’s Church was tolled at intervals. As it came down Reynolds street, approaching the church, the Bishops of Georgia, Mississippi, and Arkansas in their robes, attended by a company of surplice Priests, moved from the vestry-room, and took their station in front of the church near the entrance-gate, while the company of Sliver Greys was detached from the regiment and drawn up on either side of the avenue as special guard of honor.
The Bishops and Clergy having met the corpse went before in into the church, the Senior Bishop repeating the words, “I am the Resurrection and the Life, saith the Lord,” etc.
The three Bishops with the Rector of St. Paul’s entered the chancel, while the attendant Priests occupied places assigned them on either side without the rail. The anthem, “Lord let me know my end,” was chanted by the choir, with a solemn and effective accompaniment upon the organ.
The Bishop of Arkansas read the Lesson; after which the choir and congregation united in singing the first three stanzas of the familiar hymn, “I would not live always.”
The Senior Bishop then delivered, in the presence of a vast assemblage gathered within and around the church, the
St. John’s Gospel, chapter xi, verse 28.—The Master is come and calleth for thee.
God hath made everything beautiful in his time, and nothing is more beautiful than death, when it comes to one who has faithfully fulfilled all the duties of life, and is ready for its summons. To such a one the solemn message, “The Master is come and calleth for thee,” has no terrors. It is but the long-expected announcement of rest—but the long-desired ending, of the toil of life. The battle has been fought, the victory won, and the war-worn veteran is heralded by his vanquished enemy to his crown of righteousness.
And it makes no matter to the faithful servant under what shape that summons comes. In the history of the Church of Christ the death of its most illustrious saints has taken the revolting form of violence. Some have gone to glory imitating Christ in the shame and agony of the Cross. Others have ascended to the gates of Paradise in chariots of fire. The spirit of the Martyr Stephen passed away amid the curse of an infuriated mob; and the gentle James was smitten with the sword of ruthless tyranny. Why, then, stand appalled that, in these latter days our brother should have died by the hand of violence? Has human nature changed? Has fanaticism learned any mercy? Does the fire which is lighted from hell ever cease its fury against the children of the Most High? We have been plainly told in Holy Writ that, in the latter days, perilous times should come, and come they have to us. Instead of being appalled, Bishops of the Church of Christ, let us rather prepare for what may be our own future fate! Do ye not hear the voices of your own homes, our altars, our families, ourselves? The body which lies before us is the last, but not the only one, of our martyred Bishops. The heart of the gentle, loving Cobbs was broken by the vision of coming evil which he foresaw. The lion-hearted Meade died just when the hand of destruction was laid upon his quiet home, and its sacred associations were scattered to the winds. Otey, the high-souled, the hones-hearted, the guileless, expired a prisoner in his own home, his closing eyes looking upon a desolated diocese, a scattered and ruined people, an exiled-ministry—all the work of his life in ruins. The mangled corpse of our beloved brother closes, for the present, the succession of our Episcopal martyrs. Who shall come next? I, in the proper order of succession. God’s will be done. My only prayer is, that, if He sees necessary, I may die in defense of the same holy cause, and with the like faith and courage.
Our brother fills the grave of a Christian warrior! Although a minister of the Prince of peace and a Bishop in the Church of God, he has poured out his life-blood for us upon the field of battle. Some, even of those for whom this precious blood is shed, have caviled at it. Many, even of those who are stirring up this hellish warfare, have found a mote in their brother’s eye. As he has given his life for us, our duty is not only to honor his ashes, but to place his noble life, and still nobler death, beyond the reach of human calumny. His judgment is with his God, whom he loved so earnestly, whom he served so faithfully. His Master has come and called for him, and with him we leave his cause gladly, joyfully, in unswerving confidence.
