The Death of General Polk
The fall of Gen. Polk is the saddest event which has occurred in this army since the death of Albert Sidney Johnston. The shock will be great upon the soldiers, who loved him, and upon the country, which respected him. He was a grand old man. As a commander he was enterprising, vigilant and brave; as a churchman, he was pious, liberal and faithful; as a man he was the soul of honor, affection and upright manliness.
The circumstances of his death have just been related to me by one of the party who was nearest him at the moment. His story is as follows: Gens Johnston, Polk, and Hardee, accompanied by Genl Jackson (of the cavalry) and a small escort of staff officers, had ridden out in front of Gen. Bates’ line to examine a positions thought [fold] Washington Artillery. The horses were made fast of the foot of one hill, and the party ascended to the crown. Here there were the initials to an abattis, with several embrasures, rendering the place very much exposed. The enemy’s guns were less than eight hundred yards in front. There had been a little desultory firing during the early hours of the day, but this had ceased for some time before the group of officers began its reconnaissance. This was prolonged to a much greater extent than usual, and glided into a general and animated conversation, all of the gentlemen being gathered into a knot, and using their hands a glasses with a marked freedom, bespeaking rank and interest. The enemy could not fail to see them plainly, and whilst they were being observed deliberately returned the observation, with full time for calculation and adjustment. The party seemed to forget its exposed situation, although some of the cannoneers who had been at work upon the little tier of breastment, pointed out to them the accuracy of the enemy’s shots. Presently a single spherical case shell was discharged from the yankee battery, and exploded directly above the heads of Gens Polk, Johnston, Hardee, and Jackson. All of them fell to the ground to avoid the concussion or fragments. It was then proposed to divide, and the different gentlemen separated to such courses as were at hand. Gen. Polk selected a very secure shelter, but, becoming impatient and anxious to scan the range of fire more accurately, he stepped out upon the brow, and was intently gazing out across the country, his arms folded and his left side presented, when a three inch round shot from a steel rifle cannon, struck the elbow, crushing both arms and passing through the heart, a portion of the chest and stomach, and out, and on its murderous course. The old man fell lifeless and mangled to the ground. Gen. Johnston was bending over him in an instant, with the rest of the party. They lifted him in their arms to an ambulance, and he was carried to his quarters, where his bewildered military family received it with the mourning of men meeting the corpse of a father.
Source: Fayetteville Observer, June 30, 1864 as found on www.ncecho.org