Lot 473: Episcopal Bishop of Louisiana (1806-1864) whose West Point classmate, Jefferson Davis, urged him to accept an appointment as a Confederate general despite a lack of combat experience. Dubbed the 'Fighting Bishop,' Polk was killed in action during the Atlanta Campaign. Civil War-dated ALS signed "Leonidas Polk, Majr Genl, Commanding, 2d Department, C.S.A.," three pages on two sheets, 7.75 x 9.75, Head-Quarters, Department No. 2 letterhead, July 29, 1861. Letter to Col. Robert William Topp, Dr. Fowlks, Judge Caruthers, and Daniel Leatherman. In full: "I am satisfied that many of our fellow countrymen in East Tennessee, have, by the course of events, been forced with occupying a position in regard to the question pending between the North & the South which is hardly in keeping with their natural relations, & from which it is our duty in a Spirit of magnanimity to do what we can to relieve them. Without entering into the questions at issue, I feel confident that if they are assured by their Southern fellow countrymen of their disposition to treat them with kindness & to respect their manly feelings, while they are making provision for the protection of our own Tennessee Soil against invasion from the North, they will have no reason to feel aggrieved by the presence of troops in their midst. They must see that the policy of the U.S. Government on whether Mr. Lincoln's government is to overrun & subjugate us, & they also know that they are threatening to do this through the passes of the Tennessee mountains. What are we to do then? But one thing is left us, & that is to place troops at all of those points at which we are most exposed. This assuredly in the face of the facts alluded to should form no just ground of complaint on the part of any candid man of sense. It is upon every amount desirable that no irritating language or any offensive bearing should be manifested by the troops towards citizens in East Tennessee or elsewhere, & the commanders will doubtless see that this is not done. Your well known Character & position in relation to the public questions which have agitated us, make it in my opinion a very proper office for you to perform to go to our fellow citizens of East Tennessee & with fraternal words & unfeigned kindness to endeavour to induce them to waive their opposition to the decision of the majority of the voters of the State & to become hereafter as heretofore with us a united band of brothers. The State of Tennessee in the history of the year has a fame which among our States has been among the most enviable. For Statesmanship & military distinction she has been excelled by none. In the name of all that is hallowed & precious let us see to it that we transmit to our children an escutcheon unstained by the demoralizing...influences of Social distractions & conflict. Concession in a world like this is inevitable. To bow before the direction of majorities the highest of the duties of American citizenship. May we not hope these gentlemen through you will be a mission of peace, & trust we shall soon bear of but one party in the Eastern End of our beloved Tennessee as there is but one in the East & the Central, district & like the true patriots of our good old mother the Old North State we shall be one & indivisible." Intersecting folds (one vertical fold passing through a single letter of the signature), scattered soiling, and some show-through from writing to opposing sides, otherwise fine condition.
As one of the border states, Tennessee was divided on the subjects of slavery and secession: while pro-slavery sentiment was strong in middle and west Tennessee, the eastern part of the state was strongly pro-Union and opposed to secession. Public opinion began to change, however, after President Lincoln responded to the attack on Fort Sumter by summoning federal troops to suppress the Southern rebellion. Feeling their state's security at risk with the specter of Lincoln's troops on the horizon, many of the Unionists flipped and and voted for secession, making Tennessee the last state to leave the Union at the beginning of July 1861. Polk's stirring letter, imbued with the eloquence of a preacher's sermon, calls for the people of Tennessee to set aside their political disagreements and unite to protect their beloved state-he thought that even Unionists believed themselves Tennesseans first and foremost. This idealized vision of a united Tennessee never materialized, and the east remained a Republican stronghold that proved a thorn in the side of Confederate troops as a primary location for guerrilla warfare.
RR Auction's Fine Autographs & Artifacts
Friday, 23rd October 2015
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