That we may form a just estimate of a man’s life, we must keep with us the grate principle which is its pervading influence; and we must consider it in connection with the natural temperament of the individual whose life we are examining. The sun does not change by his beams the outlines of the landscape upon which he shines. They remain ever the same, stern of soft, rugged or gentle; as they came from the hand of their Creator. The sun only bathes this natural arrangement in its flood of light, and clothes it with its robes of purple and of gold, and so with divine grace. It does not alter the great characteristics of a man’s natural temperament. It only softens it, and illumines it, and makes it glorious to all who look upon it, and fills it with the fullness of God’s divine spirit. St. Peter was by nature bold, impetuous, full of ardor and devotion, and in him the spirit of Christ found materials for grandeur of design and a high-souled energy which made him foremost in all the acts which illustrated the earth-life of our Savior and the annals of the Apostolic Church. Is any one inclined to disparage Peter because he was not the same gentle, loving spirit as John, or to quarrel with him because his fervent temper and burning zeal made him sometimes liable to rebuke? God rise up instruments in his Church for his own purposes, and moulds them according to his own predetermined counsels.
A man can not be ardent, uncompromising, single-minded, full of a grand ideal of religion, without being a mark for the criticism of the Church as well as of the world. Such men have been filled with a divine afflatus of which lookers-on know nothing. They seem, in the fullness of their zeal and ardor, to be carried away by a spirit which is mistaken for the spirit with the world’s own fearlessness. “The children of this world,” said our Savior, “are wiser in their generation than the children of light.” Such men as these—men specially raised up—do not permit the children of this world to assume this superiority. They meet them face to face—use different weapons, ‘tis true, but use them alike—hurl at their adversaries the armor of the Lord, in the like spirit of zeal in which the armor of the world is hurled against them; and God means them to do it. There are times and occasions when such a spirit is not only right, but glorious, in the sight of the Lord. Look at our Saviors himself, when he lashed from the temple those who were dishonoring his Father’s house! See him raging, like a man of war, among the money-changers and the husksteers, overturning their tables, and casting out their merchandise! Hear that same Saviour when he burst forth in indignation against the Scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, using such language as a weak Christianity would now find fault with. “Ye serpents, ye generation of vipers, how can ye escape the damnation of Hell?” Hear St. Stephen, when he stood in the midst of the infuriated multitude and said: “Ye stiff-necked and uncircumcised in heart and ears, ye do always resist the Holy Ghost; as your fathers did, so do ye. Which of the prophets have not your fathers persecuted? And they have slain them which showed before of the coming of the Just one; of whom ye have been now the betrayers and murderess.” Hear St. Paul, when he was withstood by Elymas the sorcerer: “O full of all subtiltly and all mischief, though child of the devil, thou enemy of all righteousness, wilt thou not cease to pervert the right ways of the Lords?” Recalling instances like these, tell me if you can not perceive, mingled with the grace and the love of the Gospel, a spirit of fiery indignation, rising and swelling in the bosoms of the Apostles, and Martyrs, and Saints, and even of our Lord himself, which should make us careful how we judge and condemn our brethren who may differ from us in spirit and in action. God raises up his own servants for his own use; elects them, calls them, prepares them, places them where they shall be ready for action, and in due time gives them their work to do. It rises up so plainly before them, that they can not avoid it. It sweeps up to their feet; it involves them in its current. They ofttimes struggle against it, but it overpowers them by its irresistible circumstances, until at last they find themselves mere instruments in God’s hands, doing his will, driven on by His spirit, supported by His strength, dying as His martyrs! Let us apply these principles to the life and conduct of him whose murdered body now lies before us.
