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America’s Last Civil War Veterans and Participants:
An Investigation
By Garry Victor Hill
Revised and Expanded Edition
America’s Last Civil War Veterans and Participants:
An Investigation
By Garry Victor Hill
Revised and Expanded Edition
Copyright and Disclaimer
page 5
page 6
page 7
Author’s Note
page 9
page 10
Introduction to the Second Edition
page 16
Introduction to the Fourth Edition
page 18
Part One
page 20
Part Two
page 91
page 360
About the Author
page 361
Copyright: Garry Victor Hill asserts the moral right to copyright of the written text of
this work. Short quotations for critical or academic purposes are allowed. Sales by any
means or storage in any electronic system without the expressed permission of the author is a
copyright violation. ©ᶜ
The maps and most illustrations are from free access internet sites. Most of these
illustrations are from Google options, these are compiled by generic topics. They begin
‘Images of…’ They request feedback, which becomes a specific request for usage and if
granted, they are copied. Others have been used following requested copyright steps for
inclusion. Either way, they should not be copied from this work. The author does not hold the
copyright to any illustration. If any illustration has been put on free access websites without
their owner’s permission, and then copied here, this is done unknowingly. Contact the author
and that illustration will be removed or given full acknowledgement.
Other illustrations are used with permission. Only one of those of W.W. Alexander,
two of Jay S. Hoar and three picture frames, have been cropped. Not one illustration has
been coloured, but some are enlarged or diminished.
Permission to quote text and captions is with acknowledgement: Garry Victor Hill
Website “America’s Last Civil War Participants: An Investigation.” 2014. Or
[email protected] The search document option makes indexes obsolete. No list of
works cited ensures that plagiarists do some work. Copies are stored in the archives of the
UNE Library, Armidale, The Virginia Historical Society and the South Carolina Department
of Archives and History and are with Professor Jay S. Hoar and Andrew MacKenzie. Copies
are being sent to, the Australian National Library, and the Library of Congress and to the
Mitchell Library Sydney.
Written without prejudice.
No suggestion of fraud, racism or deceit is made against any individual. Where claims have
not been fully verified this is due to a lack of conclusive evidence or conflicting evidence.
In this work Civil War era battle flags from both sides have been used to identify which side a
veteran or participant sided with. Crossed Battle flags have been used to illustrate what the
conflict was about. The use of the Confederate flag in this work is historical and does not
express support for any political group that uses that flag as a symbol. The use of the
Confederate flag by white hate groups is a misuse of history.
A Note on language:
Although the topic and many of the quotations are in American English, the computer is
based in English English. This leads to inconsistencies in spelling and the use of some terms.
I have not corrected grammar, spelling or syntax in quotations. The old style of putting a p
before a page number has been used to avoid confusion with computer numbers.
Professor Jay S. Hoar of Maine, the world’s outstanding authority on the veterans, for
copyright permissions, general advice and a massive donation of books, photos and material.
Linda Murray Baker of South Carolina for information on Arnold Murray and A.B. Murray
The photo of Arnold Murray and other information is courtesy of Irvin Shuler of South
Thomas P. Cole of Charlotte-Mecklenburg Library for information on W.W. Alexander.
Peggy Dillard of the website Tennrebgirl for permission to use the UCV 1913 Reunion
John P. Deeben, Archives Specialist of the National Archives Washington D.C. for
information concerning the 11TH South Carolina Volunteers.
Information and Photographs for the section on Red Cloud provided by Ernest L. Plunkett,
brother in law to Chief Red Cloud, son of Joseph A. Plunkett. This information was compiled
and sent by Joyce Milhorn Plunkett.
Linda K. Lehman and Donna Peternell for their work on James Elbert Erwin and their sent
photographs and clippings.
Charles Green of Steubenville’s Historic Society for information about Red Cloud.
Martha Cross Mordecai for her information on W.W. Alexander and photographic
Cherri Butler of Fitzgerald Georgia for her work on William J. Bush.
Richard Menard for the use of his copyrighted photograph of William J. Bush.
Harold Ott and The Jonesboro Sun for help with the Loudermilks.
John McClure of the Virginia Historical Society for his vital help on Thomas Evans Riddle.
Wade H. Dorsey, a South Carolina History archivist for work on Arnold Murray.
C. Michael Anderson of Prospect, Connecticut for good advice on texts and information
about Sarah Rockwell and advising me to contact Professor Hoar.
Cheryl Wasserman of the Fort Christmas Staff for her information about the fort.
Steve Groggins of Georgia for information about William J. Bush.
Thanks to archivists at the Danbury Museum, the Virginia Library and Arkansas State
Michael Vetman of the Indiana State archives for information on William Kiney.
Thanks to many others for copyright permissions. A special thankyou to those writers,
researchers, archivists, genealogists, bloggers, owners of pictures and contributors who
refuse to be commercialised and allow free access to their sites - that includes FOLD 3, and
Jay S. Hoar (1933- )
Professor Jay S. Hoar is the pioneer in the study of America’s Civil War
Veterans. His three volume elegy will remain the definitive collection. He hates
war and likes people. He is a wise man.
Professor Hoar at home and on his travels across America researching the lives
of veterans
Author’s Note:
This is Version Four of a work in progress. More research is needed:
verdicts on the last surviving veterans are not set in stone. New evidence that
may clarify their roles may still come in. Publication was delayed as news came
in about Red Cloud, W.W. Alexander, Arnold Murray, James Erwin, William
A. Kiney, Francis Healey and Charlie Smith. Any new information will appear
in a later edition. As the word veteran does not apply to several who did small
brief services for their side, this work was retitled to include the more accurate
term participant.
While realising that continual hedging with “probably” “possibly”
“uncertain” “likely” “seems” and “dubious” are wearying and create a longing
for definite conclusions, a major point must be that too many people writing on
this issue have been definite – and have been wrong. When evidence is
inconclusive historians should still go with the evidence. With sources I have
not usually credited muster rolls, certificates for birth, employment, marriage
and death, and also censuses as all these sources are referred to in the text. If
they do not have a source note they are computerised and can be found by
googling their names.
While realising that investigating censuses, muster rolls and similar dry,
dusty documents cannot be as glamorous or exciting as watching Hollywood
versions of historical events they can still be revealing ones.
Earlier versions contained some errors and changed opinions. A massive
problem with paper size was only recently detected. “US Letter” is very close to
A4, but does paginate differently. This led to versions being four lines out and
that led to pages and script going further out of kitter. My apologies.
Free access copies of this book should are available in e-book form. This is also
found by typing in Garry Victor Hill online, Try my website using google top
left hand bar Or try the title using google as a
search engine. Illustrations are in colour and many a typo has been fixed.
Printed soft bound copies in black and white are available at the cost price of
$13 plus postage, which costs more than the printing Prices for colour
illustration copies are negotiable. Contact [email protected]
“Why do you care about them? They are all dead now.”
This book grew out of that question asked in school as I was engrossed in
reading of the American Civil War. Actually they were “not all dead” back then
in about 1956 or 1957, but whatever the literal truth, the question still resonates.
In childhood I could not answer it and still cannot, at least not fully. However it
remains a question that could (more politely) be asked of many millions, for that
war remains one of the most written about events in history. Why?
William Faulkner, grandson of a Confederate colonel, wrote that the past
has never passed, it remains all around us - and this certainly applies to the Civil
War. Historian Bruce Catton made worthwhile points, saying that it has shaped
what type of nation America would become, and that it gave ordinary people a
great moment when they could decide their future - and that of their nation.1 In
the North people felt that they were part of crushing a rebellious betrayal of
their beloved land of freedom and they were establishing a free nation that
Bruce Catton, “A Sound of Distant Drums’ in The American Heritage Picture History of
The Civil War. 1960. Editor in Charge, Richard M. Ketchum.
New York: American Heritage Publishing Co. Inc./Bonza Books, 1982. p606.
would stretch from the Atlantic to the Pacific. When Lincoln spoke of America
being the world’s best hope for liberty that idea resonated with many. A vocal
and powerful minority in the North also believed that they were doing God’s
work by ridding the land of liberty from the curse and the canker of slavery.
Catton also writes of the lure of the other appeal to other Americans; the
Southern dream of the life on the plantation that seemed to die with the war.
That dream still endures: to own their own productive land and therefore to be
self-sufficient and independent. This concept remains a great part of the
American dream. The image of being in a quiet, orderly world where people
could tranquilly rock on the porch at the end of a healthy workday or on
Sunday, while enjoying a natural view breathing fresh air, still appeals. It was a
world where relationships usually lasted, where children usually obeyed,
hospitality was given and received, honesty valued, and belief in God and order
were rarely questioned. The sense of community and of having a respected,
easily understood and regular place in it was common. This idea depended on
small numbers in agricultural communities living on abundant resources, but by
the middle of the nineteenth century even America’s abundant resources were
dwindling when faced with massive population growth from natural increase
and massive migration. This growth fuelled the growth of industrialised cities,
especially in the North, where the North’s proportion of America’s population
(and therefore voters) was rapidly outgrowing that of the South. This was often
perceived in the South as a threat to their political power.
Defending this world from Northern armies was the first reason so many
fought; four out of five Confederate soldiers did not own slaves. The more
intangible threat of the growing power of a federal state controlled more by
magnates than the people was harder to articulate, let alone attack, but it caused
a sense of foreboding. This vague but worrying feeling that their way of life was
threatened by another, rather than defending slavery or states’ rights, motivated
many to fight for the Confederacy. Catton’s view of the South that reverberates
with so many comes across as partly desire, partly reality - and therefore legend.
Even so, if we could be time travellers and be back into the antebellum
South, either on an independent farmer’s porch, or in the slave’s world, how
many of us would last twenty minutes before wanting out? Except for extreme
masochists or totally egocentric sociopaths we would be frantically hammering
on the doors of our time travelling capsules and screaming “Get me out of
here!” If the opening scenes of Gone With the Wind depicted the old South at its
best, Twelve Years a Slave depicted the hidden horror. Slave or master, who
would really wish to be either one?
At some level, most people must have some awareness of this and that in
many aspects the nineteenth century was not a great place to be. Smallpox
scarred or killed. Tuberculosis, syphilis, cholera, typhoid, typhus, rickets, polio
and yellow fever were all common, almost unstoppable and feared. A high
proportion of babies died very young. Life expectancy was low; work and living
conditions were usually horrendous and puritanical mores ruled. Few lived in
the mansions or rested on porches that so much of our culture depicts.
Tenements were usually noisy, filthy and cramped. Work hours were long;
workers had few rights. Theories of racial and religious superiority made many
people live lives filled with resentment, deprivation of opportunity and feelings
of inferiority.
Yet we look back, why?
Much of this looking back and the examination of the lives of Civil War
participants is healthy. They are often exemplars of self-sacrifice, courage, stoic
endurance and honour. The war itself shows us what happens to societies that
let themselves give way to fear: most suffer and many die. The only benefits go
to demagogues, glory hunting warriors and merchants of death, all whom do
very well for themselves by exploiting those fears. The cost of their profit can
be a devastated land and people.
The efforts to preserve battlefields, texts, documents and the other
accoutrements of a past age can also be healthy, part of a process of stopping
people from becoming “live for now” consumer automations because they do
not know the past. This ignorance means they are unable to contrast and so
appreciate what they have now because they have nothing to compare their
“now” to. To make that comparison the evidence of the past must be there.
More subtle lessons also emerge. We can appreciate how they did more with
less – in relationships, technology, entertainment, even with food. Another
lesson emerges from Civil War battlefields. They are now among the most
peaceful places in America: the meek do indeed inherit the earth. Where are
slavery’s chains now? In museums and Hollywood film sets: no tyranny lasts
forever. The world does change and can be improved.
Much can be gained from the past: pity and relief when looking back are
only two responses. People in the past show the merits of frugality, a welcome
contrast to our world of rampant consumerism. Finding tranquillity and
refreshing links to nature and the seasons was easier in a world without ever
mushrooming identikit high rises overlooking incessantly noisy four lane
highways. We endure intrusive mobiles everywhere, blaring televisions and
radios and ubiquitous saturation level advertising that makes the brainwashing
of Stalinist Russia or Maoist China look mild. If that sounds like hype watch a
documentary where gleeful advertisers boast of how they are getting three-yearolds to be consumers of their products for life. Or just try to avoid advertising
for forty-eight hours.
New developments in studying history get away from images of the Civil
War solely concerned with White Anglo males. Many new texts rightly
emphasise the roles of those who have either been given little attention or gone
unrecognised: America’s ethnic minorities, women, European migrants, and
foreign governments and their reporters – and this development applies to both
Other aspects of interest in the Civil War are neither wise nor welcome.
While most texts and websites are productive, some sites and book titles, while
not openly racist, have a sinister edge and give an impression of a hidden
political agenda from the far right waiting to be revealed. These works fall into
two broad categories: the first is a glorification of war and of famed
Confederates, particularly Nathan Bedford Forrest. Forrest serves as a test for
the two extremes. He is aptly described as a Jekyll and Hyde character on the
cover of Hurst’s biography. For much of his life he was a slave trader, but then
he went further than most in what he thought Blacks could achieve. He was also
courageous, sedulous and militarily brilliant – with the guilt free readiness for
violence and the visceral manipulating ruthlessness of a panther. White Racists
glorify him as a hero: the politically correct demonise him. The second test
concerns revelations about Union tyranny, Union repression and assorted
atrocities against Southerners. The latter initially seem historically worthwhile
and definitely would be - if they were matched by revelations about Confederate
repression and atrocious behaviour. In many instances the Confederates were
even worse, but not one such book about such matters ever seems to appear on
these lists. Such selective blindness indicates political extremism and
manipulating deceit.
These people also give an impression that they are using Confederate
symbols, history and legends to lure people in to some right-wing group where
they will be manipulated for some ugly purpose based in hatred. I would prefer
to see this book destroyed rather than to see it used as part of that process.
On the other side of politics many of the politically correct radicals are
dominated by demagogues who are pushy, loud, sly, authoritarian and
sanctimoniously self-serving. They have made very lucrative careers for
themselves out of jumping on a trendy bandwagon which rolls on because they
manufacture or find conflicts so as to maintain their power and prestige. Fights
over flags and squabbles over statues are not worth the time and energy both
sides put into such things. They also know how to make sure that their followers
stay busy and so stay in their ranks. Many of the most despicable examples of
racism, emotional blackmail and exploitation I have witnessed have come from
such people. Even so, while a danger to individuals who fall for their emotional
blackmail, the real danger to society as a whole comes from the far right. Hitler,
Mussolini, Franco and many a later tin pot dictator and conniving politician
used idealised images of past wars and heroism as part of their appeal.
Slavery is dead and buried in the United States and hopefully racism will
soon lie next to it.
At Appomattox when troops told Lee they would fight on he told them to
return peacefully to their farms and rebuild. When in 1869 the Ku Klux Klan
announced they were setting up a branch in Virginia, a few days later Lee
responded with a rare public statement that Virginians should avoid the politics
of hatred and extremism which only led to turbulence and misery. Both of Lee’s
statements contain a message some still have not got and desperately need.
Part of the interest in the war concerns the fading memories and the last
living tangible links, those participants who survived into our own lives.
Professor Jay S. Hoar wrote much of the pioneering work on this topic in
his epic three volume study Sunset and Dusk of the Blue and the Gray. This
trilogy starts with The North’s Last Boys in Blue Volume I. This work serves
partly an investigation, partly a tribute to those Union veterans still alive
between 1940 and 1946 while Volume II continues on with those living
between 1946 and 1971. The final volume The South’s Last Boys in Gray.
Volume III does the same for the Confederates alive from the 1940s to the end
of the 1950s. The three volumes are an epic for the common men who served in
the war, then rebuilt the nation. Professor Hoar also covered new ground on the
related topics of the boy soldiers in Callow Brave and True: A Gospel of Civil
War Youth (1999) and the world of Civil War nursing and the role of Blacks in
several articles. This writer only found out about his writings as the second
edition of this work was being finished, so he was unused as a source and an
influence in earlier versions which are available in The Controversies Over
America’s Last Civil War Veterans (2014) on request. On one level missing
Professor Hoar’s work was a big mistake, showing my work to be rudimentary
and perhaps wrong on some points.
