Huston Horn Discusses His New Book “Leonidas Polk: Warrior Bishop of the Confederacy”

Now available: Leonidas Polk: Warrior Bishop of the Confederacy

Leonidas Polk was a graduate of West Point who resigned his commission to enter the Episcopal priesthood as a young man. At first combining parish ministry with cotton farming in Tennessee, Polk subsequently was elected the first bishop of the Louisiana Diocese, whereupon he bought a sugarcane plantation and worked it with several hundred slaves owned by his wife. Then, in the 1850s he was instrumental in the founding of the University of the South in Sewanee, Tennessee. When secession led to war he pulled his diocese out of the national church and with other Southern bishops established what they styled the Protestant Episcopal Church in the Confederate States of America. Polk then offered his military services to his friend and former West Point classmate Jefferson Davis and became a major general in the Confederate Army.

How would you describe your book in two or three sentences? The book covers the principal phases of Leonidas Polk’s life: West Point cadet, Episcopal priest/bishop, sugar planter, University of the South founder, and Confederate general. In many respects an estimable human being, Polk was infected by the virulent racism of his times. And as divisive as the Civil War was to most Americans, Polk took it one step further by dividing the Episcopal Church as well.

What was your inspiration to research and write about the “Warrior Bishop of the Confederacy?” Growing up in a Southern “Lost Cause” household, and becoming an Episcopal minister myself, I was struck by the commonalities between Leonidas Polk and me – and I reflected upon the differences.

What was the most challenging aspect of researching and writing the book? The deciphering and copying over several years of Polk’s voluminous original and microfilmed correspondence. He once himself compared his daunting penmanship to hieroglyphics – but it was worse than that.

William C. Davis says that there are those who have maintained that General Leonidas Polk did more to bring about Confederate defeat than any other single man. Do you agree with that assessment? I am not a military historian, but I suspect such a blanket disparagement is overly harsh. What may be said in his favor was his bravery in combat (foolhardy, sometimes) and his abiding popularity with his rank and file soldiers.

Despite a lack of prior combat experience, General Polk was quickly promoted through the Confederate ranks by President Jefferson Davis. How has history viewed his military service and Davis’s decision to advance him? History knows that Davis and Polk were friends since their West Point days together: “a set,” they called it. That friendship covered many a flaw.

What is one thing you would like readers to take from your work? The disjuncture of Polk’s life as a Christian clergyman and the owner of slaves – albeit the most beneficent of masters, as he liked to think of himself.

If you could have any one person read your book, who would that be? Polly Lee Carroll, my wife and companion for 55 years who read numerous drafts and fixed plenty of footnotes, but died of lymphoma in 2013 before the final version was finished.

Huston Horn followed his career in journalism at the Nashville Tennessean, Sports Illustrated, and Time-Life Books with an ordained ministry in the Episcopal Church. He lives in Pasadena, California.

Los Angeles Times Features UPK’s Philippa Strum

9780700617197The Los Angeles Times highlights the Mendez v. Westminster case as Philippa Strum, UPK author of “Mendez v. Westminster: School of Desegregation and Mexican-American Rights,explores the important role Latinos play in the upcoming election. As Strum states, “In the coverage of the 2016 election cycle, you’ll hear this time and again: Latinos—immigrants and their families—are playing an important role in electing the next U.S. president. They are the largest minority group in the nation, and they are poised to make a major impact on American democracy.”

Let’s Stop Making Veterans

9780700621361Every year on Veterans Day, I call my dad and brother, both Veterans. I’m proud they are, but I wish they weren’t. My hope is that one day we will stop making Veterans, a hope that seems increasingly naive as our president “intensifies” efforts against ISIL by putting “boots on the ground” in Syria. There will be more Veterans next year.

Ten years ago on Veterans Day, my brother was in Iraq on his first deployment—on the road to becoming a Veteran like our father, who had been in Vietnam 37 years earlier. My brother kept a journal during his deployment in East Hit. I want to share some excerpts as we mark the ten years since he became a Veteran.

