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[325] of calamity after the battle of Belmont, Missouri, and after he had industriously fortified Columbus, Kentucky. It is easy to read in Polk's letter, as given in these volumes, that his chagrin was deep when Columbus was evacuated. But this was only the beginning of his troubles as a division commander.

An effort was made to hold him responsible for the result of the battle of Shiloh. His biographer is convinced that the entire Union army could have been captured at the end of the first day's fighting. He points out that the battle should have been fought a day earlier than it was in any case, and that with becoming promptness the Federal army could have been taken utterly by surprise. The failure to accomplish these things as fully as was hoped, he attributes to the illness of Beauregard, and to the delays which Bragg experienced in getting up troops who were unaccustomed to marching. Later came the campaign which culminated with the battle of Perryville. All through this campaign, he maintains, Bragg handled his army in accordance with his mental impressions as to what Buell, the Federal commander, ought to be doing; and not in the light of information constantly pressed upon him from the front. The result was that Polk, as his biographer estimates, had to fight 58,000 men with 16,000, while Bragg gathered 36,000 men in the direction of Frankfort, Kentucky, to oppose a mere detachment of Buell's army, amounting to 12,000 men. After the battle of Chickamauga, Dr. Polk insists that it took Bragg so long to learn that his army was victorious as to make the triumph—which had cost the loss of one man out of every three—utterly useless. The elder Polk himself described Bragg's conduct as weak, and added an epigram—he had a taste for neat phrases—to the effect that there were times when weakness was wickedness. Subsequently, his wish for the appointment of Joseph E. Johnston as commander was gratified. But the possibility of retrieving past errors or misfortunes had gone by, and in the last scene of all, when Polk fell on Kenesaw, the manner of his death was such as he might have deliberately sought. Consciously or unconsciously he seems to have challenged the fate that came to him. ‘General Polk,’ writes his son, ‘walked to the crest of the hill and, entirely exposed, turned himself around, as if to take a farewell view. Folding his arms across his breast, he stood intently gazing on the scene below. While he thus stood a cannon shot crashed through his breast, and, opening a wide door, let free that indomitable spirit.’

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