On the other hand, rudimentary or not, my discoveries, research, work,
conclusions and outlook, despite help with sources, indications of where to look
and information, were essentially my own. If this work mentions Professor Hoar
many times in the text and in the source notes he has done invaluable work in
these topics: without his decades of effort great amounts of extremely important
information would have been lost. We would also not have his epic elegy.
I am expecting corrections, differing viewpoints, fallacies exposed and
extra information. All are welcome: they will make for a better VERSION 5.
Introduction to the Second Edition
This version more than doubles the size of the first. Many of those added
words and pages come from fresh information and newly found illustrations.
Six of the twenty nine participants, investigated in this work, actual, possible
and unauthenticated, James E. Erwin, W.W. Alexander, Frank H. Mayer, Hattie
Cook Carter, Red Cloud and Maud Nicholls Jones, were previously unknown
and brought to my attention by the work of Professor Jay S. Hoar. Several
others, particularly Thomas Edwin Ross, Israel Aaron Broadsword, James
Albert Hard, William A. Kiney and William Allen Lundy, also went from
having paragraphs to having pages, mainly on his information. New
information from several other sources also led to a massive reworking and
enlarging on the segments on William Bush and Sarah Rockwell. Reshaping the
possibilities of Loudermilk’s placement in the war also led to substantially
reworking his segment.
More words come from incorporating the works of Professor Jay S. Hoar.
His work on Civil War nursing and also the young enlistments incorporated into
his volumes has been hailed as original and useful in very under researched
aspect of the war. He has been acclaimed as the world’s leading expert on
America’s Civil War veterans and his volumes show why. In his trilogy Sunset
and Dusk of the Blue and the Gray: Last Living Chapter of the American Civil
War (2006-2010) he has written on what must be all the known veterans alive
after 1940 and on many alive before then. While the first two volumes focused
on the Union soldiers, the last volume The South’s Last Boys in Gray: An Epic
Prose Elegy focused on the Confederates.
He has told of their wartime experiences - and usually at more length of
their lives after the war and it is in that aftermath that his theme emerges – that
despite war’s horrors these men and women could emerge from it and return to
normal lives. They showed more than a capacity for stoicism – a word that
conjures up a laconic and grim capacity for endurance. They showed a more
difficult quality to attain, resilience. They met their sufferings, setbacks and
sometimes even tragedies with silence, a try try again attitude, hard work,
fatalism, homilies and even humour that could be wry, ironic, sardonic, satirical
and verseceous – and sometimes self – depreciating. What seems initially odd
and then astounding is that in these accounts there are almost no clear records of
post-war trauma. One veteran ended up in a lunatic asylum; another clearly had
mental problems – out of close to a thousand mentioned? In comparison,
alcoholism, drug addiction, suicidal and neurotic behaviour, mental illnesses
and stress related illnesses are all common among American veterans since the
First World War and those rates worsen among the veterans of Vietnam,
Afghanistan and the Gulf Wars.
These problems are not endemic among these people alive after the Civil
War. Through hard work, the support of their families, churches and
communities they rebuilt their homes, farms, businesses and their lives. By
doing so they rebuilt the South – and whatever their intentions, they rebuilt in a
better mode. If the New South was not a land of equality or even a land freed of
racism, it was a land freed from slavery and one with wider opportunities.
Professor’s Hoar’s theme is worthier and more important than mine. This
book was initially intended as an article written to reassess the record of those
claimants to Confederate service after Pleasant Crump. This very limited aim
led to a very limited text in Version 1 and this writer was hit by the
inadequacies - of not only not having enough information and of having
incorrect grammar, spelling and syntax, but of not including Union participants
and nurses. Another point to develop became obvious, the one that he made and
this has been incorporated. The focus of my study has been broadened to touch
on those aspects of the war that impacted on the lives of the individuals here.
The format of segments for individuals is one aspect where my text
matches his, but was designed before seeing his work. In his work and mine
each individual gets a segment where their name and (where possible) a picture
are prominent before a text assessing their life. Professor Hoar’s segments
usually focus more on their overall lives than mine do. My focus is on
investigating their Civil War service, with a rounding off briefly mentioning
their later lives.
Introduction to the Fourth Edition
A fourth edition in less than two years?
As with the Third Edition, the information keeps coming in and gives me
little choice. Factual errors are corrected: so is grammar, syntax and
punctuation, again. Mistakes with source notes, fonts, capitals (and their lack)
and running blank lines are also corrected, again. Prolix wording, especially
concerning censuses and thin possibilities, has been cut. Many sentences have
been reworded and several have been added.
An explanation about why the censuses were so erroneous has also been
added. Some illustrations have been resized and others have gone. Some
enlistment documents have been added, mainly for Bush, Townsend, and
Errors concerning the Loudermilks are corrected. William Murphy
Loudermilk (1847-1952) could have served at Chattanooga in 1863. The W. M.
Loudermilk who enlisted in the 39th Georgia cannot be the same man so writing
on him has been greatly reduced. The same has happened with William Watson
Alexander who served in the Army of Northern Virginia and William James
Bush of Georgia. Both men now have been found to be separate entities to
W.W. Alexander and to William Jordan Bush, so they now get only a mention.
The origins of the Maud Nicholls Jones legend have been found and that section
has been totally redone.
More detailed information about Israel Aaron Broadsword, Red Cloud,
Sylvester Magee and Charlie Smith has been added. Arnold Murray has been
verified on new information, so his segment has been extensively reworked.
The sections on William J. Bush, W.A. Kiney, James Erwin and W.W.
Alexander have also been generally reshaped. Except for Maud Jones and
Arnold Murray, opinions remain unchanged. A new but very unlikely
possibility, Francis Healey, gains a segment which has new information on
extreme old age, and looks at gullibility and credibility on that issue. References
to a Palestinian in previous editions as being 124 in 2012 have been deleted on
newly found evidence.
Overall, several new source notes, (most from previously unused sources)
are added throughout the text. This fourth edition is around eight thousand
words longer than the previous version.
Part One
The Developing Interest in the Last Veterans
The American Civil War is one of the world’s most written about events,
yet in Last of the Blue and the Gray: Old Men, Stolen Glory, and the Mystery
that Outlived the Civil War (2013) journalist Richard A. Serrano has found
underused aspects. Serrano investigates the claims of five of these last
survivors, focusing particularly on the last three. He does treat them seriously
and with caution.
While websites abound on this topic, very little goes into print and most
of these internet efforts focus on a particular individual. Professor Jay S. Hoar,
started his interest in the topic in the late 1940s and his massive amount of work
with interviews and documents went into a series of books about Civil War
veterans. These must be an invaluable source as those eyewitnesses living in the
1940s and 1950s are gone and as only a few were taped for television or radio,
he still must be the best source. He only interviewed one veteran, but he did
meet many of their children and had access to many rare documents. Serrano
works on much of the same ground, but comes from a different angle, to look at
the truth in the lives of those two men who were stated to be the last veterans,
one for each side. His secondary theme is the American fascination with their
last few veterans. Both aspects are rapidly becoming extremely controversial in
this war full of controversies. My research focuses on investigating the truth or
falsehood in the claims of those aged last participants who lived after 1951, but
readers should be aware of how the public fascination has shaped the evidence
and how we perceive it. There is another reason for public interest:
reconciliation and unity. The role of the last survivors exerts a fascination with
this process.
From Appomattox onwards Americans have emphasised these factors,
aimed at bringing the South back into the Union. One way was through Civil
War reunions where veterans from by sides met in amity. This put a focus on
the old men which focuses more on individuals as they became fewer. Making
them celebrities was part of the process and the public demand. Reconciliation
still happens. Since the 1960s much of the process goes on racial lines and in
different ways: the role of America’s blacks on both sides has long been
understated. Frequently the given impression is that they were passive observers
to whatever fate the war would decide: nothing can be further from the truth.
The remembrance process unfolded soon after 1865 as Union veteran’s
organizations coalesced into the Grand Army of the Republic. Commemorations
and reunions became frequent in the 1890s and continued unabated for decades.
Civil War commemorations and veteran’s reunions like this 1900 Union event
in Maine were frequent occurrences, particularly from the 1890s onwards.
Serrano’s book is very welcome, not only because it is well written and
interesting, but because it brings new knowledge. Serrano presents his opinions
clearly and unlike many, does not give total credibility to either veteran’s claims
or census documents. To this writer William J. Bush and William D. Townsend
have proven cases for verification; he writes more sceptically about them. I wish
he had dealt with more of the 1950s and 1960s claimants and think he underuses
a few presented facts, but these are minor matters in a vitally important book for
anyone interested in the topic.
Images of Reconciliation
An 1865 cartoon from the English magazine Punch
Veterans at a Gettysburg Reunion. As with the 1960s and twenty first century
images, this 1938 photograph stresses equality through balance and symmetry;
here amity replaces conflict. Equality, not peace is the empahsis on the painting
The 1867 Reconciliation Quilt. Made by
Lucinda Ward Honstain of Brooklyn
An early reconciliation image
The 1913 Gettysburg Reunion
In the 1960s images that emphasised equality between North and South
were common and sometimes, like the 1930s photos, suggested an amiability.
The How and Why Book of the Civil War book cover presents a classic
example. In the 2000s such images gave equality a more realistic look as the
picture above shows: equality could emphasise rivalry and an intensely equal
If this fascination and wish to believe were not enough of a problem in
resolving who the last veterans were, the attention they were given, the media
publicity, trips, awards and banquets added to it. Another strong motive for
faking Civil War involvement emerged in the 1930s: poverty and hunger.
During the Great Depression some in the South apparently falsely claimed the
pensions given to Confederate veterans.2 Supporting statements by two other
veterans and a declaration were usually considered enough evidence. It has been
claimed that old men would sometimes gather and exchange testimonies. 3
Perhaps. Fines were often light in relation to the rewards: in Virginia for
example fines ranged from twenty five dollars (which was equal to a month’s
pension) to one hundred dollars with the possibility of imprisonment.4
Despite telling a few dubious memories, Albert Woolson of Minnesota is
now universally credited as the last verified Union survivor of the Civil War,
dying in August 1956, over three years after the last undisputed combat veteran.
Official Records shows that he served as he said he did, as a drummer and
bugler in Tennessee. His service lasted a year, beginning in October 1864.
Many also list him as the last survivor of the Civil War, and in terms of
accepted, undisputed verification they are right. In terms of creditable
possibilities they are wrong. Woolson did not fight; the last Union soldier
usually credited with a battlefield record was James Albert Hard of New York,
who enlisted in the infantry in 1861. He died in March 1953. As with Woolson,
different census records give him different birth years. There are also very good
factual reasons for considering three Confederates for the title of the Civil
War’s last combat veteran, two outlived Hard by months, the other by just over
a year.
Several others, non-combatants who had some role in the war, or claimed
that they did, outlived the combatants and Woolson by years.
That possibility leads to controversy and mystery: both developed over
who were the last Confederate veterans. Pleasant Crump was probably the last
surviving combatant in the Army of Northern Virginia. In the 1950s Pleasant
Brian Hughes, quoting others. “Special Report: Who was Uncle Bill Lundy? The Man
behind the debated Crestview Monument.” Crestview News Bulletin November 14th 2013. pp
Mark Curenton, previous citation. p3.
Pension Application for a Confederate Soldier. Act 1928 Amended 1930. The warning is on
the side. See online “Catalogue for Confederate and Widows Pensions.” Library of Virginia
Crump was not considered the last Confederate, as several others were claiming
to be surviving Confederates and many of them were drawing pensions.
Pleasant Crump.
Crump was an Alabama farm boy when he met with an enlisted friend
back home on furlough; Crump travelled back north with him to the front. Aged
sixteen in 1864, he served in the 10th Alabama Infantry in the Army of Northern
Virginia. He fought at the battle of Hatcher’s Run in late 1864. More fighting
came as the Army of Northern Virginia endured the winter at the siege of
Petersburg and then the last Virginian campaign as Lee broke out of the
disintegrating defensive lines. Serrano identifies him as the last eyewitness to
the Appomattox surrender.5 He was listed on the Army of Northern Virginia’s
parole list. After the war he returned to the family home, becoming a successful
farmer on thirty-eight acres of land given to him by his father in law. He lived
the rest of his life in the clapboard cottage he built. He became a preacher, noted
for using his rocker so much that it and the porch suffered damage. This was
where he often read his bible, reading it cover to cover four times. Although he
sometimes attended Confederate reunions, he harboured no bitterness against
the North, but practised Christian reconciliation. Four years after his wife
died he remarried. He died in the last hours of 1951, a week after his a hundred
Richard A. Serrano, Last of the Blue and the Gray: Old Men, Stolen Glory, and the Mystery
That Outlived the Civil War. Washington D.C.: Smithsonian Books, 2013. p 90. Crump is
and fourth birthday and the fiftieth anniversary of his first wife’s death.6 Death
came just as the hoopla that was surrounding the last veterans started. He never
claimed to be the last surviving Confederate veteran and almost certainly did
not perceive himself that way. At the time of his death several others were
claiming to be surviving Confederates (with varying degrees of veracity) were
alive: almost all were believed. It would be the 1990s before the false belief that
Crump was the last surviving Confederate took hold.
With the May 1949 story in Life about the last living Civil War survivors
nationwide interest in the veterans picked up. Then in May 1951 a similar
syndicated story by Associated Press went across many American papers. In
that same month the last Confederate veteran’s reunion in Virginia was staged.
These two simultaneous events seem the start of this tendency to interest
in the veterans. The three Civil War survivors who attended the Richmond
reunion got a welcome from eleven state governors and salutations from
General Omar N. Bradley and J. Edgar Hoover. Parades were dominated by the
Cadets of the Virginia Military Institute, a thirteen gun salute started
celebrations and a forty-eight gun salute ended them. This was done to
commemorate the thirteen succeeding states and the forty-eight states then in
the Union. The event hosted banquets, addresses, a river cruise, a special edition
of stamps issued for the occasion and a performance from a “32 member
Rockette type precision dance” group who performed to the music of Glenn
The celebration never really ended. Many of those survivors of the 1950s
would be turned into celebrities. They were made colonels in fantasy units such
as the Nebraska Navy or the Confederate Air force. Men who scrawled under
floors to scrounge saltpetre or stole turnips were made generals. Perhaps back in
the 1860s they never wore Confederate uniforms at all, but Hollywood made a
replica of the uniform Lee wore at ceremonies for veteran W.J. Bush, who
declared he would be buried in it.8 Lee himself disliked such finery, usually
Ibid, pp 90-92; Lennard, previous citation; Almost Chosen People, previous citation.
Hatley Norton Mason Jr., (Ed.) Official Program 61st and Final Reunion United
Confederate Veterans. Norfolk: Ray Penner, 1951. Computer replica reprint by Sons of
Confederate Veterans Georgia Division. pp 3-7 pp 15-16, p19.
Serrano, p92. A picture of Bush in his uniform is on p93; Other comments from Bush about
being buried in his uniform and it being modelled on Robert E. Lee’s dress uniform are from
‘The Chaplain’s Report’ by Tom Fortenberry. Web page, The Rankin Dispatch. Newsletter of
the Rankin Rough & Ready’s Vol. Issue 4. Brandon, Miss.; Hoar The South’s Last Boys in
Gray: Last Living Chapter of the American Civil War. Salem, Massachusetts: Higginson
The May 1951 Associated Press Article
Book Co, 2010.Vol. III p1693 and see also a picture of Bush in his uniform donated by his
wearing a colonel’s dress coat.9 The old men were declared generals, given
parades, flights, tours of jets, testimonial dinners, and memorials and were often
interviewed. It was quite a show and they seem to have enjoyed it: at times
Albert Woolson, Walter Williams, Frank H. Mayer, William J. Bush and
Thomas Riddle got carried away with the euphoria and made some wild,
perhaps self – satirizing or exaggerated claims. This happens in a common male
practice in groups is to tell tall tales and “shoot the breeze.” The idea being that
everyone joins in the joke or appear as total turkeys if they unquestioningly
believe the words said. Somebody should have warned the historians. Did
Thomas Riddle really expect anybody to seriously believe he buried all the
Gettysburg fatalities – all thirteen of them? Other statements attempt to be more
serious but are almost as unlikely. Few questioned those statements and few
questioned any of the veteran’s records: with several of the 1950s veterans they
should have.