[Dec 23, 2005] The [locals] have been very friendly thus far, I have even smoked the hookah with them, also got to try some food that I think was bean based, but very good. I do sincerely hope that we do not upset the locals too much and that the rest of days will go on peacefully as they have thus far.

[Dec 31, 2005] The Iraqi troops have quit on us. They no longer want to go on patrol or stand post. I’m not quite sure why that is, hopefully they are not bitter at us. I understand that they are under great pressure from their people and some go to great extents to hide their faces and identities while on patrol to protect their families, but obviously they could not last more than one week out patrolling with us Marines.

[Jan 21, 2006] I honestly do not see how they [Iraqi soldiers] will ever be able to maintain law and order in this country.

These diary entries are from ten years ago. Ten years ago, my brother recognized, with genuine and heartbreaking disconcertion, the impossibility of stabilizing Iraq. Ten years ago, we had far fewer Veterans then we do today.

So here we are on another Veterans Day. And with a mixture of gratitude and shame, I find myself choking on the realization that tomorrow we will have the most Veterans we’ve ever had; and if we keep going at the rate we are going, the fewest we ever will. But we can stop it. We can do something different. When I call my dad and brother to thank them, I will again say a silent prayer for peace, hoping that next year I won’t have to.

–Written by Lisa Ellen Silvestri, author of “Friended at the Front: Social Media in the American War Zone

 

Liberty & Equality

9780700621743To a remarkable extent, American politics has always been thoughtful and American thought has always been political.  In the pages of S. Adam Seagrave’s “Liberty & Equality: The American Conversation,” we see how some of our greatest minds have grappled with the issues of liberty and equality: Tocqueville and Jefferson, Alexander Hamilton as Publius in The Federalist, James Madison, George Washington, William Lloyd Garrison, Frederick Douglass, Abraham Lincoln debating Stephen Douglas, and Franklin D. Roosevelt.  In essays responding to these primary sources, some of today’s finest scholars take up topics critical to the American experiment in liberal democracy–political inequality, federalism, the separation of powers, the relationship between religion and politics, the history of slavery and the legacy of racism.  Together these essays and sources help to clarify the character, content, and significance of American political thought taken as a whole. They illuminate and continue the conversation that has animated and distinguished the American political tradition from the beginning—and, hopefully, better equip readers to contribute to that conversation.

Publisher’s Pick: New Books from UPK

9780700620890As lawsuits against Obamacare again await a decision by the Supreme Court, many might wonder about the prominent role of state attorneys-general in bringing suits attacking the health care law. Recently we published the first study of litigation pursued by many state attorneys-general on policy issues, focusing on cases involving the liability of tobacco companies for the health consequences of smoking and litigation involving climate change and Obamacare. Paul Nolette’s “Federalism on Trial: State Attorneys General and National Policymaking in Contemporary America” shows how states, working together, have sought to use the courts to influence the policies of the federal government from both the left and the right. Liberal state attorneys-general have used law suits to push the government to adopt aggressive policies against climate change while cases have been litigated by conservative state attorneys-general to stop Obamacare. Nolette explores the legal strategies employed in these cases, the involvement of private interest groups in supporting the litigation, and the role of state politics, especially the ambitions of the attorneys-general and their relationship to other state leaders, in determining who will sue. Charles Epp says that “Nolette’s rich, carefully researched analysis shows that AG’s litigation campaigns are coordinated, politically polarized, and enhance federal regulation as much as challenge it.”

One of the exciting aspects of publishing now is that the internet and blogs like this offer the opportunity to build new connections between our authors and new audiences for their ideas and work. As a publisher of books on current affairs as well as history, I am eager to see these books join the conversations about important issues. From time to time in this blog, we will highlight new Kansas books that can change the way we think about critical issues now or important events of the past. Paul Nolette’s book is a great example of the public affairs books we publish and that we will bring to your attention in this blog and through our other marketing efforts.

–Written by Chuck Myers, Director of University Press of Kansas