In the year eighteen hundred and twenty-six we find, in the military school of the United States, a young man of heroic lineage, with fiery blood of the Revolution coursing in his veins, of independent fortune, of chivalric tone, of high and noble impulses, preparing himself for the service of his country. He had every qualification to ensure him success as a military man; every prerequisite for carrying him up to lofty reputation. No one doubts, for a moment, that had he followed the beck of ambition, he might have risen, as a soldier, to the very proudest rank in the army of the Union. His most fastidious critic has never doubted that be had military traits in his character of the very highest order. If personal courage, comprehensive views, quick perception, rapid combination, prompt decision, great administrative capacity, with the faculty of commanding men, and at the same time of attaching them to him, are the qualities which make a great military leader, then we, who knew him best and have longest acted with him, can bear our testimony to his possession of these qualities in a most eminent degree. They were his characteristics in everything he did—the qualities which have made him illustrious in every phase of life. Upon this young man, thus preparing for the service of the world, Christ laid the touch of His divine spirit, and transformed him into a soldier of the Cross. He had work for him to do in his Church. He had use for those very qualities which would have fitted him for a glorious service of the world. The Church needed a bold and fearless man, full of youth of military training. The Church needed a man of high social position, with the carriage and manners of a gentleman, with the courtesy and grace of a well-bred Christian, to commend her to the consideration of men of hereditary wealth, of great refinement, of cultivated accomplishments. For in the vast country over witch he was appointed to establish the Church, extremes were meeting—extremes of established position, and of struggle for position—of old settled landholders and of needy adventures—of men with all the polish of foreign refinement, and of men with all the strength of unpolished intelligence. The Bishop who should go forth to conquer that country for the Church must posses manners as well as energy—cultivation as well as Christian courage—and the Church found such a combination in this young soldier, who had been snatched from the flatteries of the world. The Church needed a large slaveholder, who might speak boldly and fearlessly to his peers, as being one of themselves, about their duty to their slaves, and might teach them, by his living example, what that duty was, and how to fulfill it; and she found it in this young disciple. He combined in himself just the natural qualities and the accidental circumstances with fitted him for the work to which he was called; and when these had been sanctified by the Spirit of Christ, and constraint was laid upon him to preach the Gospel, he went forth in the power of the Holy Ghost to the earnest fulfillment of his bishopric. And who shall dare to say that the foreknowledge and election of the Head of the Church ended at this point? Who shall presume to say that Christ did not prepare this glorious servant for the final work of his life? It all depends upon the stand-point from which we view this conflict. If we consider it a mere struggle for political power, a question of sovereignty and of dominion, then should I be loath to mingle the Church of Christ with it in any form or manner. But such is not the nature of this conflict. It is no such war as nations wage against each other for a balance of power, or for the adjustment of boundary. We are resisting a crusade—a crusade of license against law—of infidelity against the altars of the living God—of fanaticism against a great spiritual trust committed to our care. We are warring with hordes of unprincipled foreigners, ignorant and brutal men, who, having cast off at home all the restraints of order and of belief, have signalized their march over our devoted country by burning the Churches of Christ by defiling the altars upon which the sacrifice of the death of our Saviour is commemorated, by violating our women, by raising the banner of servile insurrection, by fanning into fury the demoniac passions of the ignorant and the vile! For active personal resistance to such an invasion might Christ well have fitted and prepared a servant, even though that servant should meanwhile have worn the miter of a bishop. It is a wonderful coincidence (to say the least of it) that he who, in his young manhood, consecrated his sword as an offering to the Lord, should, in the ripeness of his old age, have resumed that sword to do the battles of Religion and the church! Who knows the communing of a spirit like his with his Master? Up to that moment he had commended himself to the Church as a self-sacrificing, self-devoted servant and bishop. He had laid down everything at the foot of the Cross. He had stripped himself and his family of riches and home. He had wandered with them, delicately trained and delicately nurtured, from resting-place to resting-place, until they felt that they were pilgrims and strangers, and had no sure abiding place. He had laid aside, for the Church’s sake, the comforts of domestic life—being separated for months from wife and children—until at times he was, as Job says, strange to them. He had his mind, his heart, his soul teeming at all times with great ideas for her advancement and glory, so that his noble, generous soul was well-nigh bursting with its exuberant riches; and can you believe that all this was suddenly changed into a vain and paltry ambition of winning renown upon the battle-field? Why, his views were as much above all such littleness as the heavens are above the earth!
