A chance encounter at a recent Civil War show in Marietta between Mullinax and avid Civil War photography collector Tom Liljenquist of Virginia at last allowed the Library of Congress — which has the portrait along with about 1,000 others donated by Liljenquist — to identify her great-great grandfather, Stephen Pollard. The photograph has appeared in countless books and was included in the Ken Burns’ documentary of the Civil War.
“He gave me his card, and I was slowly going through the collection on the Library of Congress website and saw my grandfather’s picture there, but it said he was unidentified,” Mullinax said. “I couldn’t really figure out why it said he was unidentified because we have a book that has this photograph in it and tells all about him. I had seen the photograph in places and assumed that one of my Pollard cousins had identified him and given permission for them to use his picture.”
The book Mullinax is referring to is “Remembering Georgia’s Confederates,” written in 2005 by local retired educator and Civil War historian Dr. David Wiggins. Though the photograph had been widely circulated in countless other books and Burns’ famous documentary before Wiggins’ book was published, Wiggins was the first to identify Pollard on Page 60 of his book.
“I don’t know of it being identified in any other source up to that point,” Wiggins said.
Wiggins received the photograph for use in his book from the Fayette County Historical Society and all of the accompanying information that described Pollard’s military history. He assumed the photograph had been donated to the Historical Society by one of its members, who was a Pollard.
Though he had heard that it was recently identified for the Library of Congress, Wiggins didn’t know that it was Mullinax who had done so.
“Mr. Liljenquist is a famous collector, and he got all these images and he purchased this image not knowing who it was,” Wiggins said. “He recently gave all the images to the Library of Congress. I didn’t know that it was Mrs. Mullinax that had identified the image for them, but I did know that someone had. It’s really a neat story.”
The photograph is so famous that the story of Mullinax’s identification has made national news in such places as Washington, D.C., and New York City. In fact, Mullinax said she recently received a phone call from a woman in Seattle, Wash., who said she had read about it and had some Pollard relatives from Carroll County and wondered whether they were related.
According to Wiggins’ book, Pollard was born in 1830 in Fayette County and was the oldest son of Irvin Pollard. Prior to the war, he moved to Carroll County, where he met and married Marry Ann Vines. They then moved to Haralson County.
Pollard served as a private in the 7th Confederate Cavalry, Partisan Rangers and later served in the 40th Georgia Infantry. He surrendered at Greensboro on April 26, 1865, nearly three weeks after General Robert E. Lee surrendered to General Ulysses S. Grant at Appamattox Courthouse in Virginia and almost two weeks after President Abraham Lincoln was assassinated.
During his Confederate service, Pollard fought in battles at Brandy Station, Chancellorsville, Fredericksburg, Richmond and Petersburg, though it was never reported that he suffered any wounds.
In the ambertype photograph, Pollard is looking at the camera with fierce eyes as he poses in a light-collard overshirt with a dark collar, cuffs and shoulder lapels. He is armed with an 1855 U.S. single-shot pistol with shoulder stock and a pair of revolvers.
According to Mullinax, a book of family history and stories she has that was written by Pollard’s grandson describes Stephen Pollard as being a hunter and farmer who was six feet tall. He and his wife had 11 children, eight of which survived. One of those surviving children was Mullinax’s grandfather.
The family history also spends a lot of time talking about Pollard’s horse, a gray mare that had a way of letting his master know when Union soldiers were nearby and kept Pollard and his fellow soldiers from being ambushed. In one of those stories, it describes how Pollard came home to get another horse at one time during the war.
According to Wiggins, it was not an uncommon practice for cavalry soldiers who lost a horse or had them shot out from under them in battle to come home and get another.
“You had to have a horse if you were in the cavalry,” he said.
Mullinax had seen an original photograph of her great-great-grandfather owned by her cousins at family reunions, but she’s never owned one. However, she does have Stephen Pollard’s cavalry sword and a bayonet that were given to her by an uncle.
“There’s not too many people that have anything that belonged to their great-great-grandfather,” she said.
Upon seeing her grandfather’s picture in Liljenquist’s collection on the Library of Congress website, Mullinax contacted the collector and told him who the man was so he would no longer be listed as “unidentified.”
“He said that picture has been in the public eye for 40 years (without being identified),” Mullinax said. “He acted like he just couldn’t believe it. He asked me how I knew that it was my grandfather, and I told him I had a book with his picture in it and all this information.”
Mullinax sent Liljenquest a scanned copy of the page from Wiggins’ book with Pollard’s picture and information, and in turn he sent her some of his official military records that included Pollard.
“It was just one of those twists of fate that I ran into him at that show and he had a picture of my grandfather and didn’t know who he was,” Mullinax said.
Pollard died in 1899 and is buried at Liberty Christian Church in Temple, the same cemetery where Mullinax’s parents are buried.