Until September 1959 when a journalist exposed good reasons to doubt
what was claimed for Walter Williams, oral histories and family stories were
usually taken at face value. Sadly, valuable and probably true oral history
accounts such as those by Ross, Broadsword, Loudermilk, W.W. Alexander,
Hard, Rockwell, Mayer, Woolson, Salling, Red Cloud and Sylvester Magee can
no longer be taken unquestioningly, although no reason to doubt their integrity
emerges. In the late 1970s the controversies over Alex Haley’s Roots (1977),
Thomas Evans Riddle’s claims, John Salling’s real age and Charlie Smith’s
account of his life reinforced this increasing distrust of Civil War accounts
unsupported by primary source material.
This tendency in Civil War history became predominant in the 1990s
after a brief article about the last Confederates appeared. That article initially
seemed a necessary corrective to the uncritical acceptance of old men’s stories,
but like most exposés people took it uncritically and took it too far,
emphatically insisting that those claiming to be surviving Confederates were
fakes out for pension money because some seemed to be younger than a
creditable age for Civil War service.
The came close to what gist of the article was saying: that all twelve
supposed Confederates who were alive after Pleasant Crump died on December
31st 1951 were fakes probably out for the pension. This idea was soon taken up
Gary Gallagher, “When Lee was Mortal.” Great Commanders. Leesburg, Va.. Primedia,
2005. p24. Gallager reproduces the 1864 description given by an unnamed fellow train
passenger; Mark Adkin, The Gettysburg Companion: The Complete Guide to America’s Most
Famous Battle. London: Aurum, 2008. Segment p1 “Uniforms” opposite p256.
and is still run by a famous encyclopaedia, in a slightly qualified and modified
form that allows most but not all are discredited fakes – the remainder remain
unproven as yet either way. The result is that many writers and historians now
consider the last verified Confederate veteran to be Pleasant Crump.10 They also
believe that only twelve claimants survived him. Actually this article and
subsequent versions or developments of it are wrong on several points. A major
point of error being that all of those claiming to have been Confederate soldiers
alive after Pleasant Crump’s death had some evidence for their claim. Three
unmentioned women and three unmentioned men still alive after 1951 also had
claims to Confederate service. Of the twelve that they do mention, three had
verified enlistment documents and one of the nurses also had sufficient other
Ignoring enlistment documents and that their total number came to
nineteen, not thirteen were not the only mistake the encyclopaedia adapting the
article made about these people. Although the encyclopaedia recently amended
allegations of pension fraud from applying to all those listed to almost all, they
do not mention that at least eight of them apparently probably did not even try
to claim the military pension and most of these eight lived in states that did not
give out payments. If they have evidence that this is not so and that they were
frauds they should present it. Although their selective use of censuses did cast
serious doubt on some of their stories, not one has ever been proven a fraud.
Some of that favourable evidence was from censuses. The encyclopaedia did
not mention that and deleted in entirety my entry that used scholarship, censuses
and primary sources that presented evidence for and against verification.
They replaced it with work heavily based on the 1990s article, a highly
selective use of censuses and an article from a magazine involved in paranormal
research, particularly flying saucers. That more recent article was heavily based
on the 1990s article. Serrano’s book was also listed in the encyclopaedia as
supporting their viewpoint, but in his work he only insisted one of the twelve
mentioned was a fraud and did not even mention five of the others, Loudermilk,
See for example Tony Horowitz, Confederates in the Attic: Dispatches From the
Unfinished Civil War. Rydalmere: Spectre, 1998. p9; N.H. Mallett, “The last Surviving
Veterans of the American Civil War.” History in an Hour.” Posted December 15th 2013;
Kitty Walker Lennard, “Pleasant Riggs Crump” Find A Grave” Feb.20th 2006; Unsigned;
“Pleasant Crump” Almost Chosen People: A Blog About American History and the
Development of a Great Nation. Posted April 5 2011. Military History Now Unsigned Article.
“Old soldiers Meet the Last Surviving Veterans of the Civil War.” 21st March 2013. p1; Find
A Grave “John B. Salling”; “Last Surviving Veterans of Historic Wars” The Modern History
Blog” 20th April 2011; www.armchair Nov.1st 2009. Post by John “The
Humble” Nov 3rd 2009; Stormfront Website (No date).
Ross, Witkoski, Cumpston, or Murray. Riddle gets only an in passing mention
that does not deal with his veracity.11 Lundy, Salling, Townsend and Bush get
sceptical treatment, but Serrano does write that when Bush applied for his
pension in 1936 the bureaucrats did eventually find his Civil War militia
records.12 This is not mentioned and reads very differently to the
encyclopaedia’s statement about Serrano supporting their view. That
encyclopaedia refuses all of this writer’s attempts to submit evidence on the
website. Two attempts were deleted so fast they probably could not have even
read them.
This book will show with that rejected evidence and more that at least
four proven Confederate soldiers with verified Civil War era enlistment
documents outlived Crump. These are William J. Bush, Arnold Murray,
William Daniel Townsend, and William Albert Kiney. Others who have good
evidence and outlived Crump are Thomas Edwin Ross, William Loudermilk,
James Erwin, W.W. Alexander and Thomas Riddle. These five claimed
Confederate combatants were without such conclusive proof as verified
enlistment documents. However they all had some sort of good evidence which
while inconclusive, suggested that they could easily be genuine. Several other
claimed Confederate non-combatants with some evidence also outlived Crump.
All of the accepted soldiers and many of the non-combatants were outlived by a
Confederate nurse Sarah Rockwell who lived until late 1953. While rarely
mentioned, she has adequate evidence for her service. These people deserve to
be considered seriously and investigated rather than labelled frauds on thin bits
of evidence much more dubious than some of the evidence in their favour.
Apparently five of those mentioned combat soldiers supposed to be frauds did
not even apply for pensions. This applies to others who while alive in the 1950s,
were not even mentioned as Civil War participants. Errors with census usage
take up pages of this book. That brief 1990s article has created a fixed image
that has been widely accepted, quoted and repeated as fact by historians, writers
and various people of opposing political views. Few website contributors seem
to have checked the evidence or delved further into the issue. This makes the
census evidence the bedrock for the topic. Controversial and thin on evidence
when it appeared almost a quarter of a century past, this article has now also
become outdated as well. Apart from Professor Hoar’s work in years past, just
in the first half of 2014 alone four vital new pieces of primary source evidence
on the topic appeared just concerning those mentioned, photographs of William
Bush and Arnold Murray in Civil War uniforms, Murray’s 1910 census and an
Serrano, p85 p86.
Ibid, p95.
interview in that year and Civil War documents and Riddle’s mention in an
1863 diary entry. Apart from new information about those mentioned in the
1990s, more claimants to Civil War service have been found and added to this
A few serious sources used in this old article are still enough to raise
serious doubts about birthdates and service in a few cases, but many of the Civil
War claimants who outlived Pleasant Crump are damned as false on no other
evidence than dubious, contradictory and at times ridiculously impossible
The method of using censuses for verification and deleting almost any
other type of evidence has spread and has an appeal. Censuses now out rate
enlistment documents, muster rolls, genealogies, Civil War era documentation,
photographs and other inconvenient census data as evidence. The census as
ultimate proof has been taken up and has now reached the unfair stage where
detailed accounts of whole lives are frequently listed as questionable or false on
the basis of a single census entry. As a tactic this is clever because it looks
convincing: how can somebody born in 1862 as shown in an official document
possibly be a Civil War soldier? The fact that other censuses give nine different
birthdates and that three of them are early enough to allow for Civil War service
stays unmentioned, and therefore the possibility that he was a veteran stays
unmentioned. What also vanishes with this process is the truth about censuses:
they seem reliable, but they are not.
Instead of getting serious consideration based in a variety of sources these
individuals were labelled as mercenaries or attention seekers as part of this
denigrating process. One notable example was William A. Kinney, who as it
turned out did not even apply for a pension, aid or any other benefit due to
veterans.13 All evidence suggests that he avoided self-seeking and personal
attention. Nurses Rockwell and Carter, and soldiers Ross, Witkoski, Cumpston,
and two others recently found but not listed in the encyclopaedia entry, James
Erwin and W.W. Alexander, apparently also did not apply for the pension,
freeload or seek attention. While applications online for the Confederate
pensions are incomplete and some are still being computerised, a computer
based search found no records for any of these people. Those who make the
allegations should present their evidence. Bush, Murray and Townsend did get
the pension, but verified enlistment documents show that they were entitled to
Jay S. Hoar, Vol. III pp 1700-1703.
Almost all of the veterans had at least one census where their given age
made Civil War service possible. This fact rarely gets a mention by those using
censuses to disprove enlistment. Child soldiers are also not mentioned to
readers, even as a possibility, although there were thousands of them, the
youngest were six.
Fast found and emphatic answers such as those found in encyclopaedias
or brief articles are often simplistic and based on fallacies and/or few facts.
People who believe that censuses should be the basis for verifying military
service over verified enlistment papers, photographs, scholarship and other
military documents should examine censuses in more depth: the censuses reveal
their own contradictions, omissions and impossibilities without any extraneous
This book is not a crusade to prove every one of these 1950s claimants
was a mighty warrior incapable of saying anything but a fully verified truth. Of
the twenty nine Civil War participants listed who lived beyond 1951 only five
among the Confederates are verified and some seem unverifiable at this stage,
while others remain on possible or probable due to lack of conclusive evidence.
Evidence against without good evidence for leads to a verdict of dubious. The
eleven Union men have a higher verification rate, over half. At times suspecting
fraud from claims in some veteran’s statements, I have temporarily taken the
roll of an investigating prosecutor, but usually write from a different angle,
more defence than investigator. Reading some of the dogmatic statements on
thin evidence, outright setups and unfair and dishonest articles that are around
motivated me to a defence. Even so I sometimes feel like calling for an
adjournment on some of them and if they were still alive I would be saying
“Find another defender!”
They have them: the internet and magazine articles show that some
automatically believe almost any Confederate claim, not me.
Confederate Motives and Slavery
To those who say “You are clearing them of being frauds, by proving
them to be Confederates!” I respond with “But that is what they would have
wanted –and what many people alive now still want.” I am also clearing those
who fought for the Union and recording their lives. This work is not a
vindication of slavery, but an attempt to find the truth in history: much of the
information revealed can only be damaging, war frequently turns people into
monsters, but am I defending those who fought for something despicable? In
some Confederate cases yes, but everybody has the right to a defence, in law
and in history. The Confederates’ motives were not always simple, uniform, not
always freely made and often had no direct link to slavery. In the 1850s many in
the South thought and spoke like Lincoln, in that they disliked slavery, but
could see no way to end it.14 They had a point. The immediate ending of slavery
without a replacement plan, compensation and some type of social welfare for
slaves would have led to economic and social chaos for everybody, Black and
White. The British experience in the Caribbean in the 1830s and the Russian
emancipation of the early 1860s demonstrated this.
Lincoln’s powerful Civil War era rhetoric, combined with the genuine
horrors inflicted by slavery, and later horrors inflicted by the Ku Klux Klan and
other white supremacist organisations, creates an image of the good and noble
North fighting for freedom against the evil South. When looking at the North
this becomes simplistic. Until the unions and reformers started pressing for
better conditions and gaining them the exploitation of the white working class
and the poor in the North was also usually horrific. In some ways their lives
were worse than those of the slaves, who could usually avoid hunger,
overcrowded noisy tenements where sleep was a luxury and polluted air. The
latter could often eventually kill: cotton lint and sulphur in factories was a major
cause of fatal lung diseases. The North was not as free of extreme racism as
many Civil War histories imply. In the 1850’s even Lincoln stated that the
White race was superior to the Black and that this difference between the two
races would “forever forbid the two races living together on terms of social
equality.”15 He went on to list in practical terms things that should never
happen, Black enfranchisement, the right to hold office or serve on juries and he
praised Illinois’s state law which forbade marriage between black and white.
Southerners also had points when criticising the North. When in July 1861
Beauregard stated that the Union armies were motivated by a desire for “booty
and beauty” he was being simplistic, but the ferocious, greedy and jubilant
looting of the South that was to come would prove him right about many. 16
Southerners were also often right about the abolitionists. Robert Gould Shaw
knowingly sacrificed his life to end slavery and Harriet Tubman risked hers, but
abolitionists seemed unconcerned about the frequently horrific exploitation of
Abraham Lincoln, ‘Excerpt from a speech at Peoria, Illinois 16th October 1854. Reproduced
in Select Documents: A Modern History Sourcebook. Selected and Edited by G.A. Cranfield,
B.J. Dalton, and F. G. Stambrook. Sydney; McGraw-Hill, 1966. p75.
Abraham Lincoln, ‘Excerpt from a speech at Charleston Illinois 18th September 1858. Ibid
Alfred H. Guernsey and Henry M. Alden, Harpers Pictorial History of The Civil War.
1866. New York; The Fairfax Press. This is an undated facsimile Edition. Beauregard quoted
their own working class. One of the most famous Abolitionists was a child
basher who left one of his sons so badly beaten that he later died in hospital,
perhaps from a disease caught there. Another famous name who could inspire
with his rhetoric about whipped slaves was later found to have had a taste for
whipping prostitutes. He also insisted on waving a rifle around in sermons to
illustrate the point that only violence could free the slaves. He did not tell the
congregation that his family name was the brand name on the rifle or why. As
that rifle became Union army issue in the war he must have made money out of
armaments in the war they did so much to cause.
It is a commonplace in Civil War history that the war was caused by
slavery with concerns over states’ rights as a secondary cause. True enough, but
William Faulkner, Hamilton Basso, Margaret Mitchell and Mark Twain, all
fictional writers from the South who therefore should know, come from a
different angle. The reactions to the causes had as much to do with starting the
war as the causes. They focus on the Southern concern with honour and a
readiness to fight, even an eagerness for war and a desire to gain glory rather
than suffer an imagined dishonour. The problem was not so much fear of slave
rebellion enflamed by John Brown or fear of losing states’ rights. It was not
even seeing their ways as being different from the North and therefore seeing
themselves as a separate nation. The problem was how so many influential
people saw the solution to the problem in war and could not endure a Union fort
in Charleston’s harbour or Confederate attempts to possess it. For a contrast
French-Canadian separatists, Czech-Slovak divisions in the 1990s and twentyfirst century Scottish nationalists have all been able to resolve their secessionist
problems without recourse to war. Too many influential Americans
overwhelmed those who tried to find peaceful solutions.
The primacy of this idea connecting honour and glory to war and war as
the solution, are also frequently expressed in documents at the time. With a
different attitude or different men in high places with more diplomatic abilities
they may have resolved the 1860-1861 crisis differently. Lincoln arrived
months too late. The 1832 South Carolina succession crisis was not over slavery
but over tariffs. It may have snowballed into an earlier version of the Civil War,
but men of ability averted that crisis.
If in 1860 succession was primarily caused by fears of abolishing slavery
and succession led to war, by late 1864 Jefferson Davis was offering to abolish
slavery in return for English support.17In 1861 the senate and Lincoln favoured
Amanda Foreman, A World on Fire: An Epic History of Two Nations Divided. London:
Allen Lane 2010. p731 pp748-749 p749n.
a constitutional amendment that would prevent slavery being interfered with in
those states where it already existed.18 Lincoln stated in 1863 without any
ambiguity that his primary purpose was national reunification and if abolishing
slavery achieved that he would abolish slavery, but if continuing slavery was
necessary for national unity to be achieved, he would continue slavery as the
In the South during the second half of the war prominent people apart from
Lee were calling for the widespread use of Blacks in combat roles, some were
even willing to free Blacks who enlisted.20 Accounts of the black Confederate
regiment training in Richmond in the final weeks of the war are commonplace,
as if this is all that was intended, but the Confederates intended much more
before the surrender curtailed their efforts. John B. Jones, a clerk in Richmond’s
war department, kept a diary and heard much. In early 1865 he wrote that
“Congress will soon likely to vote a Negro army, and their emancipation after
the war – as General Lee favors it.”21 This was no token force raised by one
man; Jones goes on to write that this force would number 200,000 and Judah
Benjamin, high ranking Confederate cabinet member, expected 20,000 of these
troops to come from Virginia.22 The war had developed into something very
different from the initial dispute over the major issues of the continuing
existence of slavery, fears of slave rebellion, tariffs and state’s rights: before the
end the war was more about an attempt to set up a separate nation.