I speak what I do know when I affirm that the complexion which this war was to assume was known to him long before I burst upon our country. We had studied together for years the gathering elements; we had analyzed them; we had seen in them the ripening germs of irreligion, of unbelief, of ungodliness, of corruption, of cruelty, of license, which have since distinguished them, and we came long since to the deliberate conclusion that it was a struggle against which not only the State but the Church must do her utmost. Not merely the layman, but the priest. And this conclusion was not confined to our own breasts. Others of our brethren coincided with us in our views, and even the gentle, loving Cobbs told us, again and again, that when the moment came, old and infirm as he was, he should shoulder his musket and march to the battle-field! And when at last this great responsibility was laid upon him unexpectedly, it met him in the strict performance of his duty. During the first year of the war, when our armies were in the peninsula of Virginia, he left his diocese upon an Episcopal visitation to the soldiers from Louisiana, who then thronged those armies. Having fulfilled that mission, he returned to Richmond just when the Federal armies were preparing to sweep down the valley of the Mississippi and blot out its civilization. A committee of gentlemen from that valley was then at Richmond beseeching the President to appoint some man in whom the people of that vast region could have confidence, and around whom they might rally for its defense and preservation. Sidney Johnston, upon whom the President had relied as the commander of the forces of the Southwest, had not yet arrived from California. Beauregard and Joe Johnston were in command in Virginia. Magruder was in the peninsula. Jackson and the Hills and Longstreet had not yet exhibited their military skill, and were unknown in the valley of the West. The incomparable Lee was engaged in defending the frontiers of his own native state. Hardee was in the service of the State of Georgia. The emergency was great, for the Northwest was gathering all its clans to open the course of the Mississippi, the point in which most nearly touched its interests. The people of Mississippi, Arkansas, and Louisiana were clamoring for a leader, and unless one was furnished them, might abate their enthusiasm and make but faint resistance to invasion. At this critical moment the President bethought him of this man, whom he remembered as a young soldier of the academy, whom he knew as a bishop of the Church, whose lofty qualities he had marked all though life, and whose wide and commanding influence in the valley of the Mississippi he well understood. An unusual sphere in which to seek for a general; but, with his usual promptness and sagacity, he marked his man, and asked the commissioners if Bishop Polk would meet the wishes of the people of the valley. The reply was as prompt as the nomination. “The very man; no one whom you could name of all at your command, would be so acceptable.” Then arose the important question—“can he be persuaded, in this moment of his country’s peril, when all eyes are turned upon him, and all hearts are yearning for him; when his home, his diocese, his Church, the sheep entrusted to his keeping and for whom Christ had died, are threatened not only with temporal but with spiritual destruction; when hordes of infidel foreigners, spawned upon our shores from their hotbeds of infidelity and ungodliness, are coming to preach blood and license to the slaves he was laboring to humanize and Christianize; can he be persuaded, was the interesting question, to resume the sword which he had laid in youth upon the altar of God, and use it in their defense? There it lay, where he had placed it in the prime of life, a virgin and unsullied sword, Not a stain had dimmed its brightness; not a drop of blood had ever marred its purity! It was consecrated to his Saviour—a votive offering which he had made in the days of his early love. Can it be resumed with honor to his Church—with safety to his soul? For vain ambition, no! For worldly distinction, no! For the preservation of property, or even life under ordinary circumstances, no! But for the defense of his Church, the spouse and bride of Christ, for the purity of the altars to which he had been bound as sacrifice, for the care of the sheep bought with Christ’s death and committed to his charge, for the maintenance of the sacred trust of slavery, yes!—a thousand times yes! That sword had been laid upon that altar for the glory of God, and for the glory of God it might be resumed, and for the glory of God it was resumed, and has flashed with a celestial brightness in the eyes of the adversary, dazzling and confounding them. And God has blessed that sword upon every occasion of its use. No matter what was the fate of the rest of the army, wherever that sword was wielded, there was victory. He never knew a defeat. He never received a wound. He moved unharmed through all the perils of the battle-field. Until his work was accomplished upon earth and God would call him to his rest, no weapon that was directed against him ever prospered.
The mode in which Bishop Polk accepted the responsibility which was laid upon him was eminently characteristic of him. When he had determined to assume the military rank with which the President thought fit to invest him, he wrote to me to inform me of the step. “I did not consult you beforehand (were his words), for I felt that it was a matter to be decided between my Master and myself. When I had fully made up my mind to the step, I went to the valley and paid a visit to our venerable Father Meade, feeling it to be my duty to let him know, as the presiding bishop of our flock, what I had determined upon. I told him distinctly that I had not come to consult him; I had come to communicate a decision and to ask his blessing. His answer was, “Had you consulted me, I might not have advised you to assume the office of a general; but knowing you to be a sincere, earnest, God-fearing man, believing you to have come to your decision after earnest prayer for light and for direction, I will not blame you, but will send you to the field with my blessing.” What our brother did he always did boldly, fearlessly, openly, in the face of God and of man. The act was always his own; the responsibility he never laid upon the shoulders or another.
