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Collection Number: 00266

Collection Title: Gale and Polk Family Papers, 1815-1940 (bulk 1815-1865)

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Size 0.5 feet of linear shelf space (approximately 125 items)
Abstract Gale and Polk families of Louisiana, Mississippi, and Tennessee. The collection consists chiefly of personal correspondence of members of the related Gale and Polk families. Included are ante-bellum papers of Thomas Gale, physician of Davidson, Tenn., who owned plantations in Jefferson and Yazoo counties, Miss., concerning family affairs, politics, and epidemics in Tennessee, and agriculture in Mississippi; Civil War letters of Gen. Leonidas Polk (1806-1864) and of his son-in-law and aid, William Dudley Gale, concerning military affairs in Tennessee, Alabama, and Mississippi; recollections (1895) of W. D. Gale's wife, Katherine (Polk) Gale, of her life during the Civil War in Nashville, Tenn., Yazoo County, Miss., and Asheville, N.C.; and diary (1873-1874) of L. Polk's wife, Frances (Devereux) Polk, recording her activities in the Gale household near Nashville.
Creator Gale family.



Polk family.
Language English
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Restrictions to Access
No restrictions. Open for research.
Copyright Notice
Copyright is retained by the authors of items in these papers, or their descendants, as stipulated by United States copyright law.
Preferred Citation
[Identification of item], in the Gale and Polk Family Papers #266, Southern Historical Collection, The Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Acquisitions Information
Received from Mrs. Frank W. Ring, Nashville, Tenn., before 1940. In 1969, two collections (the Katherine Polk Gale Recollections, #267, and the Mrs. Leonidas Polk Diary, #603, both donated by Mrs. Ring) were merged into the Gale and Polk Family Papers. Photograph received from Mary Gale Page of Clinton, Miss., in November 1997 (acc. 97138).
Sensitive Materials Statement
Manuscript collections and archival records may contain materials with sensitive or confidential information that is protected under federal or state right to privacy laws and regulations, the North Carolina Public Records Act (N.C.G.S. § 132 1 et seq.), and Article 7 of the North Carolina State Personnel Act (Privacy of State Employee Personnel Records, N.C.G.S. § 126-22 et seq.). Researchers are advised that the disclosure of certain information pertaining to identifiable living individuals represented in this collection without the consent of those individuals may have legal ramifications (e.g., a cause of action under common law for invasion of privacy may arise if facts concerning an individual's private life are published that would be deemed highly offensive to a reasonable person) for which the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill assumes no responsibility.
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The following terms from Library of Congress Subject Headings suggest topics, persons, geography, etc. interspersed through the entire collection; the terms do not usually represent discrete and easily identifiable portions of the collection--such as folders or items.

Clicking on a subject heading below will take you into the University Library's online catalog.

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expand/collapse Expand/collapse Biographical Information

Thomas Gale (fl. 1815-1881), a physician who served with Indian fighting soldiers in Alabama Territory in 1815 and afterwards became a planter in Jefferson and Yazoo counties, Miss., and later in Davidson, Tenn., married Ann M. Greene (fl. 1820-1845). William Dudley Gale (fl. 1844- 1881), their son, married Katherine ("Kate") Polk (fl. 1858- 1895) in 1858, after his first wife died. He joined the Confederate Army as a staff officer for his father in law, General Leonidas Polk, in the fall of 1862. After the general's death near Pine Mountain, Ga., in June 1864, Gale was assigned to the staff of General Alexander P. Stewart. The family resided near Nashville, Tenn., after the Civil War. Thomas and Ann Greene Gale had at least two other sons: Abner G. and Josiah R. Other Gales mentioned in these papers include James G., John, Josiah, and Robert; also John Hutchins, an uncle of Thomas Gale. Greene family members mentioned in the papers include Ann Greene Gale's mother Mary and brother, William H. Greene. Greene is sometimes spelled Green.

Leonidas Polk (1806-1864), son of William Polk (1758-1834) and Sarah Hawkins Polk (fl. 1828- 1855), was born in Raleigh, N.C., and attended the University of North Carolina from 1821 to 1823, when he transferred to the United States Military Academy in West Point, N.Y. He graduated in 1827, but, having converted to the Episcopal Church, resigned his commission. He became an ordained deacon and, in 1830, married Frances Ann ("Fanny") Devereux (1807-1875) of Raleigh, N.C. She was the daughter of John Devereux (1761-1844) and Frances Pollock Devereux (1771-1849). Other relatives mentioned in the collection include Leonidas Polk's nephew, Lucius Eugene Polk (1833-1892), and Leonidas Polk's sister, Susan S. Polk Rayner.