If in 1861 the Confederate armies were numerically dominated with a
combination of slave-owners protecting their human property, enlisted militias
and the naïve with dreams of glory, by 1864 they were filling with conscripts
and with youths and men bravely and knowingly willing to sacrifice and suffer
to defend others. Naivety about war evaporated very quickly on both sides. The
Confederates, while having their share of sadists, dupes and bullies (like most
armies) also had (like most armies) brave and selfless men. William Townsend
Nelson D. Lankford, Cry Havoc! : The Crooked Road to Civil War, 1861. New York:
Viking, 2007. p20.
Abraham Lincoln, Letter to Horace Greeley, August 22nd 1862 reproduced in The Civil
War: A Treasury of Art and Literature. Editor Stephen W. Sears. New York; Macmillan,
1992. p284.
Patrick Cleburne, Letter to General Johnston 2nd January 1864 Civil War Trust Website.
Three brigadiers and ten other high ranking officers signed Cleburne’s letter; Joseph
McElroy, Jefferson Davis: The Real and the Unreal. 1937. New York: Smithmark, 1995.
p404. Foreman, n731.
John B. Jones, A Rebel Clerk’s Diary. 1866. Edited, Annotated and Condensed by Earl
Schenk Miers. Baton Rouge: Louisiana University Press, 1993. p494.
Ibid, pp 495-496.
who knowingly fought to keep his father’s slaves is matched by William
Loudermilk. He said he enlisted to do his part in stopping Sherman’s
devastation on civilians after seeing its effects. When Shelby Foote was asked
in a television interview about why Confederates fought he recalled the
situation where a poor Confederate prisoner was asked that by a Union officer
and was told that he was fighting “because you are down here.”23 For many
motivation was that simple. Similar to views on slavery is the politically correct
but historically incorrect view seeing all the Confederate armies as Ku Klux
Klan proto clavens in different uniforms. The Klan’s secretiveness makes
knowing membership numbers and social composition difficult and other
similar racist-terrorist organisations were active, they certainly had many
members. However many influential former Confederates either stayed silent,
were quietly hostile and suspicious towards the Klan or opposed them. Most of
the Confederate high command would either express this hostile view or come
around to such opinions, including some initial Klan members.
Although he may have had some initial communication with them and
spoke against the repression of the South, in 1866 Lee refused their offered
leadership, told them they should be invisible (which they took what was
probably the wrong way, calling themselves the Invisible Empire) made
statements calling for peace and in 1869 spoke against them when they tried to
set up in Virginia – and their attempt there flopped.24 Former Provost Marshall
of the Army of Tennessee General Benjamin Jefferson Hill held a public rally
against the Klan and former Confederates attended. He warned that he would
use his former troops to defend anybody they threatened, regardless of their race
or beliefs; the Klan never set up in that county.25 Senator Benjamin Harvey Hill
of Georgia, one of the most influential and powerful figures in the Confederacy,
stated for publication that “”The Ku Klux business… is the greatest blunder our
people ever committed.”26 In 1869 Neill S. Brown previously both a Tennessee
Governor and Confederate, publicly called for the Klan’s end.27 In that same
year the influential Southern newspaper Avalanche accurately called the
Ken Burns, The Civil War. A television Documentary. Ken Burns, creator and director and
contributing writer. Written by Geoffrey C. Ward. Narrated by David McCulloch. Co –
producer Ric Burns. American Documentaries Inc. Firs shown September 1990.
Jack Hurst, Nathan Bedford Forrest: A Biography. 1993. New York: Vintage Books, 1994.
pp 286-288; Douglas Southall Freeman, R.E. Lee A Biography. New York: Charles
Scribner’s Sons, 1934-1935. Vol. IV. Lee quoted. Pages numbers uncertain.
Unsigned article, About General Benjamin Jefferson Hill.
Hurst, p345.
Ibid, p325.
Klansmen “prowling vagabonds” and went on to list those prominent
Confederates who accepted black enfranchisement: Lee, J.E. Johnston,
Beauregard, Wheeler, Hood, Kirby Smith, Hampton, Alexander Stewart and
two who had been high in the Klan leadership, John C. Brown and Nathan
Bedford Forrest.28 The rights of blacks to vote was a cornerstone of
reconstructing the new South and a feared and hated idea for the racists of the
1870s. If this is still a long way from full racial equality it also a long way from
Generals Longstreet, Hampton, McLaws, Mosby and Kershaw worked
for a reconstructed, more liberal south. It was a view that even Nathan Bedford
Forest, a former slave trader and the first real leader of the Ku Klux Klan, came
to accept and put into practice. His 1870s statements on what Blacks could
achieve went beyond Lincoln’s ideas.29 This is a fact that both the very
politically correct and the modern Klansmen and white supremacists have
avoided for a century and a half – and they still do.30
The very politically correct concerned with Civil War and Reconstruction
history also need to consider that not all Northerners in the South in the
Reconstruction Era were high minded idealists working to advance Blacks.
Many were, but others came to plunder the land and one legal way to do this
was to demand back taxes from the beginning of the war. If the taxes were not
paid the farm, property or possessions were repossessed. In the devastated
South few could pay the taxes and many became embittered, desperate
“prowling vagabonds” indeed. Other similar policies were the confiscation of
land, the disenfranchising of former Confederates and banning them taking
public offices If the Union had tried, (apart from burning their homes or killing
their children in front of them) they could not have hit on surer ways of creating
a reservoir of embittered manpower for the Klan. Despite such policies, many
other former Confederates, probably the big majority of former soldiers, took
Lee’s advice and returned to quietly build up their homes, businesses and family
connections. In his well-researched novel Freedom Road Howard Fast depicts
the 1870s Klansmen as sneaky and cowardly in their attacks on unarmed
civilians and as a pathetic contrast to Lee’s brave troops, calmly and openly
marching forward into heavy enemy fire. He emphasises that many Klansmen
did little if any fighting, being prison guards, garrison troops, militia or
Ibid, pp332-333.
Hurst devotes a whole section of his biography entitled “Penitent” to this development. See
pages pp357-379.
Even as this was being written Klansmen and Black Activists are kept apart by police as
they try to battle over a statue of Forrest put up in a Memphis park.
civilians. The first half of the 1920s would see the revived Klan at its height in
numbers, power and social acceptability. It would be well into the 1960s before
the Civil Rights movement eradicated the last legal vestiges of racism.
This map is typical in that it overrides Civil War complexities. The Indian
Territory (Now Oklahoma) and New Mexico (including what is now Arizona)
were divided and saw some fighting. Perhaps as many as 180,000 to 200,000
Southerners sided with the Union. In Kentucky and Maryland for every
Southerner who chose the South, two fought for the Union. Among those in
regular units in Missouri it was three out of four, although those interned,
Confederate raiders and irregulars there make Confederate numbers uncertain.
Many Unionists were in the Appalachian sections of Tennessee and North
Carolina. Around 32,000 Tennesseans fought for the Union as did 12,000 North
Carolinians. Winston County, northern Alabama was one of these Unionist
regions and seceded from the Confederacy. Jones County Mississippi was also
strong for the Union. West Texas and Union-occupied sections of Florida each
raised Union cavalry regiments. Some of the evidence goes the other way. West
Virginia is usually depicted as solidly Unionist: in reality one third of the
soldiers from there were for the South. They included Stonewall Jackson and
Jubal Early. Delaware, while allowing slavery, stayed Unionist, but had several
hundred soldiers with the South.
Documentation Problems: Censuses and Muster Rolls
Until very recently several writers stated that those remaining old men
claiming to be Confederates in the 1950s were at best possible, but their claims
were usually listed as debunked, unknown or without evidence. William J.
Bush’s case was the only one listed as “probable.” The main way of disproving
the claimants was supposedly by age: differences between their census
documents and enlistment records or statements supposedly proved their claims
to be debunked. Others supposedly have no known record or conflicting
records. A few are not listed in the units where they said they had served. For
these reasons dogmatic or gullible people or those believing encyclopaedias
without other substantiation state that all those claiming to be living
Confederates after December 31st 1951 were imposters. With Witkoski, Murray,
Riddle, Lundy, Salling, Williams, Baker and Charlie Smith, the censuses do
provide enough evidence to cause strong doubts or at least cause reconsideration
that they may have been child soldiers, but with only the last two do the
censuses provide enough evidence to cause claims to be considered
By census standards only one Union veteran among the last eleven
possible should pass standards for verification, but most do. This is not political
bias or political correctness: it seems more of a firm, almost unquestioning
belief in government files and information. The Union kept better records and
more of them were preserved. The Southern pensions scam must also be a major
factor, not to be dismissed lightly. Even so, if such standards were applied
rigorously to all the number of participants in the Civil War, participant
numbers would drop from millions to thousands.
As has already been mentioned this work will show, the American
censuses are extremely unreliable, sometimes to the point of being ridiculous.
This is because they are contradictory, often clearly erroneous and contain
impossibilities. Like most people I believed that the American Federal censuses
were models of reliability – until I started this investigation. For starters the
1890 census which would have been important for this topic cannot be relied
upon as it was burned. With those that do exist elements of their structure make
for mistakes. Their method of determining age is one egregious method. People
are asked for their age last birthday. This could put their written birth year out
by 364 days and so lead to wrong birth years, but then this problem was
exacerbated because censuses were never taken on the same day every census
year. The usual range was between April and October. This could send people’s
birth years askew by nearly two years.
A second problem concerns frequently cramped and short lines. This
meant that middle names were rarely recorded. At best a middle initial might be,
but often even first names were abbreviated. This problem combined with
cramped handwriting, unclear abbreviations and faded ink. To give one
example: important information affecting Arnold Murray’s credibility has gone
unused because he supposedly did not fill out the 1910 census. He did, but
somebody put a line through his first initial so he vanishes and a non-existent H.
Murray replaces him.
Then there are the questions, they are usually basic and not always
consistent. No census before 1910 or after asked if the individual was a Civil
War veteran, yes or no. Judging by the number of blank spaces in 1910 this
question was unpopular and dropped. In 1930 the question was changed to one
of military experience and in which war, then this question was dropped in 1940
from the main page and made a footnote - sometimes. Three of the men
investigated here, Ross in 1910 and then Murray and Loudermilk who in 1930
both affirmed Civil War status, had their claims to service strengthened, while
Witkoski, Riddle, Lundy, Alexander, Williams and Salling, who denied or
refused to answer, had their claims weakened. Interestingly only Ross among
the Confederate examined here affirmed service in 1910. This may have been
about fearing a repeat of the federal and local government collecting back taxes
in the South as they did in the Reconstruction era. Or did former Confederates
feel uneasy about admitting military opposition to a representative of the
government they opposed? Like Official Records, the census records are often
used as the benchmark to prove or disprove claims, but they are also usually
very brief, contradictory and are full of obvious errors. They even go into
ridiculous impossibilities.
The earlier major federal census was taken every ten years, usually
recorded ages only in years and how precisely ages were calculated remains
uncertain. At least three of the supposed Civil War survivors, Arnold Murray,
John Salling and William Townsend, admitted illiteracy or being close to it, but
took some part in censuses.31 Birthdays and middle names may or may not have
been recorded. One of Thomas Evan Riddle’s descendants claims a birth year of
1853 because ‘Thomas Riddle’ was seven in the 1860 census, yet even on this
website we are given at least two birthdates. 11th April 1858 is apparently for a
son Thomas (father Elias) one year old in April 1860, then a son Thomas (father
Serrano mentions Salling p136 and Townsend p75; JD Block (posted) Nancie O’Sullivan
researcher, Irvin Shuler writer, “ARNOLD MURRAY Confederate Veteran Living in 1950.”
also Elias) is seven in April 1860. 32 Are they the same person? What is not
mentioned here is the crucial information that Thomas Evans Riddle had an
1850 census reference dating his birth as April 1846. If this much ambiguity
exists on a modern website… His age however, varies by a range of twentythree years in different documents. While Riddle holds the record for birth year
confusion, eleven others among the last twenty nine individuals investigated
here have differing birthdates spread over more than a decade.
Defenders of the census will say that their information can only be as
good as the informants, but have a look at some of the errors their census takers
make. Names as simple as Lee, Ross, Israel, Eliza and Melissa are misspelled as
is “farther”. Murray and Murry are interchangeable. William Loudermilk and
his wife seldom have their names spelled correctly. These can only be errors
made by the collectors. People do not age over a decade, but grow young again.
Most do not have a single birth year recorded consecutively though their long
lives. Thomas Evans Riddle has nine birth years, three sets of parents, was born
in both Tennessee and Kentucky, has two disagreeing death certificates and two
tombstones. Is numerical illiteracy among census takers at work in all these
cases? Or is the problem human vanity or a dislike of government intrusions?
One little noticed problem is that nineteenth century census collectors were
usually not trained professionals. In his Governmentality and the Mastery of
Territory in Nineteenth Century America (2000) Michael C. Hannah writes that
before the Civil War some Americans were unhappy with census errors and
wanted trained statisticians - and with good reason as “staffing the Census
Office was a matter of political appointment” and that “the system was not
immune to patronage.”33 Referring to census taking during the Reconstruction
era Hannah writes that “Republican initiatives were almost wholly given over to
patronage.”34 Even after legal attempts corrected government employment
abuses in 1883 hiring in the census department was “exempt from regulation”
and hiring was concerned with “ever more intense political pressure.”35 In an
article about estimations of Civil War casualties The New York Times reporter J.
David Hacker also refers to then contemporary comments about the patronage
David Autry, Our Family.2/8/2009 “Above information from the research of Margret
Gilbreath. File C:My documents /My Pictures/david’s family pictures/autry/Thomas evans
riddle and family.jpg
Hannah, p35 p54.
Ibid p35
Ibid, p54.
system’s harmful effects on the accuracy of the 1870 census.36 He states that
even President Grant found the 1870 census so unlikely that he ordered recounts
in the cities of New York and Philadelphia and Hacker quotes the 1890 census
office to the effect that the 1870 census was flawed. Estimates by how much
vary, the census apparently undercounted the South’s population by around
10% and nationally by around 6.5%.37 The range of census undercounts
between 1850 and 1880 varied form 6% to 3.6% in 1880, when some level of
training was introduced.38
Given the combination of inadequate and simple collecting methods made
by frequently inadequate collectors, all of the last verified Union veterans still
alive after 1951 had problems with their real age and documentation. Marriage
records, birth certificates and children’s birthdays also disprove at least some of
the census data about veterans, unless we believe that at the age of nine they
marry women in their twenties, are fathers by thirteen and working on long
distance emergency trains aged seven.
Not all the problems with the censuses can be blamed on government.
Salling and Riddle in particular can barely manage to repeat the same birth year
twice in a row. Only Pleasant Crump, the first of the twenty nine dealt with in
this book who claimed ( or had claimed for them Civil War participation) has a
clear, consistent record when it comes to birthdates, spelling of their names, the
existence of their middle name or their service history. On other matters, place
of birth, the irregular use of initials and middle names and the same name being
used by relatives without any distinguishing differentiation, problems emerge.
These causes lead to confusion in military records, family trees and census
A similar problem emerges with the muster rolls. If the individuals being
investigated were there when the unit was formed problems are usually not so
extreme. They usually worsen for later enrolments. The rolls were not written
up on a daily basis. At best they were added to weekly, but monthly additions
and deletions were common. Sometimes these were written up every quarter
and even these supposedly scheduled tasks were not always done regularly. A
soldier could serve for perhaps ninety days and not be written up. If he was
rejected, transferred, deserted or a casualty he might not show up in written
records. If he re-enlisted he would be recorded twice, not necessarily with his
J. David Hacker, ‘Recounting the Dead’ The New York Times. September 20th 2011. p3.
The Opinion Pages dead/? _
Ibid, p2 p3 p4.
Ibid p3.
name written the same way or with the same rank or company designation, one
man, two or three? These are problems with the names recorded honestly.
Another problem must be that many recruits lied about their age to enlist.
Others changed middle initials, dropped them on some documents but not
others, changed spellings or created entire names to avoid detection. On some
muster rolls these aliases are listed, on others not. The argument that someone
did not serve because they are unlisted where they claimed to be becomes less
strong than it initially seems when examined closely. When searching for James
Erwin who was stated as being enlisted in Forrest’s Cavalry eighteen
possibilities came up. Several could be dismissed on known primary source
information, but several possibilities remained – and he remained unproven.
The reverse problem is that soldiers could be written up with every
transfer or regimental reorganisation. One Confederate named James Erwin
shows up in Official Records as three people with the same name because his
unit was initially the 1st Partisan Rangers, then it was Smith’s Legion before
amalgamations and reorganizing led to it becoming the 6 th Georgia Cavalry.
