DECATUR, Ala. – A battlefield cannon and drum from the Battle of Gettysburg, plus other Civil War items, will be sold alongside antiques from the Dancy-Polk House Inn, in an on-site historic auction slated for Saturday, Oct. 12, starting at 9 a.m. (CST). The event will be held under a large tent with comfortable seating, at 901 Railroad Street North West in Decatur, Ala.
That’s the address of the Dancy-Polk House Inn, constructed in 1829 and one of only four buildings in Decatur to survive the Civil War. Today it is owned by Jan Garber, who has appointed it with wonderful furnishings and antiques, many from the period. All of these will be sold, as will the house itself (at 12 noon). Southern Homes & Land Realty are the selling agents.
The contents of the Dancy-Polk House Inn, plus other consignments, will be sold jointly by Stevens Auction Company (of Aberdeen, Miss.) and Empire Auction Gallery (of Athens, Ala.). Offered will be large Victorian mirrors, period lighting, Persian rugs, grandfather clocks, porcelains, rare furniture pieces, early American primitives and American Brilliant Cut Glass.
The Civil War items are from the private collection of an avid Civil War enthusiast, gathered over 50 years. The cannon – a 3.67-caliber weapon and one of three 6-pounder models used by the Union Army at the 1863 Battle of Gettysburg – comes with letters of documentation. It was last fired in 1946. The drum was used to lead Confederate troops into the historic battle.
Some of the many period furnishings will include a large and beautiful walnut Victorian hall tree with white marble top, heavily carved and with a deer’s head on top; a circa-1840 primitive double mammy’s bench with original stenciling; and a majestic rococo mahogany rosewood half tester plantation bed from around1850 in great condition, 10 feet 4 inches tall.
Furniture by the renowned 19th century American furniture makers J. & J.W. Meeks will include a five-piece rosewood laminated rococo parlor suite in the Stanton Hall pattern with blue floral upholstery, with a sofa, two arm chairs and two side chairs (circa 1850); and a rosewood pierce carved oval center table, also in the Meeks Stanton Hall pattern and executed about 1855.
Other furniture pieces will feature a rosewood rococo laminated sofa, similar to one in the Arnot Art Museum and attributed to Charles Boudoine; a flame mahogany Empire Gothic breakfront with four wine drawers, 9 feet 1 inch tall, circa 1840; a period Empire breakfront with original crest and rippled molding, 8 feet 6 inches tall; and a circa 1860 walnut Victorian étagère.
Also sold will be a mahogany Steinway parlor piano with stool in excellent condition, circa 1930; a large antique French bronze and marble clock with a large bronze cup on top; a three-piece Victorian clock set; a rococo gold leaf over-the-mantle mirror in great condition, circa 1860; a set of 12 mahogany Chippendale chairs (one arm, 11 sides); and other items.
Additional Civil War-era lots will include a Federal officer’s sword with etched blade, stamped “COS” on the blade; an officer’s sword with scabbard, circa 1880; a presentation sword with etched blade (to Thomas W. Cloyd); an antique print of Gen. Robert E. Lee in a walnut frame, published by the John A. Lowell Bank Note Co. (Boston, 1906), 30 inches by 24 inches; guns; buckles; breast plates and other artifacts. In all, over 600 lots will come up for hid Oct. 12.
The Dancy-Polk House Inn is listed on the Alabama and National Register of Historic Places. It was built by Col. Frances Dancy, after he settled there from southern Virginia. The home was later passed down to his granddaughter, Lavinia, who married Capt. Thomas G. Polk. The structure was used as a headquarters for the Union Army when Decatur was under siege.
During the Civil War, Decatur was a strategic location for the South because it was there that the Memphis and Charleston railroads crossed the Tennessee River. Union General William T. Sherman’s famous “march to the sea” was driving deep into Georgia in 1864, but his lifeline ran back to Nashville, where a Union depot supplied food, ammunition and supplies to his men.
Confederate General John Bell Hood felt a strike at Sherman’s supply lines would force the federals into retreat. Hood believed a quick victory in Nashville could reverse the course of the war for the Confederacy, but to achieve that he would have to cross the Tennessee River. Decatur was the attempted point of that crossing, with a railroad and national road big pluses.
After being wrapped in a fierce four-day battle involving mounted troops, gunboats and scores of infantrymen, Hood was forced to abandon the shallow waters at Decatur and regroup westward to cross the river at Florence, Ala. But because the river was overflowing there, it resulted in a three-week delay on the advance, giving Union troops time to prepare for the rebels.
It was U.S. Gen. Dodge, not Sherman, who had captured and fortified Decatur earlier on, burning all but four buildings to house officers. One was the Dancy-Polk House, in the center of Fort Decatur. The home survived Gen. Hood’s four-day attack in 1864 and various other ravages of war and was maintained as a boarding house by the Polks and successive owners after the war.
Today, the Dancy-Polk House Inn retains its original antebellum splendor, with a roster of past visitors that includes the Confederate General “Fightin’ Joe” Wheeler, as well as Union Generals Ely Lilly, James Garfield (who went on to become a U.S. President), Turchin, Dodge, Doolittle and the notorious Frank James, who boarded at the residence prior to his surrender.
There will be no Internet bidding for this auction, but phone and absentee bids will be accepted. Previews will be held on Sunday, Oct. 6, from 1-6 p.m. and Friday, Oct. 11, from 10 a.m.-7 p.m.
Stevens Auction Company is always accepting quality consignments for future sales. To consign a single item, an estate or a collection, you may call them directly, at (662) 369-2200; or, you can e-mail them at firstname.lastname@example.org. To learn more about Stevens Auction Company and the upcoming Oct. 12 on-site estate auction, visit www.stevensauction.com.