After travelling and living with Frances in various places from Virginia to Louisiana, Leonidas Polk was made bishop of Louisiana in 1841. He became a sugar planter, utilizing a large number of slaves inherited by his wife from the Devereux family of North Carolina. He also helped found the University of the South in Sewanee, Tenn., in 1857. In 1861, he was appointed major general in the Confederate army; and in 1862, promoted to lieutenant general. He served in independent command and as corps commander under generals Albert Sidney Johnston, Braxton Bragg, and Joseph E. Johnston. He was killed during the Atlanta campaign on 14 June 1864. Frances Devereux Polk rented a house in Asheville, N.C., during the second half of the Civil War, and afterwards spent much of her time with her daughter Katherine Polk Gale and son in law William Dudley Gale, near Nashville, Tenn. She died in 1875.

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This collection consists chiefly of correspondence and other related materials of the Gale and Polk families, 1815-1881, especially letters written by William Dudley Gale to his wife during the Civil War. Also included are a volume of Civil War recollections written in 1895 by Katherine Polk Gale and diaries, 1873-1874, of Frances Devereux Polk. There are scattered letters written by Thomas Gale, Anne Green Gale, William Dudley Gale, Leonidas Polk, Frances Devereux Polk, and others before and during the Civil War.

While a staff officer in the Confederate army, William Dudley Gale wrote a large number of letters to his wife. He discussed the operations of Polk's Corps (also known as the "Army of Mississippi") of the Army of Tennessee from late 1862 until the death of Leonidas Polk in June 1864. After that, he described activities of Stewart's Corps of the Army of Tennessee. There are detailed descriptions of the Battle of Chickamauga; the Atlanta Campaign of 1864; and the battles of Franklin and Nashville. There is a sketch map of the Nashville battleground and typed transcriptions of two long letters written in January 1865. Gale rendered his opinions on several Confederate generals and politicians, including Braxton Bragg, Jefferson Davis, Nathan Bedford Forrest, John Bell Hood, William J. Hardee, and Joseph E. Johnston.

The recollections written by Katherine Polk Gale contain much information about the Polk and Gale families and the disruptive effects of the Civil War on life in Mississippi and North Carolina. The diaries of Frances Devereux Polk consist of only brief daily entries and memoranda, chiefly regarding personal and family matters.

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Contents list

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expand/collapse Expand/collapse Series 1. Correspondence and Related Items, 1815-1940.

About 125 items.

Consists chiefly of family correspondence of the Gale and Polk families in Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi, Tennessee, Georgia, and North Carolina. Most items are dated between 1815 and 1881.

In a letter, 31 May 1815, Thomas Gale at Mobile, Ala., wrote to James Isam(?) at Columbia, Maury County, Tenn., of troop movements and inhabitants fleeing in response to "the yet unsubdued Creek Indians" and depredations by the British supplied Seminole Indians, as well as of relations with the Spanish. In letters dated 3 July 1816 and 1 June 1817, Thomas Gale at Greenville, Jefferson County, Miss., reflected philosophically and religiously on his life and duty. In the latter letter, Gale mentioned his possible marriage in the near future, and also mentioned a general election to decide whether to divide the Mississippi Territory in two. In another letter, 25 October 1817, Gale mentioned a deadly outbreak of yellow fever in Natchez, Miss., but not in the surrounding counties, and the latest outlook for cotton and corn crops in the area.

In a letter, 17 June 1822, at Philadelphia, Pa., Catharine Ann Devereux wrote to her mother, Frances Pollock Devereux at Raleigh, N.C., mostly about her sister Frances ("Fanny") Devereux's thoughts about deferring her decision to join the Catholic Church until she turned 18. Thomas Gale at Lacache(?) wrote to Josiah Gale at Franklinton, La., 26 May 1827, mostly about the sale of three slaves as part of the settlement of Joseph(?) Gale's estate. In a note, 15 March 1828, John Callander at Port Gibson, Miss., informed Thomas Gale at Lacache, of his election to the Board of Directors of the Bank of the State of Mississippi.

In a letter to his brother Lucius, dated 3 July 1828, Leonidas Polk at Raleigh, N.C., mentioned the cultivation of alfalfa, lucern, and millet, and his engagement, as of mid May, to be married to Frances Devereux. In a long letter of 1 December 1828, Leonidas Polk described to Sarah Polk a visit to Mount Vernon, Va.