Similarly one of his namesakes, a surgeon, was transferred through four
different regiments leaving a trail of non-existent James Erwins. However one
of these might really exist, a reverend – or was the surgeon also an amateur
preacher, a common thing in those days? Did he therefore double his army role
and enlistment papers? Or did he meet a cousin in the unit with the same name?
Where two men with the same name there by coincidence or unknown
synchronicity? Official Records, fleshed out a little by Lillian A. Henderson’s
details, gives little more than the bare bones of the truth.
People usually like certainties, not multiplying questions instead of their
first one remaining unanswered. Despite this understandable desire it is best not
to be certain when the evidence does not justify certainties. This becomes the
problem with being certain from such sources as censuses and muster rolls. It is
very easy to be dogmatic and build up apparent certainties on what look like
solid pieces of evidence that are really shaky bases.
The Lists of Civil war Survivors
This work investigates claims for veracity: North or South does not
matter, everyone has the right to be investigated and then assessed on evidence,
whatever their cause.
This work does consider evidence put forward by many going against
verification through census evidence, but while some of this information can be
valuable or of use, much of it is only causing confusion and all census records
should be treated with caution, compared with others and should not be used
over enlistment documents and other primary source evidence from the Civil
My conclusions can only be more favourable than those given by
unquestioning believers in the censuses. Even so, only five among the nineteen
Confederates listed are verified and with three that was on verified enlistment
documents. Only two of the ten listed for the Union and two Confederates are
unauthenticated. Of the twenty nine individuals investigated in this work only
one, Maud Nicholls Jones has been conclusively disproved and she never
claimed to be in the Civil War, unknown others claimed that. Proving a Civil
War enlistment usually proves to be extremely difficult. Only conclusively
disproving a Civil War service remains more difficult than proving one.
The firm conclusion of “debunked” is avoided because insufficient
evidence exists for fraud, given the problems with the major sources, censuses
and muster rolls. As will be shown these census rolls are more dubious than the
claims made for service. This writer initially approached the problem from the
viewpoint of a prosecutor: assuming that the claimants are frauds deserving to
be debunked: despite suspicions with some, much of the evidence clearly goes
against that. Not one of these twenty nine should or could be convicted for
defrauding the government’s pension scheme on the evidence given for
“debunked.” Even seeing them as either frauds or genuine Civil War soldiers
becomes a simplistic, even invidious choice when examining evidence. For
many of the twenty nine dealt with here, the reality may be more commonplace,
a shade of gray, not a black or white choice between veteran or fraud, guilty or
innocent verdicts.
Veteran is the wrong word for many: it conjures up an image of a warrior
with years of battle, of great amounts of training and military knowledge,
violence and toughness. This would be true for Hard, Kiney, Bush, Broadsword
Sylvester Magee and Townsend, but Mayer, Woolson, Witkoski, Loudermilk,
Jones, Ross and probably Lundy, and Salling were little more than children.
Alexander, Erwin and Williams were actually children. Mayer, Williams,
Woolson, Jones, Salling, Rockwell, Carter and Red Cloud did not fight at all.
Perhaps some did some small service for their side without ever seeing an
enemy soldier, let alone fighting one.
The term participant accurately describes many of the last claimed
survivors much better, for whatever their role, even as only passive child
witnesses, they did participate in the greatest and most event in their nation’s
They may have stood outside a Florida court house holding a musket
while wearing a borrowed forage cap, guarding a building nobody attacked or
walked from Texas to Alabama to enlist. They may have rounded up straying
cattle in Mississippi or scrounged saltpetre from Virginia’s floorboards. Mayer
may have drummed in a skirmish and Magee bugled the troops as they marched
southward. Sylvester Magee may have taken a wound at Champion Hill.
Broadsword may have stood behind makeshift barricades defending Lexington
Missouri in 1861. Richmond nurses did wash bandages. Boys may have stood
guard on South Carolina’s defences or worked the boilers in a Virginian torpedo
boat. Two of them may have been water boys looking after cavalry horses in
Feeling that they had served and that they were entitled to the pensions
that others got, some among them may have changed their age to qualify and
gone along with those big noting their small service. Those expectations placed
on them to get pensions, to please interviewers and to give precise information
and give detailed accounts, created more problems than outright fraud. By
frequently meeting such expectations they often muddied the waters, creating
confusion, contradictions and doubts. Bush and Kiney were honest and said
they could not remember many things: perhaps others tried to remember,
obligingly filled in gaps with vivid stories that exaggerated and therefore
lowered their credibility.
Perhaps some were desperate scamps fabricating or exaggerating to
survive – and some were men who lived by the Southern code of honour and
would be horrified to see their reputations besmirched. Website comments
reveal that many descendants intensely dislike having their grandfather’s
grandfather or their family name besmirched on dubious evidence – and rightly.
The list here includes the last ten Union claimants. They are listed as
‘accepted’ because their records have already been verified on enlistment
documents. Civil War survivors living into the 1970s does strain credibility, but
if Civil War service is known to be claimed, they make the list – for assessment
on evidence, not for automatic belief. Verification must be based on assessed
evidence that does not leave doubts.
Where there are indications of veracity without conclusive proof they are
given a rating of possible which may go up to possible/ probable if no evidence
of dubious claims or confused claims emerge. As nobody could be legally
considered impossible that term has not been used. Identity confusion rather
than calculated fraud seems likely in some cases. Given that many had names in
common this is understandable.
The Claimants to Civil War Service Alive on December 31st 1951
1 Pleasant Crump died December 31st 1951 CSA
verified on enlistment documents
2 Felix M. Witkoski died 3rd February 1952 CSA
no evidence/dubious
3 Thomas Edwin Ross died 27th March 1952 CSA
confused sources/ possible
4 Douglas T. Story died 22nd April 1952 Union
5 Israel Aaron Broadsword died 25th July 1952 Union
6 Richard William Cumpston died 5th September 1952 CSA no evidence/unknown
7 William Loudermilk died 18th September 1952 CSA
very probable
8 William Jordan Bush died 11th November 1952 CSA
verified on enlistment documents
9 Arnold Murray died 26th November 1952 CSA
verified on enlistment documents
10 William Allen Magee 23rd January 1953 Union
11 William Townsend died 22nd February 1953 CSA
verified on enlistment documents
12 James Albert Hard 12th March 1953 Union
13 William Albert Kinney died 23rd June 1953 CSA
verified on enlistment documents
14 James E. Erwin died 16th November 1953 CSA
contradictory sources/ possible/probable
15 Sarah Frances Rockwell died 24th November 1953 CSA.
16 Frank H. Mayer died 12th February 1954 Union
17 W.W. Alexander died 16th February 1954 CSA
ambiguous evidence/ possible/probable
18 Thomas Riddle died 2nd April 1954 CSA
confused and contradictory sources/ possible
19 Hattie Cook Carter died 11th January 1956 CSA,
insufficient evidence/probable
20 Albert Woolson died August 2nd 1956 Union
21 Louis Nicholas Baker died January 1957 Union
unauthenticated/extremely unlikely
22 Maude Nicholls Jones aka Maud Martin died May 1957 CSA garbled legends/extremely unlikely
23 William Allen Lundy died 1st September 1957 CSA
24 John B. Salling died 16th March 1959 CSA
unlikely as claimed in some parts
insufficient evidence/confused sources/ possible
25 Walter Williams died 19th December 1959 CSA
some parts are likely/others are not
26 Red Cloud died 4th October 1962 Union
27 Sylvester Magee died 15th October 1971 Union and CSA insufficient evidence/possible
28 Francis Healey died 1977 (?) CSA
29 Charlie Smith died 5th October 1979 Union
unauthenticated/unknown/ no evidence
unauthenticated/ controversial evidence/very unlikely
Primary Source Problems
Other problems with sources that apply to these twenty nine participants
and veterans need investigation. The previously mentioned census problems are
the major problem but at least they are obvious. Interesting, informative articles
appear that seem to solve all the problems – until one looks for their sources and
finds nothing. Lack of sources leads to wishful thinking that develops into
opinions that are then presented as facts. Almost as bad as disallowing
enlistments on censuses is accepting them on a name on a muster roll. The
James Erwin case is one example. It would be so easy for this writer to accept
that a man found by that name or one similar was the one searched for – until
over fifty others just amongst the Confederates are also found. Even with the
information that he was a cavalryman serving under Forrest the list only gets
narrowed to eighteen and many cannot be definitely discounted as being the
searched for man. This example cannot be considered unusual. W.W.
Alexander, William J. Bush, Arnold Murray, Frank Mayer, and W.M.
Loudermilk, are all examples that needed much sifting and sorting research
through their namesakes.
One aspect related to censuses is that of age. If some were considered too
young to have served in the 1860s they were also considered too old to have
lived into the 1950s – and beyond. Just as Pleasant Crump has a fixed place as
the last surviving Confederate due to one article, Jeanne Calment who died in
1997 aged 122 is generally acclaimed as the world’s oldest person ever because
of one encyclopaedia entry in The Guinness Book of Records. Similarly no male
has lived beyond 116 according to that same source, yet five of these claimed
last Civil War survivors challenge these figures. These are Hattie Cook Carter,
Red Cloud, Sylvester Magee, Francis Healey and Charlie Smith. This longevity
issue gets a more detailed examination in the section on Francis Healey.
Computers are an obvious and massive blessing with information easily
found, key words that save hours of sifting through documents and
transcriptions of difficult to read old documents. So obvious! The negative side
emerges as less than obvious. Source documents can be listed – and then vanish
without a clue as they are removed. That has already happened in this work
even before publication. Anyone can write anything on the net. Once again this
is a tremendous boon – until fabrications, forgeries and unsubstantiated
opinions devour time, costs and energy. The American Civil War attracts these
problems more than most topics. Computers give lists that are exhausting to
examine and therefore seem exhaustive, but those lists and references are not
complete and it is unwise to be dogmatic from their incomplete information.
Due to the Union blockade paper became scarce in the Confederacy so
records were not always kept, especially as the Confederacy fell apart. When
central Richmond burned in April 1865 many documents burned with it.39 One
eyewitness, the clerk John B. Jones, stated that the records that went up
included claims of the survivors of the deceased soldiers and accounts of
contractors.40 When looking at Sherman’s record of burning whole cities,
including state capitols were many important archives were stored, we are left
wondering what records went up in flames. Confederate muster rolls were
deliberately burned at Shreveport before the May 1865 surrender.41 Confederate
Naval Secretary Mallory ordered the burning of the Confederate Marine Corps
records as Richmond fell.42 As early as the 1880s one historian wrote as if a
minority of Confederate naval records escaped destruction.43 Lee also found that
most of his communications after Gettysburg had been destroyed.44
Two of the best records of those who served the Confederacy are the
parole lists from Vicksburg’s surrender and that list made of those who
surrendered at Appomattox. Even the latter must have omissions, as many
soldiers dropped out exhausted or deserted in the week before the surrender.
Many units did have complete muster rolls, but even when existent as complete,
massive problems emerge. In the chaos of the Confederacy’s last year, they
were conscripting seventeen year olds, and taking younger, in one case a seven
year old infantryman, so age does not necessarily determine service. Over the
last year of the war they seemed to have frequently taken anybody who would
serve, including jailed prisoners and cadets - in the one Georgia unit! If
seventeen year olds are being conscripted, even younger boys volunteering were
likely to have been regularly accepted, especially for non-combatant roles.
Many of those claiming to have been amongst the last survivors stated they
were in such positions.
How much was truly lost among the sources remains uncertain a hundred
and fifty years on. Primary source material still turns up: an Arkansas muster
Nelson Lankford, Richmond Burning: The Last Days of the Confederate Capitol. 2002.
New York; Penquin Books, 2003. Three newspaper offices and stored legal documents were
burned. Twenty blocks near the Capitol building were also burned to the ground. pp135-145.
John B. Jones, p529, p531.
Confederate Research Sources. War Between the States. An Ancestry Community, kee
[email protected]
Hoar, Vol. III p1304; J. Thomas Scharf, History of the Confederate Navy. 1887. New
York; Gramercy Books, 1996. Preface. n.p. p770 note 1.
Scharf, Preface.
Douglas Southall Freeman, Lee. An Abridgement in One Volume by Richard Harwell.
New York: Touchstone, 1997. p519.
roll found among old paper, soldiers’ diaries kept stored away, such as that of
Tennessee Colonel McCavock which was found in a California attic in 2014,
Civil war era photos of once supposed frauds Bush and Murray, General
Pemberton’s account of his actions, family genealogies, mention of Red Cloud
amongst a list of America’s longest Civil War era marriages, in passing
recollections of Unionist Frank Mayer, watercolours depicting the Union Army
at Antietam, a Georgia private’s account of war service written in 1916...
Just on the topic of the last twenty nine veterans the information listed
below has emerged within the last few years, some of it tucked away in little
known cyberspace sources, some published in books and others appearing on
the internet:
The Civil War era photo of William J. Bush
The 1913 reconstruction group photo which had Arnold Murray and
perhaps Thomas Evans Riddle.
An 1863 soldier’s diary in which Riddle is mentioned.
Arnold Murray’s 1910 census and his UDC interview.
Arnold Murray’s name on military documents from the Civil War.
Simultaneous mention of both men named William A. Kinney in the 1860
census. The long accepted argument was that there was only one man with this
name in Kentucky and that he was born in 1861 so Kiney could not have been a
Civil War soldier.
Kiney’s 1863 enlistment document in the 10th Kentucky Cavalry.
An 1863 Alabama enlistment for A. Witkowski. Felix Witkoski, who is
often described as a fraud claiming to be a veteran, said this was where was in
A 1949 newspaper interview with W.W. Alexander, who briefly
described his Civil War service.
A war record of Thomas Edwin Ross.
Ross’s affirmation of Civil War service in the 1910 census.
Ross’s 1952 death certificate.
Murray’s and Loudermilk’s affirmations of Civil War service in the 1930
Red Cloud’s 1950s interview mentioning his Civil War experience.
Obituary articles for James E. Erwin and W.W. Alexander and the latter’s
brief account of his war service.
Claims about Francis Healey.
New assessments about the total number of casualties in the Civil War.
The military enlistment rolls were usually very basic for both sides. What
individual entries contained depended on a commander’s wishes, the size of a
page, the supply of paper and ink and the fussiness, energy and literacy levels of
the clerks. Some entries recorded no more than a soldier’s first initial, surname,
company and unit. One example is an 1863 Vicksburg parole document:
W. Townsend, Company B, 27th Louisiana Infantry.
If his record in Baton Rouge which reads as below (with extra information in
italics) was easily found, identification would have been much easier:
Private William Daniel Townsend also known as W.W. Townsend
Born: April 12th 1846 Meridian Mississippi
Resident: Ruston Louisiana
Enlistment: Norwood September 8th 1861 Company B, 27th Louisiana Infantry.
However there are also other problems. Fortunately few entitled W.
Townsend appeared on lists for Louisiana Confederates. Such mercies are rare.
Ten Confederates named William Loudermilk appear in records and another
unlisted in Official Records as William is probably J.W.. Even so, he is named
in a primary source document as William Loudermilk.45 This man gains a
mention for heroic behaviour; another man with that name for desertion – and
possibly they are the same man. Because ten such names appear this does not
mean ten such men existed – or more are unmentioned. They are frequently
listed by their initial, but the 1950s survivor who is included in this
investigation seems to not be among them! There are probably at least two
others, with that same identical full name.
Sticking with all this Confederate family becomes worthwhile to illustrate
an essential point known to all genealogists, historians and researchers of the
Civil War – just how incomplete and confusing even computerised Civil War
Report of Lieutenant-Colonel George M. Edgar, Twenty-Sixth Virginia Infantry Battalion.
White Sulphur Springs W. Va. August 29th 1863. Posted on Arkansas in the Civil War by
Evelyn Rard 5/1/2009.
muster rolls and records are. Anyone sensible must be unwilling to dismiss any
claim to service solely because a man’s name cannot be found on the muster
Even Official Records cannot be complete and this is not their guardians’
fault. Two family records illustrate that fact. Seventeen Confederates with a
surname Loudermilk are listed in Official Records. That looks comprehensive
but it is not. The Civil War Soldiers Database lists twenty-four, including a nonexistent Raven Loudermilk. His real first and middle names were Henry and
Ervine. Neither database list those recorded as officers - in Georgia and North
Carolina alone. Although the Official Records compilers do mention him in
their regimental histories section, Captain John Loudermilk, of the 36 th Georgia
(Boyles) who was later promoted to Major two months before his death in 1864,
is unlisted in the individual soldiers’ section. Also unmentioned there, are two
officers from this extensive family, Captain G.N. Loudermilk enlisted 17 th July
1862 in Thomas’s Legion and 2nd Lieutenant Garner M. Loudermilk of
Cherokee County who enlisted June 17th 1861 and resigned in November 1861.
