The Bishop of the Old South: The Ministry and Civil War Legacy of Leonidas Polk

The Bishop of the Old South: The Ministry and Civil War Legacy of Leonidas Polk

by Glen Robins


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The controversial and tragic Civil War career of Leonidas Polk has cast a long and obstructive shadow over the life of one of the antebellum South's most significant religious leaders. The son of a wealthy, slaveholding veteran of the Revolutionary War, Polk graduated eighth in the West Point class of 1827. Although he seemed destined for martial service, he abruptly and unexpectedly resigned from the military to pursue a ministerial career that culminated with his selection as the first Episcopal bishop of Louisiana. As the owner of more than 200 slaves and a profitable sugar plantation, Bishop Polk commanded a unique platform from which he articulated a vision of the Old South that merged Episcopalian values and traditions with the region's more dominant evangelical religious culture. Polk displayed virtually no interest in his denomination's theological squabbles. Instead, his genius rested in his attempts to cultivate a religious solidarity among white Southerners of all classes and to broaden the social and cultural appeal of Episcopalianism in the South. Polk's mission for the University of the South illustrated his dedication to denominational purity, but it also embodied the fundamental tenets of a religious and culturally based Southern nationalism. Ultimately, Polk's Lost Cause mythmakers developed a public memory of the bishop general that celebrated the virtue of the Christian gentleman who had waged war for Southern independence. In this book, a considerable amount of new information on Polk's family, his time at West Point, his ministry, his life as a planter, his role with Sewanee, and his place within the pantheon of Lost Cause icons has been brought to light. What emerges is a clearer portrait of the Bishop of the Old South.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780881460384
Publisher: Mercer University Press
Publication date: 10/15/2006
Pages: 243
Product dimensions: 6.30(w) x 9.10(h) x 1.00(d)

About the Author

Glenn Robins is an assistant professor of History and director of the honors program at Georgia Southwestern State University. He has published several articles on the experiences of Civil War soldiers, the Lost Cause movement, and post-Cold War religious culture. He is currently editing the Civil War prisoner of war diary of Sgt. Lyle G. Adair, 111th United States Colored Infantry.

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