Leonidas Polk Memorial Carillon, and Some Thoughts on the Confederacy

RPC JZ-88441 (1967)

Few people think of a carillon as a music instrument, but it really is one. As the back cover attests, it’s played with a keyboard, in this case by William Lyon-Vaiden. Many of the details about the carillon can be found in the back cover, which you can see while playing Side Two of the album (the latter part of the video.)

A carillon can be used in a number of ways: as a prelude, as a postlude, or sometimes in the liturgy itself. It’s especially effective in a campus setting, in this case the University of the South in Sewanee, TN, where people are more or less a “captive audience.”

The selections are a mixture of hymns from the 1940 Hymnal, classical pieces and some folk pieces as well. An album made up of only carillon music can get tiring to hear; however, broken up the listening experience is quite pleasant, and one of the nicer parts of the Anglican/Episcopal heritage.

The songs:

SIDE ONE

  1. SEWANEE HYMN…Traditional
  2. ALMA MATER (Sewanee)… Newton Middleton ‘09
  3. CAMPANELLA (For Carillon)… Georges Clement
  4. FOUR SONGS FROM THE BRITISH ISLES: All Through The Night… Welsh, Drink To Me Only With Thine Eyes… English, Loch Lomond… Scottish, Londonderry Air… Irish
  5. FISHER’S HORNPIPE (Irish Melody)… arr. Percival Price
  6. MUSS I DENN (Swabian Folksong)… arr. Milford Myhre
  7. PRELUDIUM IN G MINOR… Jef Denyn

SIDE TWO

  1. PRELUDIO #7… Matthias van den Gheyn (1721-1785)
  2. BELLSONG (Theme by Sibelius)… Edwin Nielsen
  3. JESU, JOY OF MAN’S DESIRING… Johann Sebastian Bach
  4. EIN’ FESTE BURG (Paraphrase)… Leen ‘t Hart
  5. YE HOLY ANGELS BRIGHT (Darwell, Hymn Tune)… arr. Marian Craighead
  6. SOFTLY NOW THE LIGHT OF DAY (Seymour, Hymn Tune)… arr. William Lyon-Vaiden

Some Thoughts on Leonidas Polk and the Confederacy

In recent times the University of the South has removed the designation of “Leonidas Polk” from the carillon, that in spite of the fact that his great-grandson William Dudley Gale financed its construction; it was dedicated in 1959. The reason for the removal was that Polk was not only an Episcopal bishop but a Confederate general. He was instrumental in starting the University, as noted on the album cover:

For an evaluation of his role in the founding of the University, his contemporaries on the Board of Trustees spoke in this manner in 1867: “If the great beneficial results which our University was founded to secure shall ever be accomplished, the praise, under God, will be mainly due to the wisdom and forethought, the hopeful confidence and indefatigable labors of its founder, the magnanimous, self-sacrificing Bishop Polk.”

Likewise noted on the album cover was an ebullient overview of his varied life:

The man destined to hold Episcopal jurisdiction over Arkansas, Mississippi, Texas, Louisiana, the Indian Territory and Alabama was born April 10, 1806. He died, pierced by an artillery ball, on June 14, 1864. In those intervening 58 years there developed a career described as follows by Dr. A. Cabell Greet, who was orator at Sewanee’s 1959 Commencement: “After Alfred the Great, there has lived no one man who achieved such stature in the fields of religion, of the military, and of education as Leonidas Polk.” He was a bishop of the Episcopal Church, a lieutenant-general of the Confederacy, and the projector of the idea for a university of a comprehensiveness still unrealized anywhere in the world a hundred years after his death.

The subject of Leonidas Polk is a personal one: my great-great-grandfather Henry Winslow was his aide-de-camp, right up until the general was killed (his letters around that time are here.) A second cousin was a member of the Sons of the Confederate Veterans, doing Civil War re-enactments in New Jersey, no less. Living in Southeast Tennessee and travelling in North Georgia frequently, I retrace Winslow’s and Polk’s steps on a daily basis. That all said, I think it’s time for a reality check, not only for those who are defending this heritage but for those who are trying to destroy it.

To start with, in spite of the glowing tribute to his prowess, Polk wasn’t exactly the sharpest knife in the drawer when it came to leading a military force in the field. Bragg, his superior at Chattanooga, was even worse. Sometimes I think that the U.S. Army named its installations Fort Polk and Fort Bragg as an acknowledgement that, at the level they were operating, they had as much to do with the Union victory as Grant and Sherman. One myth I heard growing up was that the Confederacy had a better military and military leadership. That was certainly true in the early part of the war when the Union struggled with a deeply politicised process of promotion. As was the case with so many things, the Union learned from its mistakes; the Confederacy did not.

Today, of course, we have the Critical Race Theory types who are trying to erase this legacy. Or are they? Reading all of the complaints they have about “whiteness”–punctuality, industry, organisation, etc.–some of us come to realise that the very white society that produced the likes of Polk was lacking in all of these things. That’s why they were forced to import slaves to do the work; their idea of life was too genteel to do otherwise. It also means that a region which, with no interference from others, never built an industrial base suitable to fight a modern war was and is a testament to two facts: a) “white” is not a univocal term, and b) there is no such thing as “white supremacy” for a culture which not only did not build this industrial base (and the educational system to support it) when they badly needed it, but after the disaster the region slept in poverty for a century before the tax-hungry Northern states forced the first mass American industrial relocation. The South was the U.S.’s first “third world country” to relocate to.

But CRT types, in typically American style, don’t degrade their vision of “whiteness” because it produces an unproductive society, but an immoral one. They’d rather have their moral superiority (virtual signalling) than real superiority and prosperity. That’s a classically Southern way of doing it. CRT types decry the appeal of the “Lost Cause” without stopping to think why it was lost, the mirror image of their pro-Confederate opponents. After the ruin of the Civil War the South has risen again twice, first in the “Lost Cause” and second in those who want to drive it out of consciousness and create a nation where things are not said in fear of offending someone and everyone “goes along to get along” independent of merit, a Southern MO. The only difference is not the concept but the methodology and the beneficiaries. (A good example of this is Loudoun County’s proposal to eliminate advanced math, another Southern public school manoevre if there ever was one.)

But, like the Confederacy, we live in a world where those who oppose us have a higher view of productive work and the benefits that come from that work. If we persist in creating our moralistic bubble without doing that work, we will end up like the Confederacy, in ruins and broken.

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