Part of the Cool Civil War Names series.
Leonidas Polk was many things: a West Point graduate, founder of The University of The South (Sewanee), the second cousin of President James Polk, and an Episcopalian bishop. He was also a terrible field general. He was a typical example of a Civil War “political general”, a man who had little or no combat experience but was given (or demanded) a political appointment from someone in power, who in Polk’s case was the Confederate’s big dog himself, Jefferson Davis.
Polk didn’t demand the job; he just offered his services to Old Jeff, who dispatched him to the Tennessee Valley. He hopped around Tennessee and Mississippi, all the while butting heads with General Braxton Bragg, who called Polk “an old woman…utterly worthless” but knew he couldn’t shake him because Jeff Davis loved him. Didn’t matter for too long, though, because Polk was killed in June 1864 when General William Tecumseh Sherman (of The March to the Sea fame) spotted him hanging with other officers and shelled them.
It’s important to note that while Polk, despite graduating from West Point eighth in his class, was not a good battle tactician, he was loved by his troops. His nickname was “The Fighting Bishop” for obvious reasons, and to one Confederate private his loss was second only to Stonewall Jackson. I’m sure there are many other examples of clergymen becoming soldiers, but Polk was one of the more controversial ones.
Next in CCWN, the sagacious SYLVANUS CADWALLADER.