Polley, Joseph Benjamin (1840–1918)

By: Thomas W. Cutrer

Type: Biography

Published: 1952

Updated: May 1, 1995

Joseph Benjamin Polley, Confederate soldier and writer, 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. Joseph Henry Polley, a native of New York, had first come to Texas with Moses Austin in 1819 and returned with Stephen F. Austin in 1821 as one of the Old Three Hundred colonists. In 1847 the 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 of the Army of Northern Virginia. Polley served through almost all of the major battles of the brigade, 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 read law and was admitted to the bar in 1868 but did not establish a practice until 1876, when he moved to Floresville. He served as Wilson county attorney in 1877 and 1878 and as a member of the Sixteenth Legislature in 1879. In 1866 he married Mattie LeGette; the couple had four children. Polley was elected commander of the Texas Division of the United Confederate Veterans. He died in Floresville on February 2, 1918.

His memoir of his army service, Hood's Texas Brigade (1910), is considered one of the classics of Civil War literature. Charles W. Ramsdell noted that "the author's happy style has made the book very readable, very unlike the great bulk of regimental and brigade histories." Polley's first Civil War book, A Soldier's Letters to Charming Nellie (1908), while informative and entertaining, has been suspected to be a post-war fabrication rather than the genuine Civil War letter cycle which it is represented to be. Polley was also a frequent contributor to Confederate Veteran.

John Henry Brown, Indian Wars and Pioneers of Texas (Austin: Daniell, 1880; reprod., Easley, South Carolina: Southern Historical Press, 1978).
  • Writers, Authors, Publications, and Literature
  • Literature
  • Memoirs, Diaries, Letters, and Travel

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.

Thomas W. Cutrer, “Polley, Joseph Benjamin,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed May 24, 2022, https://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/entries/polley-joseph-benjamin.

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

May 1, 1995