In a letter, 22 August 1833, Thomas Gale at Murfreesboro, Tenn., wrote to Josiah Gale at Clinton, Hinds County, Miss., mentioning that the cholera outbreak was clearing, that William Dudley Gale was in school with Mr. Black, that the crops in Tennessee were in a poor condition, and that good reports were coming from plantations on the Yazoo River, Miss. John Hutchins at Woodbourne, Miss., in a letter dated 3 November 1838, mentioned to Thomas Gale that William Dudley Gale was doing well in Mississippi; he also described the small but "very good" cotton crop, and abundant crops of corn and sugar in Louisiana. He asked where to acquire enough good quality timber for fencing.

Gale family letters for the years 1844 and 1845 include personal correspondence between William Dudley Gale near Satartia and Newark, Yazoo River, Miss., and his parents at Nashville, Tenn., in which they chiefly discussed family matters, the weather, and Yazoo plantation work. In a letter dated 6 May 1845, William D. Gale reported to his mother the outbreak of diseases in the area of Vicksburg: "black tongue," scarlet fever, measles, and whooping cough; he also mentioned the good cotton and corn crops, storm damage, hail, and runaway slaves. On 7 August 1848(?), Ann Greene Gale and Thomas Gale at Louisville, Ky., wrote to Abner G. Gale at Cambridge, Mass., about their trip to Cincinnati, Ohio, with comments about the Whig vote for Zachary Taylor in Kentucky and Mississippi.

There is a letter from William Dudley Gale at Holly Bend, Miss., to Abner G. Gale at Yazoo, Miss., dated 23 February 1857, in which he gave instructions for planting; he also described the ships on the Mississippi River and a trip to New Orleans, in which he heard the celebrity Jenny Lind sing.

Polk family correspondence and related materials in the 1840s and 1850s include the last will and testament of Leonidas Polk, dated 14 November 1849; a letter from Leonidas Polk at New Orleans, La., to Kate Polk, 4 September 1858, about her marriage to William Dudley Gale; and another dated 22 December 1858, from Frances Devereux and Leonidas Polk to Kate Polk Gale, in which mostly family matters are mentioned. In a letter dated 22 September 1859, Leonidas Polk at Hillsborough, N.C., wrote to Katherine Polk Gale about her trip to England and Scotland, about visiting Swain (David Lowry Swain?) and the University of North Carolina, and about members of the Polk family.

Civil War correspondence between Frances Devereux Polk and Leonidas Polk consists of six items. In a letter of April 15, 1861, Frances, at Sewanee, Tenn., described in detail how the Polk home in Sewanee burned down. She wrote from New Orleans, La., on 24 April 1862, about the imminent capture of that city. She also wrote from Asheville, N.C., on 10 April 1863, mostly about family matters, rumors, and the effects of the war. Letters from Leonidas to his wife in this collection for the years 1861 to 1864 were from the following locations and dates: Columbus, Mo., 9 December 1861; 26 March 1863; Demopolis, Ala., 9 March 1864. These mention both family and military matters.

Other Polk letters and related materials for the Civil War period are: letters from Frances Devereux Polk at Shelbyville, Tenn., 1862, to Kate Polk Gale; Frances Devereux Polk at Asheville, N.C., 17 December 1862?, to Kate Polk Gale, about her establishing temporary residence in Asheville; from Leonidas Polk at Atlanta, 17 October 1863, to an unknown correspondent, regarding feelings in the Army of Tennessee against Braxton Bragg after the Confederate defeat at Chattanooga; and from Frances Devereux Polk at Asheville, 27 November 1863 to Harriet (?), in which there is a description of family events of the previous year, including their removal to Asheville. There are also orders and communications concerning the death of Leonidas Polk, 14 June 1864, from Confederate generals Joseph E. Johnston, William J. Hardee, and John Bell Hood. A letter from Frances Devereux Polk at Asheville, 14 May 1865, describes conditions in the final days of the war.