There was in Bishop Polk’s character an earnestness of purpose and a concentration of energy which distinguished everything he did. Whatever Christian work he took in hand, he labored at it with all his heart and soul. His early missionary work, his later diocesan supervision, his interest in all advancement of the slave, his grand university scheme, his military career, were all marked by a like intense devotion and absorption. And his characteristic of the man caused him sometimes to be misunderstood. He appeared to be so wrapped up in what he had in hand, that superficial observers supposed him to be neglecting concurrent duties, and even his own spiritual discipline. But never was there a greater mistake in the judgment of a man’s character. During his conception and conduct of that glorious scheme of education which will remain as his enduring monument, I was his chosen colleague and constant companion. For months together we lived under the same roof, often occupying the same chamber, and interchanging, as brothers, our thoughts and feelings. During that period of three years he seemed, to those who saw only his outer life, to be entirely absorbed in the affairs of the university—to have no thought or care for anything else. But I, who was with him in his moments of retirement as well as of business, know better, and testify that I do know. At the very time when he was putting in motion every influence which might advance his gigantic enterprise, he was conducting a parish church in the City of New Orleans with the entire love of his people; he was managing a diocese which felt no neglect because of his other occupations; he was keeping up a correspondence with literary and scientific men coextensive with the limits of the republic. His pen knew no rest. Midnight often found him at his desk, and early morning say him resume his work with unflagging energy. He left nothing undone to ensure the success of his undertaking, and his enthusiasm and self-devotion were contagious. They spread to every one whom he approached, until his impulses animated all about him. Cold indeed was that nature, and selfish that heart, which be could not awaken to some generous and liberal emotions. Very Fascinating were his manners, and that not from any art or design, but from the high-toned frankness of his nature, and the noble feelings which welled up from his soul as from a fountain of truth and of purity. And during all this time, while he was so absorbed in his great purpose of linking education to the chariot-wheels of the Church, he never forgot the fresh spring of his conception, the author and designer of his plan. God was ever in his thoughts; Christ, the head of the Church, was ever upon his lips; the Holy Ghost, the enlightener of the understanding of men and the controller of their wills, was unceasingly invoked. Never was any step taken in this great work which was not preceded and accompanied by constant prayer. Never was any man approached whose cooperation was important, unless prayer preceded that approach. Every morning, ere he sallied forth upon his work, was the power of Christ called down to bless and forward his plan. Never was any enterprise more bedewed with the spirit of prayer. At the same time that he was busy among men, enlisting the power of the press, securing the sympathies of the wise, opening the purses of the rich, bringing into harmonious action minds and interests of the most diversified nature—seeming only to be employing human means and human appliances—he was likewise busy in his closed invoking upon these efforts the blessings of the Most High.
And as it was in his connection with his university plans, so was it likewise during his military career. He entered upon that with the like concentration of energy and of will, because he belived it to be, for the time, his highest duty toward God and his Church. The duties of his Episcopal office he laid down during his military career, in imitation of his Master, who put aside the glory which he had with the Father ere the world was, during his humiliation upon earth. For he felt his change to be and humiliation—such and humiliation as all God’s children and servants are forced to pass through in their discipline upon earth. When some one, who did not understand the spirit of his act, was foolish enough to congratulate him upon the high honor which the President had conferred upon him, his indignant reply was: “Honor, sir! There is no honor upon this earth equal to the honor of being a Bishop in the Church of God.” And never did he depart from this proper feeling. He felt his military character to be a burden to him, and again and again, as opportunity offered, did he pray to be released from its trammels. But the same necessity which called for his appointment required the continuance of his services, and our highest civil magistrate, the power which we believe to be ordained of God, denied his request. At Harrodsburgh, Kentucky, after the bloody field of Perryville, he said to Dr. Quintard, who accompanied him all through that campaign, with the deepest emotion, “Oh! For the days when we went up to the House of the Lord and compassed his altar with the voice of prayer and of thanksgiving!” Whenever it was possible, during his military career, he surrounded himself with all the appliances of his priestly office, and rejoiced in them to the bottom of his soul. Two days before his death—a Sunday of storm and darkness—he said to one of his aides: “Everything is dark in nature without, but all is peace within this house. Call all military family together, and let us have the precious service of the Church.” “And never,” said he, “did I hear him more fervent, or see him more absorbed.” He was being anointed for his burial.
