Today, we are pleased to welcome back guest author Joe Owen
The enduring fame of General John Bell Hood’s Texas brigade in Civil War history was due in large part to a soldier of the Fourth Texas Infantry Regiment, Quarter Master Sergeant Joseph Benjamin (J. B.) Polley. He was born near Bailey’s Prairie, Brazoria County, Texas, on October 27, 1840, the sixth of eleven children of Joseph Henry and Mary (Bailey) Polley. His family had historical Texas roots. His father Joseph Henry Polley a native of New York, first came to Texas with pioneer Moses Austin in 1819 and returned with Stephen F. Austin in 1821 as one of the Old Three Hundred colonists. In 1847 the Polley family moved to a farm on Cibolo Creek about thirty miles east of San Antonio.
In 1861 Polley graduated from Florence Wesleyan University at Florence, Alabama, and returned to Texas to enlist in Company F of the Fourth Texas Infantry, one of the regiments of the famed Hood’s Texas Brigade in the Army of Northern Virginia. Sergeant Polley fought in many of the major battles the brigade was in. He received a head wound at the battle of Gaines Mills in 1862, and lost his right foot at the battle of Darbytown Road near Richmond on October 7, 1864.
After returning to Texas at the end of the war, he was admitted to the Texas bar in 1868 and established a law practice until 1876, when he moved to Floresville. In 1866 he married Mattie LeGette, and the couple had four children. Polley was elected commander of the Texas Division of the United Confederate Veterans. He was an active member and leader of Hood’s Texas Brigade Association made up of the former soldiers of the brigade. For several years he wrote weekly articles for the San Antonio Express titled “Historical Reminiscences” about Hood’s Texas Brigade and other Confederate brigades, leaders, soldiers and battles.
Polley’s first Civil War book, A Soldier’s Letters to Charming Nellie (1908), is controversial as it has been suspected over the years to be a largely fictional correspondence rather than the authentic Civil War letter cycle which he claimed to be. There is no authenticated woman named “Nellie” that he knew. He was commissioned by the Hood’s Texas Brigade Association to write Hood’s Texas Brigade: Its Marches, Its Battles, Its Achievements (1910), and is considered one of the classics of Civil War literature. Polley was also a frequent contributor to Confederate Veteran. He attended the yearly Hood’s Texas Brigade Association reunions up until shortly before his death. He died on February 2, 1918 in Floresville, Texas and is buried in the city cemetery.
J. B. Polley kept the history and fame of Hood’s Texas Brigade alive throughout the years. His desire to keep the brigade’s achievements and history alive has been largely successful. He would be pleased and proud to know that the brigade’s history is well known in American and Civil War History.