Letters from William Dudley Gale to his wife Kate Polk Gale were from the following locations on these dates: Knoxville, Tenn., 17 and 23 October 1862; Atlanta, Ga., 24 January 1863; Shelbyville, Tenn., 1 February, 1 and 26 March 1863; Chattanooga, Tenn., 12 and 17 July 1863, 1 and 10 August 1863; Lafayette, Ga., 15 September 1863; near Chattanooga, Tenn., 21, 25, and 28 September 1863; Atlanta, Ga., 29 October 1863; Enterprise, Miss., 8 December 1863; Meridien, Miss., 3 January 1864; Demopolis, Ala., 18, 25, 28 February 1864, 26 March 1864, 7, 29 April 1864; near New Hope Church, Ga., 27 May 1864 (two letters); Atlanta, Ga., 19 August 1864; near Atlanta, Ga., 17 September 1864; near Nashville, Tenn., 3 and 9 December 1864; Augusta, Ga., [undated 1864]; near Tupelo, Miss., 14 and 29 January 1865; and near Smithfield, N.C., 1 April 1865. They describe, among other things, the operations of Polk's Corps (renamed Stewart's Corps after Leonidas Polk's death) at the Battle of Chickamauga, in the Atlanta Campaign of 1864, and at the battles of Franklin and Nashville. There is a sketch map of the Nashville battleground, dated 14 January 1865, and also typed transcriptions of letters dated 14 and 29 January 1865. Comments are made about Confederate generals Braxton Bragg, Nathan Bedford Forrest, William J. Hardee, John Bell Hood, Joseph E. Johnston, and Leonidas Polk, as well as about Jefferson Davis. Others mentioned include John Cabell Breckinridge, James Longstreet, William W. MacKall, Louis T. Wigfall, and Alexander Stephens.

In addition to Gale and Polk family correspondence, there is a mock official battle report, fictitiously attributed to Nathaniel P. Banks, entitled "La bataille des mouchoirs" (The battle of the handkerchiefs), dated 20 February 1863. There is also a letter from a Union soldier dated 5 October 1862; its connection to members of the Gale and Polk families is unclear.

There are several personal letters from Frances Devereux Polk to her children, all probably written between 1871 and 1876, in which she discussed mostly family matters.

There is a letter from Stephen Dill Lee (1833 1908) at Columbia, Miss., to William Dudley Gale, mostly about an article Lee wrote in response to an article by James Ronald Chalmers (1831-1898). There is a letter from Thomas Gale at Abydas, Yazoo River, Miss., 27 March 1881, to Anna M. Gale at Nashville, Tenn., mostly concerning family and agricultural matters. There is a letter from Aaron Gale, apparently a freedman and former body servant, at Satartia, Miss., 3 July 1881, to William Dudley Gale, inquiring about his well being. In a letter of 17 January 1895 from Susan S. Polk Rayner, there is information about the Hawkins and Polk families.

Undated materials consist of two Gale family letters and two maps of Gale property on the Yazoo River, one marking the location of Satartia.

Folder 1

1815-1819 #00266, Series: "1. Correspondence and Related Items, 1815-1940." Folder 1

Folder 2

1820-1839 #00266, Series: "1. Correspondence and Related Items, 1815-1940." Folder 2

Folder 3

1844-1859 #00266, Series: "1. Correspondence and Related Items, 1815-1940." Folder 3

Folder 4

1861-1863 #00266, Series: "1. Correspondence and Related Items, 1815-1940." Folder 4

Folder 5

1864 #00266, Series: "1. Correspondence and Related Items, 1815-1940." Folder 5

Folder 6

1865 #00266, Series: "1. Correspondence and Related Items, 1815-1940." Folder 6

Folder 7

1871-1885, 1935, 1940 #00266, Series: "1. Correspondence and Related Items, 1815-1940." Folder 7

Folder 8

Undated #00266, Series: "1. Correspondence and Related Items, 1815-1940." Folder 8

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expand/collapse Expand/collapse Series 2. Diary and Recollections, 1873-1874, 1895.

4 items.

expand/collapse Expand/collapse Subseries 2.1. Diary of Frances Devereux Polk, 1873-1874.

2 items.

Arrangement: chronological

These diaries consist of brief daily entries about subjects such as the weather, the grandchildren (children of William Dudley and Katherine Polk Gale) and their education, growing and picking strawberries, church and religious activities, health, socializing, birthdays and anniversaries, reading, knitting, and travelling. There are also appended memoranda, chiefly monthly expenses and notes.

Events mentioned in the 1873 diary include: Mardi Gras in Nashville, 25 February 1873; Katherine Polk Gale's finishing and correcting her memoirs, 1 March 1873; remembering Leonidas Polk's death on its ninth anniversary, 14 June 1873; an outbreak of cholera in eastern Tennessee, 2 August 1873; and the children's opening their presents on Christmas Eve 1873.