Who can estimate the influence of such an act as that of our brother upon the cause which is so vital to every one of us? What could invest it with a higher moral grandeur than that a bishop of the Church of God should grid on that sword to do battle for it? A faction of the Northern Church pretended—some of them engaged in acts infinitely more derogatory to the glory of Christ’s Church—to be shocked at it; but it, nevertheless, filled them with dismay. They saw in it intensity of feeling and of purpose at which they trembled, and when they found no echo of their pious horror from the Church of England, they ceased their idle clamor. And our brother thus became, before even he had drawn his sword, a tower of strength to the Confederacy. And who can say how much of the religious influence, which has diffused itself so remarkably among the officers of the army of the West may not have reached their hearts through the silent power of his example and his prayers! Bishop Polk did not think the public exercise of his ministry a proper accompaniment of his military career, and in that I think he acted most wisely; but his dignified and irreproachable life was a perpetual sermon, and his private communion with God was his spiritual power. It is very striking fact that every officer of high rank in that army—the army which, in the language of Gen. Johnston, he created, and had always commanded—has become a professed disciple of the meek and lowly Jesus; and that the last act of our warrior-bishop was the admission into the Church of his Saviour and Redeemer, through the holy sacrament of baptism, of two of its most renowned commanders. He lived long enough to see Christ recognized in its councils of war; and, his work on earth being done, he obeyed the summons of his Master, and passing away from earth, his mantle rests upon it.
Time does not permit me to enter into any detail of his long and useful career as a bishop in the Church of God. That must be left for the biographer, who shall, in moments of leisure and of peace; gather up the threads of his most eventful life and weave them into a narrative which shall be strange as any fiction. The vicissitudes of that life have been as wonderful as those which have distinguished the annals of so many princely families during the last eighty years. Born to large hereditary estates, and increasing that fortune by intermarriage with the noble woman whom he had loved from boyhood, and who has cheerfully shared with him all his Christian pilgrimage, he has died leaving his family without any settled dwelling-place, wanderers from the pleasant homes which knew their childhood and their youth. Trained as a man of the world and a man of pleasure, he has lived a life of almost entire self-denial, a servant of servants, and has died a bloody death upon the battle-field. Destined, in his own intention, to mount to earthly glory by the sword and his own brave heart, full of heroic purposes as he leaped into the arena of life—purposes always high an noble, even when unsanctified—he has been made, by the overruling hand of God, to display that heroism in the fields which Christ his Master illustrated, teaching the ignorant, enlightening the blind, gathering together the lost sheep of Israel, comforting the bedside of sickness and affliction, watching long days and nights by the suffering slave. Oh! How many records has he left with God of heroic self-devotion, of which the world knows nothing; records made up in silence and in darkness, when no eye saw him save the eye of the Invisible! The world speaks of him now as a hero! He has always been a hero; and the bloody fields which have made him conspicuous are but the outburst of the spirit which has always distinguished him. Battles which he fought long since with himself and his kind; which he waged against the pomps and vanities of the world and the pride of life; which he contested with the pestilence that walketh in darkness and the destruction that wasteth at noonday—were far more terrific than Belmont, or Shiloh, or Perryville. These required qualities which were natural to him—those qualities which came from the grace of God and the spirit of Jesus. If, as the wise men says, “Greater is he that ruleth his spirit than he that taketh the city,” then was he truly great—for he had a spirit hard to rule, and Christ gave him the master over it.
But his work is done, and now he rests from his labors! The brave heart is quiet in the grave—that faithful spirit hits returned to God. “The beauty of Israel is slain upon the high places. The mighty is fallen in the midst of the battle. I am distressed for thee, my brother—very pleasant hast thou been unto me.” And thou has come to die at my very door, and to find thy burial amid my pleasant places. Welcome in death, as in life; welcome to thy grave as thou has ever been to my home and to my heart. Thy dust shall repose under the shadow of the Church of Christ. These solemn groves shall guard thy rest; the glorious anthems of the City of God shall roll over thy grave a perpetual requiem.