The omission of Garner N. becomes extremely strange when he is found
to be mentioned in documents and later books due to the interest in Thomas’s
Legion where he served. With the enlisted men brief research reveals at least
five soldiers with the surname who do not appear in either computerized
versions. Fanzie, who was perhaps a cousin to William, was executed for
shooting a deserter, but does not appear in records.46 Others are named Elkanah,
B, (probably Benjamin) M.M. and Hugh W., These five are not part of the
problem about the use of just initials for identification. For example M.M.
Loudermilk, who is not in the computerized listings, is mentioned as enlisted in
a North Carolina Regiment on November 15th 1862. Another family member
with the Initial M is listed in a database as serving in Confederate forces. His
first name was Marion. He appears
Hoar, Vol. III p1689. He is mentioned in 1973 correspondence to Professor Hoar by Mrs
Juanita L. Sherlin, great niece to Fanzie and William Loudermilk.
Garner’s enlistment document
on the Georgia 36th Regiment muster roll as serving from March 11th 1862 and
until July 1863, so they could not be the same man. At least three officers and at
least five enlisted men who should be on the computer lists are not there. That is
one quarter of the total family members shown.
They were found in computerised sources, and after a brief check
covering records in only two Confederate states. Four sources for these eight
unlisted soldiers are not obscure or tucked away in titles that are unlikely to be
noticed or have titles that seem irrelevant.
They are from John W. Moore’s four volume 1882 North Carolina
Troops in the War Between the States, their family tree, Professor Hoar’s The
South’s Last Boy’s in Gray and Lillian A. Henderson’s five volume collection
originally compiled in 1959-1964 Roster of the Confederate Soldiers of
Georgia. All three books and the genealogy provide much more information for
free than many computerised sources, such as full names, date and place of
enlistment and discharge, paroles, transfers, hospitalisation and resignations and
casualties. Henderson’s work does list desertions and absences, but Moore’s
does not.
W.W. Alexander of North Carolina supplies another revealing example.
Official Records list six Confederates by this name from various other states,
but not one comes from North Carolina. After an informant who had found a
namesake corrected me and gave a website I used the option ‘U.S. Civil War
Soldiers 1861-1865’ in This gives well over six individuals
limited to the tight definition of W.W. Alexander of North Carolina. Nonexistence often gets used as evidence, but it seems dubious, even when carefully
examined and prepared. When Life began preparing their 1949 story on the last
Civil War veterans, starting with government files, but were amazed to find old
veterans the government did not know of. They presented photos of what they
considered was a complete list of sixty-eight, but of those dealt with here,
fifteen, Witkoski, Ross, Cumpston, Baker, Kiney, Erwin, Rockwell, Alexander,
Mayer, Carter, Baker, Jones, Red Cloud, Sylvester Magee and Charlie Smith
were absent, over half in this work, so how should their absence be interpreted?
Was this evasion, fakery, non-existence, as causing suspicions of their
truthfulness, a dislike of publicity, shame about wartime actions, a dislike of
war, modesty or just unintended omissions by Life?
Another problem concerns the brevity of newspaper interviews and their
omissions. The only reasons we know anything at all of the claims to Civil War
service for W.W. Alexander, James E. Erwin and Red Cloud is because each of
these people were the subject of one newspaper story that can still be found
several decades later. With Loudermilk, Murray, Townsend, Broadsword, Bush
and Kinney much of what we know comes from annoyingly brief newspaper
Not all problems are sins of omission.
Ironically the claimant who got the most media coverage, who had his
memoirs published and was even the subject of a film, had the strongest
evidence against him.
Deceit and trickery, expediency, white lies and bent truth had other
forms. Runaways and deserters changed names, initials and ages. They seemed
to have hoped to confuse officialdom by changing spellings or middle names
and initials. Henry Ervine Loudermilk upon being captured for a second time,
heard that if a Confederate was exchanged for a second time he was shot on his
return – so he changed his name to hide himself with the gloriously conspicuous
title Raven Loudermilk. He returned or was forcibly returned to his old unit.
Going by records, seemingly both Henry and Raven served.47 Men on furlough
often found themselves behind advanced enemy lines and unable to return were
listed as missing or deserted.48 With absences without leave, runaways,
desertions, freed jailbirds, escaped slaves and odd reasons like those of
Raven/Henry, the records are permeated with falsehoods, ambiguities and
While this probably does not apply to any of those men just mentioned,
until December 1863 Confederates paid bounties for men to enlist and some
Loudermilk Lineage. http://www.eloudermilk. Com/Loudermilk.htm 1. No author
Unsigned introductory note to Muster Roll of the Kentucky Volunteers.
made a career of enlisting, then deserting and enlisting again, probably leaving a
paper trail of names.49 Elvis Presley’s maternal great-great-grandfather was one
such.50 Others were discharged, then reenlisted or were conscripted into
different units. Others simply left before transfers were finalised and it is not
always clear what they did after – or even if they transferred.51
Felix Witkoski provides another example. Nobody named Witkoski turned
up in Confederate service in the official and much used databases. Even so,
someone with an almost identical surname was listed by a clerk with low level
language skills as being in Alabama’s Coffee County Home Guards in 1863.
This was the state where Witkoski said he had served and the year he said his
service started.
Confusion becomes creative with Georgians named either William Bush or
William J. Bush. In the Official Records lists two Confederate Georgians named
that way. Another William Bush appears in the 2nd Georgia Militia. Then in the
Georgia Civil War Soldiers Index four men with this name appear, all of them
in different Georgia units. One might be the father of the man who lived until
1952. Two more appear in the Ramah Guards, Benjamin H. Bush and his cousin
W.J. Bush, who is William Jordan Bush. This looks like being helpful, but it is
quite possible this man appears three, maybe four times in different units. The
same man sometimes has the middle name Jordan and sometimes Joshua. Only
three of these men are definitely NOT this same man with the middle name
confusion. This is by no means the most confused, confusing and contradictory
There is also a problem known to all genealogists: ancestors/descendants,
grandfathers, fathers, sons and cousins will frequently all have the same name
Two Confederate cousins called William Murphy Loudermilk appear in
the family genealogy. Another with that exact name appears as listed in Official
Records serving in the Union Army. Others enlisted with that same surname
appear with the initials William M or W.M.. It sometimes happens that a
younger son will be given the same name as a dead sibling.
Census records are an even worse morass, than those just listed and
should never be used as a strong and clear pathway through the problems with
muster rolls and other primary sources.
James M. McPherson. pp 431-432.
Albert Goldman, Elvis. London; Allen Lane, 1981. pp 55-56.
Unsigned introductory note to Muster Roll of the Kentucky Volunteers.
Not only documents create problems: people can: to make a comparison,
Australian history students at High School level were given the task of
interviewing World War One veterans from at least the 1960s into the middle
1980s. I interviewed my grandfather in 1966. He spared me much of war’s
peculiar mixture of horror and dreariness. I also checked a student’s interview
twenty years later. However things changed by 1989, when as a teacher I was
told the interviews were over. The veterans who could remember in the 1960s
usually could not remember things very well anymore, were embarrassed by
that and did not want to recall the horrors and dreariness they had endured.
Amazingly many writers assume incredible feats of memory as
commonplace for Civil War veterans, but how many of us can remember our
classmates, supervisors, workmates, accountants, tradesmen, organisations,
locales, or bureaucratic numbers from a decade or two back? And yet veterans
were asked to recall similar details from around sixty to ninety years before and
if errors were made this should apparently cause suspicion. What should be
more suspicious would be perfectly remembered dull details, especially if
combined with connections to legendary figures, famous events and great and
heroic deeds.
The frequently erroneous, or fragmentary and sometimes vague nature of
recalled veteran’s memories both in Australian WW1 veterans in the 1980s and
Civil War veterans in the 1950s demonstrates this point. Rarely in the 1950s did
Civil War veterans or survivors give a coherent, very detailed, long account that
goes from enlistment to war’s end. Few speak of the realities of actual warfare
in detail. The mind blocks out details that were too horrific to remember or
recalls them briefly and then goes elsewhere. Bush seems to have done this in
his 1949 interview when asked did they have target practice in training? He
replied that bullets were too scarce and were kept for killing Yankees, but most
of the fighting was done hand to hand.52 His interview then went elsewhere.
Unlike this example veterans were often interviewed in reunions that were
celebratory and conciliatory: hardly the right place to discuss enduring
dysentery, burying cholera victims, enduring bullying officers, burning homes
or bayoneting the enemy.
Many were not just victims, they would have wanted to pass over what
they had done or for a time became. Thomas E. Ross (not the Kentucky
cavalryman/naval powder monkey/marine cadet) probably started out believing
Wyilly Folk St. John. ‘Georgia’s Last Confederate’ April 24th 1949. The interview is
reproduced in William Joshua Bush (1845-1952) Find A Grave Memorial.
he was joining the Home Guard to do just what that organization’s title
suggests. He ended up a guard at Salisbury Prison, worse even than
Andersonville. A 1990s estimate of the fatalities there was 11,700. Many were
shot by their guards on the slightest pretext.53 Magee, Mayer and Broadsword
started as patriots and ended up as men forcibly dispossessing Indians: they
enlisted to free the Black Man and soldiered on to enslave the Red Man. The
aged, modest Kinney who liked playing dominoes and who quietly took part in
his Bible study class was once one of the feared Morgan’s Raiders. As a 1860s
teenager Albert Woolson enthusiastically learned to kill with a musket so he
could hopefully serve in the infantry: in old age he delighted in entertaining
children with music. Similarly, popular William Townsend who in old age
loved to dance and play the fiddle at socials and entertained hospital patients
with his music to cheer them, stated that he once rode for the Ku Klux Klan in
the Reconstruction period. His statement is ambiguous: does that mean he rode
for them only once and then renounced them or that once, long ago, he rode
with the Klan?54 Whatever his mistakes he seems among the most honest and
consistent. He admitted that he thought of leaving the war and he described its
misery and that he was not reconciled to “the Yankees” until a 1951 get
together.55 Veterans were supposed to present an image of mutual respect and
forgiveness. Interviewers were also either sensitive to elderly veterans’ feelings
or sensitive to their reader’s desires: the media’s clientele usually did not want
to read unpleasant stories about war and they did not get them. These are the
egregious problems with primary sources.
Problems with Age and the child Soldiers
Those who use censuses to disprove or cast doubt on claimed service in
the Civil War have a few valid cases, but overall rejecting such claims because
censuses show some claimant was an adolescent or even younger comes across
as at best fallacious, and definitely misleading. Several specialist books have
been written on the topic of child soldiers based on primary sources and each of
them disprove that idea. Another problem is how we see their world. Childhood
Horowitz pp20-21.
An unsigned Obituary Article Lewiston Evening Journal. Feb 23rd 1953. Computer Edition.
Google News Archive Search; Serrano, p74; His popularity and behaviour at socials was
mentioned a few years ago in a now vanished website. It also mentioned the hospital visits
Serrano refers to. Hoar also mentions this and reproduces a photo showing Townsend
entertaining veterans at a Shreveport hospital. Vol. III p1699; See also Eric C. Brock.
“Shreveport’s Last Confederates” undated newspaper story. Ancestry .com William
Townsend Collection Type for date: 1953 type for place: Louisiana.
Unsigned article, Lewiston Evening Journal Feb 23rd 1953.
ended early in the nineteenth century. Among the sceptics the age factor keeps
coming up. Witkoski, Alexander, Loudermilk, Bush, Murray, Townsend,
Rockwell, Mayer, Lundy, Salling and Williams are continuously rejected as
being too young to have been in the war, as if proving their age disproves their
war record. This is seeing the Civil War military world through the eyes of the
twenty-first century Western world. The 1963 Walt Disney film Johnny Shiloh,
focusing on nine year old drummer boy Johnny Clem, was perhaps the last
admiring portrayal of a Civil War child soldier. We are horrified by the idea of
child soldiers, but were Americans in the 1860s?
Reading through Susan R. Hull’s collection of primary sources on this
topic, the usual Confederate responses include admiration and family pride as
much as mourning, but never horror or disapproval, outrage or a questioning of
why boys had to suffer or die. This was apparently not because of fears of being
labelled disloyal or suffering the severe punishments and ostracism frequently
dealt out to those suspected of disloyalty in the Confederacy. Hull’s work was
published forty years after the Confederacy fell, and while much source material
was from the war, she frequently using her aged contemporaries’
correspondence for research and revealed her own attitudes. They lived in a
world where duty, courage and honour were everything and death through selfsacrifice led to glory. Both old and recent evidence exists showing that
substantial numbers of boy soldiers in both armies.
Wiley Bell’s investigations of 11,000 Confederate enlistments in
1861/1862 found only one thirteen year old, but this was early in the war, and
many lied about their age. 56 One fourteen to fifteen year old who did not make
that list was Riley Crawford. After his father was shot by Jayhawkers his
mother took him to Quantrill and asked him to make a guerrilla of Riley. He
served and survived over a year before being killed.57 More evidence for service
emerges concerning fourteen year olds. In 1863 Hull noted enlistments of boy
soldiers. She collected information about them which in 1905 was published as
Boy Soldiers of the Confederacy. She wrote of one boy soldier aged eleven and
Roger K. Hux, “Was Arnold Murray really the Last Confederate Veteran?” The State
Magazine. April 12 1981. p11.
William Pennington, Roster of Quantrill’s Anderson’s and Todd’s Guerrillas and other
Missouri Jewels.” penningtons tripod com/roster htm; Unsigned, The Missouri Partisan
Rangers Roster of Known Members of William C. Quantrill William T. Anderson, George M.
Todd and John Thrailkill. This website was put
together by the curators and staff of the Missouri Partisan Ranger Virtual Museum using a
wide variety of primary and secondary sources. See also the website Riley Crawford. This
website gives him a slightly older age; his tombstone suggests he died aged sixteen.
several were twelve or thirteen and quotes information about another, a ten year
old, George Lamkin.58
Professor Hoar in his Callow Brave and True: A Gospel of Civil War
Youth (1999) lists precise details of those known youngsters under eleven who
enlisted and served either side in some way: thirty-one names appear and as he
states, there were clearly more who we do not know of.59 Susan Hull mentions
about a hundred individuals, excluding groups - and while the majority are from
around sixteen to eighteen, she mentions many younger than that. She does not
mention that they were not always volunteers. J.A. Marcum recalled how at age
eleven in September 1863 while he was near his home he was picked up by a
scout to be a guide, but was rapidly given a gun and sent up to Virginia to serve
in Lee’s infantry.60 Similarly Martin Luther Peters spoke of how he and all the
other boys and old men in his area were conscripted in 1863 by visiting
recruiters and how they killed enemy soldiers. For him this was at the age of
fourteen.61 Both these stories may or may not have been exceptional, but the
only reason both got into print was because both men lived to be the second
oldest acknowledged Confederate in their respective states and so got
newspaper interviews in old age.
This tendency to take youngsters worsened as the war dragged on. Using
child soldiers was widespread and not limited to non-combatant roles. Rebecca
Beatrice Brooks estimates that 20% of all Civil War soldiers were under
eighteen and a hundred thousand Union soldiers were under fifteen.62 The child
soldiers often formed groups, several examples support this concept. Musicians,
especially drummers and fifers, usually look very young in group photographs.
The participation of Virginia Military Institute cadets at the battle of Monocracy
is well documented, although other groups and units acted similarly, as Hull
documents. The 1st Arkansas was recruited in the age group of fourteen to
nineteen with their parent’s approval – and this was early in the war.63 This was
Susan R. Hull, Introduction p14. Boy Soldiers of the Confederacy. New York; The Neale
Publishing Company, 1905. She reproduces accounts from the war years which mention a ten
year old, George Lamkin p228.
Hoar, Callow Brave and True: a Gospel of Civil War Youth. p227 and his The South’s Last
Boys in Gray. Vol. III pp1733-1734.