Events mentioned in the 1874 diary include: William Dudley and Katherine Polk Gale's bringing back flowers from the Confederate memorial in New Orleans, 14 April 1874; William's dining with John Bell Hood, 23 June 1874; and taking the children to an ice cream parlor, 13 14 July 1874. Occasionally, there are entries of a more introspective nature, for example, those of 7 February, 4 5 April, and 25 and 31 December 1874.

Folder 9

1873 volume, 430 pages #00266, Subseries: "2.1. Diary of Frances Devereux Polk, 1873-1874." Folder 9

Folder 10

1874 volume, 422 pages #00266, Subseries: "2.1. Diary of Frances Devereux Polk, 1873-1874." Folder 10

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expand/collapse Expand/collapse Subseries 2.2. Recollections of Katherine Polk Gale, undated.

Katherine Polk Gale, in intimate style, wrote of her life in the Yazoo Valley of Mississippi, at Nashville, Tenn., and at Asheville, N.C.

She wrote of her own immediate ancestors, members of the Pollock, Devereux, Hawkins, and Polk families of North Carolina, and of the Gale family of Tennessee and Mississippi; of Leonidas Polk being made Episcopal bishop of Louisiana; of family life on a sugar plantation and of life in New Orleans; of Katherine Polk's marriage, in 1858, to William Dudley Gale, of Mississippi and their life at Holly Bend on the Yazoo River.

She wrote of the outbreak of the Civil War, of families returning to Nashville, of Gale and Polk men and boys entering the Confederate army, and of Bishop Polk's being made a general. She wrote of her return to the Yazoo Valley, of Mrs. Polk going to New Orleans, of General Benjamin Butler's occupation of that city, and of the method of smuggling letters from New Orleans to and from Confederate soldiers.

There are descriptions of cotton being burned to keep it from Yankee possession, the Yazoo Valley being flooded by the Yankees who cut the levee, and the Gale family taking refuge at "Poverty Hill," forty miles from the plantation and near Jackson, Miss. There is a description of suffering caused by "buffalo gnats."

There are discussions of the siege of Vicksburg, artillery fire being heard at the Mississippi retreat; of cutting carpet into blankets for soldiers; and of William D. Gale joining the Confederate army and serving on the staff of General Leonidas Polk, and later, as adjutant general on Major Alexander P. Stewart's staff.

There are references to Mrs. Polk renting a house in Asheville, N.C., and Mrs. Gale and family joining her there, and a description of the journey by train and stage, seeing dead and wounded soldiers at the depot in Atlanta.

There are many references to Mrs. Gale's father, General Leonidas Polk, and an account of the aftermath of his death.

The greater part of the memoir tells of life at Asheville, mentioning the Episcopal Church and rector, Jarvis Buxton; the scarcity of food, clothing, and other necessities; and hiding meat, jewelry, and other possessions. Katherine Polk Gale also described the wedding of her sister Elizabeth ("Lily") to William E. Huger, a trip made by Mrs. Polk to visit the Devereux family near the Roanoke River in North Carolina, and many friends, including Daniel Blakes, who lived eleven miles away from Asheville. She wrote of Capt. Allen, who came to Asheville as a recruiting officer for the Confederate army and was brutally murdered by plunderers when the war ended.

There are descriptions of several old men going off to reinforce General Robert E. Lee's troops in Virginia; the perilous journey of Mrs. Polk and her daughters returning to Asheville; the difficulties of assembling an equipage when needed; the end of the war, including depredations by Union soldiers; and the apparent loyalty of slaves during the war and of freedmen afterwards.

At the end of the narrative, there are descriptions of the difficult journey by Katherine Gale, her husband, their children, and several others, returning to Nashville, and a recounting of how William Dudley Gale left his family in Nashville to go to Mississippi, disposing of his property there and returning to Nashville to establish himself in business.

Folder 11

Recollections (original), 162 pages #00266, Subseries: "2.2. Recollections of Katherine Polk Gale, undated." Folder 11

Folder 12

Recollections (typed transcription), 81 pages #00266, Subseries: "2.2. Recollections of Katherine Polk Gale, undated." Folder 12

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expand/collapse Expand/collapse Series 3. Picture

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expand/collapse Expand/collapse Items Separated

Photograph (P-266/1)

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Processing Information

Processed by: Southern Historical Collection Staff, 1969; Erik D. France, April 1991

Encoded by: Joseph Nicholson, February 2006

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