Sgt. Maj. George F. Polley

Sgt. Maj. George F. Polley


Circumstances Surrounding the Death of Sgt. Maj. G. F. Polley

"C" Co. MA 10th Infantry


George F. Polley

Residence Williamsburg MA; a 21 year-old Silver Plater. Enlisted on 6/21/1861 as a Private. On 6/21/1861 he mustered into "C" Co. MA 10th Infantry He Re-enlisted on 12/21/1863 He was Killed on 6/20/1864 at Petersburg, VA Promotions: Sergt 1st Sergt Sergt Major 2/7/1863 1st Lieut 5/6/1864 (Not Mustered) On the evening of June 19, 1864 the 10th Mass was relieved from front line duty at Petersburg in anticipation of the unit's mustering out of federal service at the end of three years. Polley, awaiting a 1st Lt. commission, had re-enlisted and was not planning to return to Massachusetts with his regiment, but was still with the unit. A confederate salvo was fired from across the Appomattox River at 9:00 a.m. on the morning of the 20th. One of the shell's hit Polley in the abdomen. He died in a few minutes. He was the last man killed from this regiment. General Marsena Patrick -the Provost Marshall - was at that place and at that time to execute by hanging one William Johnson, a member of the U.S. Colored Troops, possibly the 23rd Regt. Both Johnson and Polley died at approximately the same time. The Boston Evening Transcript published this: "A negro named William Johnson was executed this morning (June 20, 1864) in front of the Jordan House, in full view of the enemy, for an attempt to violate the person of a young lady at New Kent Court House (located between Old Church and White House). A battery close by had been shelling the rebels just previous to the execution, and they opened in reply, throwing a number of shells rather close than desirable, one of which struck George Polley, Sergeant Major of the 10th Mass. Regt., who died in a few minutes." General Patrick's diary entry for June 20th said: " The Execution came off this morning. I went out early and examined the gallows, with other arrangements and then went back for the troops and prisoner - They arrived, just after a shelling commenced, upon the very place where the gallows was erected so that I had to form the troops below the crest and leave as few exposed as possible - The Chaplain prayed with him; he acknowledged that he was a deserter, that he had changed his name and committed the crime charged upon him - The rope was adjusted the bandages placed over his eyes and the drop fell - He never knew anything after. A shell killed the Sergt. Major of a Mass. Regt. just at the time." It isn't clear in anything I've seen about this, but I think Polley and his regiment were ordered to the place of execution as witnesses, probably because they had been relieved of all other duties and weren't engaged in anything else.

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