Unsigned obituary article, “J.A. Marcum, Gray Veteran, Passes at 98.” The Anniston Star.
May 27th 1951. p1.
Hoar, Vol. III. pp1679-1680. Quoting a passage from Bruce Goodpasture, ‘Bristol’s Last
Confederate Vet Recalls Past 99 years” The Bristol Herald-Courier. Virginia c1948. p6B
Brooks, ‘Child Soldiers in the Civil War.’ Civil War Saga A Blog of the American Civil
War. –in-the-civil-war –inthe-civil-war p1.
Hull, quoting contemporary accounts p231.
no home front unit; from First Bull Run to Johnston’s surrender this regiment
was continually fighting. When Caspar Ricks joined a company of couriers at
Shreveport he found that although he was the youngest at twelve, none were
over fifteen.64 Hull’s cousin, eyewitness and example Thos D. Ranson assisted
with information, giving several examples of boys in the fighting who were
under fifteen. He also stated Baker’s Light Horse was made up almost entirely
of boys at first and concludes his letter with “I hardly ever saw a fight without
seeing boys at the front.” 65
Several scattered in passing references to boy soldiers show how they
were seen differently to how we see them. Mrs Crawford may have been an
extreme example rather than an isolated case. James E. Erwin perhaps rode with
Nathan Bedford Forrest when aged thirteen. While six year old James V.
Johnston was visiting his father, the captain of the gunboat Forest Rose in
supposedly peaceful waters on the Mississippi, the Confederates attacked.
When the powder monkey was killed James took his place in the conflict. He
was awarded the dead boy’s suit in admiration by the crew and was proudly
photographed. He must surely be the youngest Civil War combatant.66 David
Bailey enlisted in the 6th Georgia Cavalry in 1861 aged barely eleven and stayed
three years. This was before Georgia was invaded and there seemed no dire
necessity. The comment was that “Little Dave” made a good soldier.67 Willie
Bush of Indiana was made a corporal by his surgeon father at the age of six and
a half. They served together at Elmira prison camp.68 Professor Hoar lists five
Confederates aged six or seven at the beginning of their service and also
Missouri Unionist Charles Knecht, a seven year old musician.69 W.W.
Alexander, probably born in July 1856, seems to have had Confederate service
that must have ended before he turned nine. Nathaniel Jackson Williams aged
about ten, led a group of boys aged between seven and fourteen who served as
home guards in Georgia: some of them later went into battle.70 Two newly
revealed child soldiers on websites are Alex Gillenwater and Andrew Jackson
Botts. Alex Gillenwater was seven years old when he enlisted in the 45th
Hoar, Callow Brave and True p130. Hicks is quoted.
Hull, Ranson’s letter of 1904. pp 150-151.
The Missouri History Museum. http:’’
D.B. Freeman “Little Dave Our Youngest Soldier” Civil War Family 14 January 2014. He
had at least one ten year old rival for that title, George Lamkin - and others even younger.
Hoar, Callow Brave and True, pp138-143.
Hoar Vol. III p1733; For Knecht see Callow Brave and True, p138 pp228-229.
Unsigned article, ‘Remembering Georgia’s Youngest Rebel and Louvale Reunion.’
Stewart-Webster Journal May 30th 1996. n.p.
Virginia Infantry in May 1861; nobody must have successfully objected as he
served four years.71 Similarly veteran Andrew Jackson Botts was present as a
soldier at the war’s end aged thirteen.72 The memoirs of fourteen year old
runaway and Missouri soldier Johnny Wickersham are a primary source for the
experience of wartime service.73 Israel Aaron Broadsword was probably
fighting for the Union aged fourteen in 1861 and said that he had been enrolled
in a Union militia two years before. Two Congressional Medal of Honour
winners, Orion Howe and John Cook, were respectively fourteen and fifteen.
Sixteen other recipients were under eighteen.74 Runaway Johnny Clem was
believed to be nine when he first tried joining Union forces and was promoted
to officer rank at twelve, being considered a hero for supposedly killing a
Confederate colonel who was advising him to lower his gun.75 A seventeen year
old spy was hanged in different circumstances elsewhere.76 Union raider
General Dahlgren was shot by “a mere boy.”77 General Joseph Johnston,
realising he would soon surrender his army, pardoned the last deserter facing
execution, a fourteen year old and one of the last two Confederates killed on the
day Lee surrendered was also fourteen.78 Estimates vary widely as one estimate
of Union enlistments under eighteen at over ten thousand while Brooks
previously mentioned figure is ten times that.79 While fourteen seems to be the
age at which boy enlistments became more common, scant scattered and
ambiguous information and frequently told lies to gain enlistment mean the
numbers below this age are unknown.
Now children and adolescents lying about their age will usually be found
out in minutes by pressing a few computer buttons that give pages of facts,
DNA, fingerprints and photographs. Then both armies contained many
runaways lying about their age – and how could people check back then?
Posting by Richard Gillenwater, July 4th 2013 on ‘Leave a Reply.’ See Brooks, ‘Child
Soldiers of the Civil War’ Civil War Saga: A Blog of the American Civil War. –in-the-civil-war p6. He is also listed in ‘Civil
War Soldiers 1861-1865’ in the same regiment as stated by his descendant.
Posting by Andrew Botts, He cites Civil War records. See Brooks, previous citation.
Uncredited seller’s description. Johnny Wickersham, Boy Soldier of the Confederacy: The
Memoir of Johnny Wickersham 1915. New Edition Ed. Kathleen Gorman. n.p.: Southern
Illinois University Press, 2006.
Brooks, ‘Child Soldiers of the Civil War’ previous citation.
Pat McNamara, Johnny Clem “The Drummer Boy of Chickamauga.” Posted Sept7. 2011;
Brooks, ‘Child Soldiers of the Civil War’ previous citation. Pp1-2 She puts his age at eleven.
Freeman, previous citation.
Hull, p15.
Ken Burns, The Civil War.
McNamara, Johnny Clem “The Drummer Boy of Chickamauga”; Brooks. ‘Child Soldiers
of the Civil War’p1.
Letters or riders were the only form of communication and took weeks. A
second problem would be that who wanted to check when expectations for both
sides were that units would be filled? The South’s manpower resources were
running down and they were fighting for their survival: this made them accept
almost anybody.
After the battle of Griswoldville in November 1864 a Union colonel
walked among the Confederate dead and concluded that they were either old
men or boys under fifteen.80 The average age for Confederate soldiers is usually
put at nineteen to twenty-six, given the descriptions of elderly men in the militia
this widens the lower end of the range considerably. The website “Images of
Confederate Boy Soldiers” displays well over forty individuals who are
obviously boys in their middle teens or younger. Going by appearances some of
these are musicians, look around ten years old, some must be even younger.
Others are dressed as fighters, but often this might be a pose for the camera,
perhaps not. While there are some statistical evidence for Union enlistments,
even rough estimates of how many boy Confederates served are difficult to
make, although clearly there were many.
Rejecting Witkoski, Ross, Loudermilk, Bush, Townsend, Murray, Erwin,
Rockwell, W.W. Alexander, Lundy, Salling and Williams as being too young to
have been in the war because they were born between the late 1840s and well
into the 1850s does not square with the obvious reality of enlistments and
auxiliaries in the armies of the Civil War.
Richard J. Lenz, The Civil War in Georgia, An Illustrated Traveller’s Guide. Colonel
Charles Wills quoted p2.
The Child Soldiers
The photographs below illustrate the point made by Hull, Hoar and
Brooks and others: boy soldiers were common and many were fighters.
Johnny Clem. He was eight or nine when enlisted in the Union Army
Tad Lincoln
A North Carolina Infantryman
Captain Marcellus Jerome Clarke. A Kentucky raider, he was hanged aged
twenty in March 1865 after four years of service to the Confederacy
Arnold Murray of South Carolina,
perhaps as young as ten or eleven. However this photo suggests that he was
probably in his middle teens, even eighteen when it was taken.
David Wood. Orderly and sutler for
the 6 Missouri. He was not yet fourteen when the war ended.
This photo of a junior Confederate in cavalry outfit was taken in
Nashville, which probably means early in the war as the city fell to Grant in
early 1862. It is uncertain if he was playing in costume or was really enlisted. Is
that pistol real or a toy? He looks closer to five than ten.
This is unmistakeably an infantryman. The good state of his equipment
suggests that he is about to leave for the front, probably in the war’s early
The wide brim hat with fur or feathers, the pistol and sabre all show that this
Alabama boy served as a cavalryman.
An unknown Confederate boy soldier
This unknown Confederate’s coat has the strong shoulder straps and collar
suggest an officer, but the jacket looks oversized, did he borrow or hire it out
because he wanted to impress his family or sweetheart?
The stylish wide brim hat, cravat and neat jacket suggest that this Confederate
boy came from a well off family
Union drummer boys and a fifer. As each infantry regiment usually had a
band they number of boys serving must have been high. How many adult
enlistments are listed as drummers, fifers, buglers or trumpeters?
A young Union soldier, possessing a pistol suggests he was a cavalryman
Private Edwin Jemison of Louisiana, aged about sixteen at the time of his
death. He was killed at the battle of Malvern Hill in July 1862. This image is
often used to demonstrate the tragedy of the Civil War – and rightly.
This nine year old boy ran off to serve in his father’s Kansas regiment. He was
kept on as his father’s orderly and was fortunate to survive malaria.
James Carson Elliot.
This North Carolina infantryman turned twenty the year the war ended. He
wrote a book about his wartime experiences: A Southern Soldier Boy: A
Thousand Shots for the Confedracy.
James M. Lurvey of New Hampshire aged 14 in the inset and at 101. He was the
last survivor of Gettysburg
All three of these Union boys were nine when separately enlisted as musicians
in different units.Their photographs and that of Lurvey are from Jay S. Hoar’s
Callow Brave and True: a Gospel of Civil War Youth. Courtesy of the author
Top left: Joseph N. Fissell of Ohio. Top Right C.
Perry Byam of Iowa. Bottom Albert Corydon White of Ohio.
Not all boy soldiers were enthusiastic volunteers. Their masters were often
puzzled, asking others why their slave ran away.
Problems with Perceptions:
We initially see records of the military world as this huge, efficient
machine, but a prolonged examination shows that view to be seldom so. In
reality it is an attempt to impose order on a massive and chaotic process. Not
only America’s Official Records are incomplete and contain errors. An
Australian veteran in his nineties, Mr Parke, recently appeared on television
news with his investigation which revealed that in Queensland, his state, of the
125,000 WW2 enlistments around 10% contained misinformation, mistakes and
omissions. He estimated that another 5,000 to 7,000 in his state were not listed
at all. The government department admitted this was so and said they had a
team still working on the problem.81 When I investigated four enlisted brothers
from New South Wales, very distant maternal relatives, three were accurately
recorded, but the fourth, was mentioned as missing in action while serving with
Canadian paratroopers in Normandy in 1944. This did happen to many in the
Normandy campaign who parachuted over marshes and the sea, weighed down
by their packs, many were never found.82 His records did not turn up in
Canadian or Australian records, despite a thorough professional search. In
modern history Russian records for WW1 may be the worst, they are so
fragmentary and basic that their casualty rates cannot be reliably calculated.
We also see a lack of records or imprecise records for individuals as
suspicious, but few among those investigated filled out a census every decade
and fewer were consistent with birthdates and their age. The census collectors
may have been rushed, or given misleading information or just did not get it,
then as now people do not like government prying into their lives. While
researching even the 1940 census it was amazing to see how many elderly
people would place “about” before their birth year. Away from the towns,
books, paper, clocks and calendars were rarer than we might appreciate and
people valued daylight and seasons for productivity more than dates. Children
were valued workers and schools were often rare and not compulsory. These
factors made for high illiteracy rates and rare and basic records that were often
inexact. We are examining a society with very different priorities: the emphasis
ABC News 7:30 p.m. November 29th 2014. Australian Broadcasting Commission
William Manchester and Paul Reid, The Last Lion: Winston Spencer Churchill Defender of
the Realm 1940-1965.New York; Little Brown and Company, 2012. p840. Eisenhower is
given as the primary source.
on efficiency and information we value as essential was not in their lives, but
we look for it in their records.
A bigger problem must be the increasing commercialisation of history,
along with everything else in life. Several of the claimants dealt with here could
have had more detailed information, but access to computerised documents is
becoming increasingly a business, making history a rich kid’s game. The
implications of this commercialisation are enormous. Now that the primary
sources are owned, how long is it before companies own the facts they contain
and we must pay for them or be accused of stealing “their” copyrighted facts? In
a world where seeds are copyrighted and advertisements target three year olds,
anything becomes possible. Once courts decide that corporations own the basis
for writing history, how long will it be before all history reflects the corporate
mentality? Lee also had a point, he started writing his memoirs, but seeing the
early days of the commercialisation of Civil War history, he said that he refused
to profit by the sufferings and death of his men. Fortunately there are still many
like the contributors to this book, historians, descendants, archivists and reenactors who gave time and information freely.
Objectivity is indeed another problem but the effort must be made. On
u tube, in photographs, interviews and books, several of the claimants come
across as likeable and endearing; who wants to expose them as liars and frauds?
Not me. I take their claims seriously, but do investigate, hoping to find the
evidence needed to prove them to be what they said they were. Even so, a
tendency to be biased in their favour stays under control. Unlike some
enthusiasts on some websites I want more proof than their say so and I do not
ignore, belittle or downplay evidence against them, but also take that seriously.
The reader will find dozens of pieces of evidence against their claims that have
not been explained away. Like most, I dislike giving credibility to con-artists: if
the proof was irrefutable it would be revealed, but not one of them has that
definite proof against them so far.
As already mentioned apart from the Union men already accepted several
other claimants range from possible to probable. Of the nineteen Confederate
claimants after Crump, only five have sufficient proof to say that they definitely
served. Serrano does not discuss Witkoski, Ross, Murray, Kiney, Erwin, Riddle,
Alexander, Carter or Rockwell and with Bush and Townsend suggest that both
are uncertain. On that point I disagree. Another he does not mention, but who
appears to be very probable is William Murphy Loudermilk. Also not
mentioned are Arnold Murray who also has an interesting case that eventually
led me to verification and William A. Kiney of Kentucky. Kiney was the last
proven combatant. The last two Confederates who can be considered verifiable were nurses, Sarah Rockwell and Hattie Cook Carter.
Most of the Confederates get longer, more detailed coverage because
their claims are more controversial and rely on evidence that is often less clear
than for the Union enlistments. Although the individual Union records usually
also contain contradictory and uncertain evidence, they contain less. They also
usually have enlistment documents that verify them in official records:
verification means less needs to be written.
From the evidence available, the last four listed combatants, who can be
identified with certainty, all died in the first half of 1953. After them two
teenagers at the time, Union enlistments Albert Woolson and Frank H. Mayer,
both non-combatants, can be definitely accepted as participants in the Civil War
with verified enlistment documents, although several others are extremely likely
to have had some participatory role.
Part Two
William Daniel Townsend, William J. Bush and John Salling together at the
1951 Confederate reunion in Richmond. The three men got on well together and
although Salling felt the trip would be exhausting, and did not go, the other two
would meet up in New Orleans in the following year. Their facial expressions
here go against the reports of them enjoying the festivities, but perhaps they
were tired when the cameraman arrived.
Four of the last verified Union veterans and their chronicler
Felix M. Witkoski. Also aka Felix Mitkoski, and also
perhaps aka A. Witkowski
Result: His Confederate service is possible but dubious.
Date of Birth: January 1850. Possibly 1852 or October 1854.
Date of Death: 3rd February 1952.
Age at enlistment: uncertain, twelve or perhaps nine.
Rank: (claimed) water boy and then perhaps a private or a sharpshooter.
Unit: (claimed) 53RD Alabama Infantry (which was actually a cavalry
unit) the 53rd Partisan Rangers.
Perhaps the Coffee County Guards and then perhaps the 9th South
Carolina Infantry.
Service: He claimed to be a water boy from 1863 and eventually a
soldier, a scout and a sharpshooter.
Combat Experience: He claimed combat experience from Chattanooga
and Missionary Ridge and the battles for Atlanta till the war’s end. He
claimed that he was badly wounded in the stomach at Atlanta.
Evidence of Service apart from his own accounts. His name does not
appear in the Official Records, The Civil War Soldier’s Database,
military records, known muster rolls or anywhere else, but an A.Witkowski
does appear in an Alabama Home Guard service record and then in the 9th South
Carolina Infantry.
