The “Rebel Bishop,” Frenchman Augustin Marcellin Verot, was consecrated a bishop on April 25, 1858. On July 14, 1861, Pope Pius IX appointed Bishop Verot to the See of Savannah, vacant since the 1859 death of Bishop John Barry.
The bishop was outspoken in his defense of Southern “rights,” and guided the 8,000 Catholic of the diocese during the difficult days of the Civil War. Bishop Verot sought to moderate the worst aspects of slavery and to institute “social, moral and religious improvement” for slaves. He stated forcefully that the abolition of slavery offered an unprecedented opportunity for the Catholic Church to reach out to a large bloc of people who had formerly been strangers to the Church’s teachings. Perhaps Bishop Verot’s greatest achievement was the incorporation of the Catholic schools in Savannah into the public school system, while retaining their religious character. Bishop Augustin Verot died in St. Augustine in June 1876.