And now, ye Christians of the North, and especially ye priests and bishops of the Church who have lent yourselves to the fanning of the fury of this unjust and cruel war, do I this day, in the presence of the body of this my murdered brother, summon you to meet us at the judgment-seat of Christ—that awful bar where your brute force shall not shield you from an angry God; where the vain excuses with which you have varnished your sin shall be scattered before the bright beams of eternal truth and righteousness. I summon you to that bar in the name of the sacred liberty which you have trampled under foot; in the name of the glorious constitution which you have destroyed; in the name of our holy religion which you have profaned; in the name of the temples of God which you have desecrated; in the name of a thousand martyred saints whose blood you have wantonly spilled; in the name of our Christian women whom you have violated; in the name of our slaves who you have seduced and then cosigned to misery; and there I leave justice and vengeance to God. The blood of your brethren crieth unto God from the earth, and it will not cry in vain. It has entered into the ears of the Lord God of Sabaoth, and will be returned upon you in blood a thousand-fold. May God have mercy upon you in that day of solemn justice and fearful retribution!
And now let us commit his sacred dust to the keeping of the Church in the Confederate States until such time as his own diocese shall be prepared to do him honor. That day will come; I see it rise before me in vision, when this martyred dust shall be carried in triumphal procession to his own beloved Louisiana, and deposited in such a shrine as a loving, mourning people shall prepare for him. And he shall then receive a prophet’s reward! His works shall rise up from the ashes of the past and attest his greatness! A diocese rescued from brutal dominion by the efficacy of his blood!—a Church freed from pollution by the vigor of his counsels!—a country made independent through his devotion and self-sacrifice!—an university sending froth streams of pure and sanctified learning from is exuberant bosom—generations made better and grander from his example and life, and rising up and calling him blessed!
At the close of this address, the coffin, under the escort of the Silver Greys, preceded by the bishops and clergy was carried to the grave prepared for it in the rear of the church, immediately behind the chancel-window, the family and near friends of the departed accompanying it. While it was made ready to be laid into the grave, the senior bishop pronounced the sentences, “Man that is born of a woman,” etc., and the form of committing the body to the ground, and the sentence, “I heard a voice from heaven.” As he uttered the words “Earth to earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust,” earth was cast upon the body by the Bishops of Mississippi and Arkansas, and Lieutenant-General Longstreet, of the Army of Virginia; and the last military honors were paid by a salvo from the battery of light artillery, stationed for the purpose, at the foot of Washington Street.
The Bishop of Mississippi concluded the solemn services by offering the “Lord’s Prayer;” the first prayer in the order for the burial of the dead; the prayer, “O God, whose days are without end;” the prayer for persons in affliction, and the apostolic benediction.
Death of Lieutenant-General Leonidas Polk.
The entire community have been thrown unto gloom by the publicity of the official announcement that lieutenant-General Leonidas Polk, of the Army of Tennessee, was killed by a cannon-shot, in the early part of Tuesday, while engaged with his associates in command in making observations at the immediate front.
Lieutenant-General Polk was born in Raleigh, N. C., in 1806, from whence, at an early age, he emigrated to Tennessee, in which state the greater portion of his life was spent, and At the age of seventeen he entered West Point as a cadet, in the same class with General Albert Sidney Johnston. While at West Point, under the teachings of Right, Rev. Bishop Mcllvaine, of the Diocese of Ohio, the chaplain of the post, he was received into the protestant Episcopal Church by holy baptism, In the presence of the whole corps of cadets. He subsequently ratified his baptismal vows, and was confirmed by Bishop Ravenscroft, of the Diocese of North Carolina, He was ordained a deacon in the Church by the venerable Bishop Moore of Virginia, in 1830, and was endowed with the priesthood by the imposition of the same apostolic hands in 1836. He was consecrated to the episcopate in 1838, and exercised his varied functions in the Diocese of Louisiana with great credit to himself and usefulness to the Church, until the commencement of our present struggle for liberty, when he entered the field in which he was engaged at his death.
A divine and chieftain has fallen, and at an inopportune hour. The Church will mourn the demise of one of its brightest ornaments, while the whole country sustains a loss that can be ill afforded. But to other pens we leave the duty of recording the virtues and services of the deceased. His history is that of his Church and country, and both will acknowledge his worth and revere his memory—Atlanta Appeal.