Bishop-General Leonidas Polk, a Confederate general during the Civil War, was killed by Union cannon fire on top of the mountain at about 11 a.m. on June 14, 1864. A large marker surrounded by a gate marks the spot, and a crowd of about 150 gathered to honor him and observe 60 seconds of silence Saturday.
"He lived his life as a love unto his people," said the Rev. Archibald Everhart, who spoke and read from the Liturgy during the ceremony honoring Polk.
After the reading, those attending the ceremony said the pledge to the American flag, the Georgia flag and the Confederate flag.
The event was organized by the Sons of Confederate Veterans Gen. Leonidas Polk camp, which is based in Smyrna. Speakers included Post Commander Garry Daniell and Marietta attorney Martin O’Toole, an SCV spokesman who gave a detailed history of several events in Polk’s life. Kennesaw State history professor Michael Shaffer also spoke.
Francis Devereux Polk IV, the great-great-great grandson of Bishop-General Polk, was inducted into the Sons of Confederate Veterans during the ceremony. Francis Polk, 69, is provost of Ocean County College in New Jersey and came to Kennesaw for the event.
“It’s almost emotional for me to be here,” Francis Polk said. “This is the spot.”
The Rev. J.W. Binion, of Kentucky, portrays Polk at several Civil War events and was also on hand Saturday.
Binion called the spot “sacred ground,” and also recounted events from Polk’s life.
The ceremony featured blue flags with a red cross and white stars, which are known as Polk corps flags. They were also the flag of the Army of Tennessee, of which Polk’s corps was part.
Polk lived from April 10, 1806, to June 14, 1864. He was a second cousin of President James K. Polk and served as a bishop in the Episcopalian Church before and after becoming a general, according to O’Toole. After becoming a general, he became known as the Fighting Bishop.
“He was a fine, Christian warrior who died defending his homeland,” O’Toole said.
Among Polk’s accomplishments was founding The University of the South in Sewanee, Tenn. He envisioned it as a school to rival the best schools in the world, and O’Toole said he raised enough money for the school to give it a larger budget than the University of Georgia and the University of Virginia combined at the time.
O’Toole said Polk owned as many as 400 slaves, but he thought of them as people and helped found a church for them. Polk wished to free his slaves, O’Toole said, though he did not do so during his lifetime.
Polk was the West Point classmate of Confederate President Jefferson Davis and became a general during the Civil War at Jefferson’s behest, despite not having entered the ministry immediately after having graduated from college.
O’Toole said Polk was very popular with his troops, who called him “Bishop Polk.”
The artillery shell that killed Polk was fired under the direction of Union Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman.
The property now sits on land owned by Marietta attorney Fred Bentley, Sr., who allowed the Sons of Confederate Veterans to use it for the ceremony.
A bugle was played both at the beginning and the end of the ceremony, and a line of rifles fired three times at its conclusion.
Afterward, a commemoration took place at Polk’s last headquarters, which stood on the present-date site of the Kirk House on Burnt Hickory Road in Marietta.