This man’s war record almost exactly matches Loudermilk’s account on
several points. His age, running away, being wounded at Atlanta, differing
cavalry units, scouting for General Wheeler and where they came from are the
only divergent points. In census documents from 1910, 1920, 1930 and 1940
Felix Witkoski claimed to have been born in Texas in January 1850, but he
supposedly also gave a birthdate of 1854 in the 1900 Census. His detractors
state that his brother was born in Poland in 1864, so the family must have
migrated from there after this. They also state that Felix was probably born
about 1854 in time to be sixteen for the 1870 census where he appears. Maybe.
Another possibility is that to flee the Civil War the Witkoski family fled back to
Poland and returned to America later. Witkoski did claim that after the Civil
War he returned home to find his family gone. The port of Galveston was open
for the Confederacy from New Years’ Day 1863 until June 1865. New Orleans
was open after the Union captured the city in April 1862.
With this individual the believers that the censuses disprove all claimants
to Confederate Civil War service have a strong, if ultimately inconclusive case –
if the censuses are accurate and evidence for that is needed.
An official from the United Daughters of the Confederacy described how
Witkoski “had many newspaper clippings to verify his stories.” In the context of
her reproduced recollections this may refer to only his mining activities in the
1890s, which a hostile source describes as possible but just a story told much
later.83 The United daughters of the Confederacy had much to do with him, and
did not accept everybody who claimed Confederate service, yet they accepted
Witkoski might be a spurious candidate for Civil War service as some
state, but he cannot be accepted as such when census sources (just like
enlistments) seem to say nothing at all about him because his records are not
easily found where they should be.
Evidence for his side seems almost as rare. No record anywhere so far,
has revealed a Witkoski or a Mitkoski (as he is misnamed in the 1930 census) as
a Confederate soldier and several reputable databases and muster rolls had been
checked, including both units called the 53rd Alabama. He claimed to have tried
to join a Texan unit. After being rejected he walked for five months to
Montgomery Alabama where he served as a water boy in the 53rd Alabama for
the officer’s horses and eventually became a fighting soldier, a sharpshooter. He
said he was later a scout for General Wheeler and then served in Forrest’s
I had him written up as debunked when quite by chance, while
researching William Allen Lundy, I came across an A. Witkowski in the muster
rolls of the Alabama Coffee County Volunteers, written up on March 14th 1864
by someone possessing only a low level of English, let alone Polish. Beside
“Felix Witkoski” Wikipedia
Witkowski’s name was a single entry “gone.” Even though the initial and a
letter in the surname are different, this removes the certainty of a debunked
status for him.
Three enlistments for A. Witkowski show up in the 9th South Carolina
Infantry. One man reenlisting or three? One who became a sergeant has his
name spelled with a double tt. Such a rank would be rare for a fourteen year old.
This regiment did serve some of the war in Georgia in 1863 and incorporated
sharpshooters. However they were sent to Virginia in early 1864, so this man
would not have been in the battle for Atlanta. So is Witkoski/Witkowski/
Mitoski (x2 more) / Mittoski one Confederate soldier or six? A Polish family
surnamed Witkowski were located in Carroll County Louisiana, and perhaps
this soldier or soldiers were from that family. They were slave owning
plantation people and Simon, the father, had a son Adolph who had the right
initial and was around the right age for Civil War service. Simon and his
brother, Julius, were Union loyalists who applied for federal compensation.84
Even so, how many Poles with virtually the same name were in
Confederate Alabama just where and when Felix Witkoski said he was? Long
This led me to further investigations. In the available censuses Witkoski
continually states that he was born in Texas in January 1850 and he writes
nothing in these documents about Polish parentage. He states that his mother
was English and his father was a German in one and then they are both
Germans and are Texans in the last census. This initially looks like a selfrevealing lie, but many people were Polish by the locale of their birth but
German in ethnic origin. When Witkoski wrote that his mother was English in
one census and then German in another the writing reveals his uncertainty.
Somebody writes ‘Ger’ then after a space ‘German.’ When he writes in the last
census that his parents were Texans, by then they were, by long residence if not
by birth.
What damages his claim is that in response to questions about military
service, he always leaves these census questions blank. Computerised census
records at the time of this writer’s research do not list any Texan Witkoski
family for 1850, 1860, 1870 or 1900. The latter census is supposedly
particularly damaging to Witkoski. This writer quadruple checked that census in
a website and with different search engines that had proved reliable previously:
Gary B. Mills, Southern Loyalists in the Civil War: The Southern Claims Commission
.Genealogical Publishing COM, 1994, p654.
result blanks! Similar names also failed to find a computerised match, they
might be there somewhere, but are not easily found. has no record
of him in censuses before 1910, although he is in every one after that.
Also not easily found is a motive for fraud. As with his 1854 birthdate, no
evidence of a Confederate pension application seems findable. These were state
based and both Oregon and California where he lived for decades, apparently
did not pay out to Confederates. He did not take part in the hoopla over Civil
War Veterans.
The evidence against his Civil War experiences appears as even weaker
than his evidence for being a veteran. For conclusive evidence one way or
another the censuses of 1870 and 1900 must be found or revealed to be nonexistent. If he had affirmed Civil War service in the censuses….
Thomas Edwin Ross
Result: His Confederate Service is possible. More clarification is needed
as two different service claims are made for what may be the same man. Several
other Confederates share this name and also share other points for identity.
Date of Birth: 16th July 1850. Source 1. 19th July 1850 Source 2.
Date of Death: 27th March 1952 in California.
Rank: probably private OR a marine and sometime powder monkey.
Unit: 14th Kentucky Cavalry OR the marine regiment.
Service: probably January 19th 1863 to 30th November 1864. Perhaps also
August to October 1862. Or 1862 -1865 for the naval Ross.
Combat Experience: uncertain but claimed.
Evidence of Service. Uncertain/conflicting.
Once again the original version must be developed. A Kentucky cavalry
enlistment for Thomas E. Ross came so close to verifying him, but the type of
service he claimed in the Confederate marines and what the documentation
revealed lead to two irreconcilable records of service. As two documents show
three days difference given for the birthdate of the Thomas Edwin Ross born in
Kentucky in July 1850 it is possible that they were two different men, perhaps
Evidence of service 1: Cavalry:
The 1952 death certificate lists his service as being in the 5 th Kentucky
Cavalry. Did someone, somewhere in Los Angeles in 1952 try to find his
record, and finding someone in that cavalry unit with the same name, nearly
exact birth date and state of origin, lead themselves or someone else into a
misidentification? Yet this might be his true record. Morgan’s Raiders were
feared and at least two other aged veterans of that unit, William A. Kiney and
John M. Bradley, did not seek recognition.85 A Thomas Ross of West Liberty
Kentucky enlisted as a private in August 1862, but was mustered out for
unknown reasons that October. Another (?)Thomas Ross enlisted in the same
place in January 1863 in Company B of the 14th Kentucky Cavalry and was
mustered out on November 30th 1864 and is listed as surviving the war. puts him at the top of the list as the soldier most likely to be
Thomas Edwin Ross. Identification comes by that full name in a modern
computer introduction to an index of paroled Confederates. Is this because of
either unrevealed information or because the word Edwin appears elsewhere?
This man was captured on June 19th 1864, was he exchanged to be mustered
out? Many prisoners were so weakened as to be useless for further service. This
index was typed out in 1980. Here he is listed as Thomas Ross, but the unit
designation and Kentucky address are a perfect match.
A realistic portrayal of a
Kentucky cavalryman by Moses Hamblin.
Evidence of Service 2: Naval.
In Professor Hoar’s The South’s Last Boys in Gray Thomas Edwin Ross of Los
Angeles, (born July 19th 1850 and died on March 27th 1952) is described as a
Hoar has a segment on Bradley. Vol. III p1621. Kiney is dealt with in detail in the segment
about him.
naval man who started out as an eleven year old powder monkey and who was
aboard the Merrimac during its famous duel with the Monitor in 1862. This is
Ross’s account. He also claimed to be at the battle of the Crater in 1864 and to
have spent the later period of the war in a torpedo boat, the Wasp of the James
River Squadron, located in east Virginia. He identified the captain and master’s
mate in command there. 86
All these naval claims are possible, but it all initially sounds like too
many varied forms of service for one person. Evidence however, shows the
incredibly diverse uses this small unit was put to. ‘The Confederate States Navy
Marine Corps’ was not a corps in the army sense of consisting of two divisions
and supporting units which usually totalled around twenty thousand men. It was
really a regiment, at its peak apparently consisting of 840 enlisted men, and 149
other ranks with 82 more being enlisted in October 1862. 87 Historians and
eyewitness show that they were much in demand and in ways that support
Ross’s statements. Confederate naval officer J. Thomas Scharf in his 1888
History of the Confederate Navy states that:
One squad of marines that fought at Drewry’s Bluff had previously
formed a part of the ship’s company of the Virginia and had helped
work her guns in the battles of Hampton Roads. (p771)
Scharf also states that marine detachments were “ordered to other stations and
to vessels preparing for sea, or for coastal defence” this fits in with Ross’s
statement about the torpedo boats. His claim to be a powder monkey and to
working machines, which sounds more a naval service than a marine one, is
also explained in Scharf’s next passage:
Because of the great lack of trained seamen in the Confederacy, the
veteran marines were of inestimable value on board the ships to
which they were attached, and they were made use of in numerous
capacities that embraced the duties of sailors. (771)
Ross’s knowledge of these matters, as well as his seemingly odd and overdone
claims being backed by near contemporary evidence, adds to his credibility
upon investigation. His recollection of being at the battle of the crater is a
separate issue. Ross did state that he was without a ship for months after the
CSS Virginia was blown up. The Petersburg lines were thinly manned so
possibly detachments of marines were used there until the next boat was ready
in late 1864. It is also possible that an individual marine was nearby for
Hoar, Vol. III pp1686-1687.
Scharf, quoting the official Confederate directions for the marine’s establishment.p769.
personal reasons and rushed to serve in the sudden emergency at the crater, but
no marine detachment appears in the Confederate Order of Battle.
One factor that does count against him must be the reproduced in detail
crew list of the CSS Virginia with individualised notes in John V. Quarstein’s
history The CSS Virginia: Sink before Surrender (2012). Ross’s name does not
appear in the crew list. He is also absent from the list Quarstein reproduces of
those others who volunteered and so served in some capacity, or in the listed
detachment of 54 marines who served on the ship.
This is not saying that Ross deceives about this. As previously
mentioned, most Confederate marine records were destroyed. An odd fact that
strongly suggests that Ross was telling the truth was that he kept his distinctive
Confederate blue-jacket uniform. This may have been of the type issued to the
navy or the more distinctive frock coats worn by the marines of both sides.88 His
habit of wearing such a naval blue-jacket to church probably got him noticed as
a former Confederate.89 Another fact in his favour is that no evidence emerges
that he applied for the pension: by Kentucky’s pension rules he would have had
to live in Kentucky to get it and he had been living in California for decades.
He apparently did not want publicity and little of his life is known of
between the end of the Civil War and 1920. After working as an engineer he
settled in Los Angeles and worked as a car dealer. The Californian Daughters of
the Confederacy had to search for him and arrange urgent medical help and then
arrange his 100th birthday celebrations. His last four years were spent in a
sanatorium as his physical health declined.90 Although he was not mentioned in
the 1949 Life or the 1951 Denver Post articles, he was listed as one of the last
surviving Confederates in the 1951 Virginia Reunion program.91
In April 1910 a Thomas Ross of Paducah, Kentucky aged 59, affirmed
Civil War service on the census. His given age matches that of the aged
claimant. Proving that this man, born in Kentucky in 1850 is the same man who
died in Los Angeles in 1952 must be difficult without more evidence. Proving
that he served with a Kentucky cavalry unit, or with the navy or marines in
Virginia becomes more than difficult.
Too many enlistments name Thomas Ross appear, nearly forty, but each
has too little information. Most were infantry privates. Two have the initial E.
‘Uniform of the Confederate State Military Forces.’ Wikipedia; See also the website
‘Images of Confederate Marines.’
Hoar, Vol. III pp1686-1687.
Mason, p8.
but none use the full middle name. The most likely of these “E. Ross” soldiers
served in Home Guard units from 1862 onwards and Howard’s Company of
prison guards in North Carolina. Another was in the 42nd Regiment North
Two versions of an enlisted Confederate marine’s frock coat. Ross at one time
would have had one. He wore one in old age in Los Angeles.
Three enlisted men named Thomas E. Ross are on muster rolls. Three
others named Thomas Ross are listed as Confederate Kentucky cavalrymen.
One who is not listed is the most likely, the quiet naval man.
The Confederate marines, depicted by Don Troiani
Ross’s surviving naval jacket may be something like this wartime relic The
Virginia attacking is in the background: he claimed to be in this battle.
Douglas T. Story also known as Douglas T. Storey
Result: accepted√
Date of Birth: 24th November 1844 or that date in 1846.
Date of Death 22nd April 1952 in California.
Age at enlistment: seventeen or nineteen.
Rank: private.
Unit: 136th Illinois Volunteers.
Service: infantryman He enlisted on May 20th or June 1st 1864 and was
mustered out on October 22nd of that year.
Combat Experience: Garrison and dealing with raids, he was not in
major battles.
Evidence of Service apart from his own accounts: Official Records and the
136th Illinois muster rolls both list him by first name and initial.
Douglas Story ran away from home twice, trying to enlist and succeeded
on the third attempt. Like many runaways who enlisted, there seems confusion
over his birthdate. He served in the 136th Illinois Volunteer Infantry, a unit that
was formed for 100 days service, but lasted a little longer to meet the threat of
General Jo Shelby’s expected cavalry raid on Saint Louis.92 They were given
garrison duty in Tennessee and were at times part of the unsuccessful attempts
Jay S. Hoar, The North’s Last Boys in Blue: Last Living Chapter of the American Civil
War. An Epic Prose Elegy. Volume II. Salem Mass.: Higginson Book Co. 2007. p854.
to capture the elusive, hard hitting Nathan Bedford Forrest and his command.
During that time many more men died of disease than the few lost in
When the regiment was disbanded in late 1864 Story was discharged and
lived a varied life.94 He was for a time an entertainer on Mississippi riverboats,
performing as a vaudevillian and a dancer, then he worked in carpentry, stone
masonry and horseshoeing. Marrying in the middle 1870s, he fathered five
children by his first wife between 1877 and 1889 and after being widowed had a
sixth by his second wife. He worked as a Land Agent in the Oklahoma boom of
the 1890s before moving to California where he continued his career in land.
Like Thomas Edwin Ross and Felix Witkoski, he would be in Los Angeles in
the early 1950s. He had retired there in 1929, living with one of his daughters in
old age. He met with other Union veterans, but did he ever meet Ross or
Official Records 136th Illinois Infantry Regiment; The Illinois Civil War
Project.Org/history/135html; 136th Illinois Infantry Regiment. civil warillinois genweb.
This account of Story’s post-war life is based on the segment concerning him in Hoar, Vol.
II pp 854-856 and an unsigned and brief obituary article in The Los Angeles Times. April 23rd
1952. This article is reproduced in the Find-a-Grave website for Douglas Story.
Even Official records lists his name as having an alternate spelling and
notes the fact, but here this does not become a barrier to credibility: he lived a
traceable life.
Douglas Storey in old age in California. In his last years, not able to move
about much, he delighted in watching television.
Israel Aaron Broadsword aka Israel Adam Broadsword
Result: accepted√
Date of Birth: 23rd December 1846.
Date of Death 25th July 1952 in Idaho.
Age at enlistment: officially eighteen in 1865, perhaps fourteen in 1861.
Rank: private.
Unit: 51st Missouri Infantry (known)
Service: Infantryman. Probably his first service was in the summer and
autumn of 1861. He definitely enlisted on April 4th 1865 and was
mustered out on August 31st of that year.
Combat Experience: Very little that can be traced. Probably much more.
Evidence of Service apart from his own accounts: has replicas of
his several documents for voluntary enlistment. These include a declaration,
company enrolment, hospitalisation, a transfer and mustering out. Official
Records got a triple check and does not know of him.
While he has some of the most traceable statistics among those veterans
alive after January 1st 1952, confusion exists over his middle name. His 1860s
military documents do not give him one. Professor Hoar, in contact with his
family, writes Adam, newspapers say Aaron. This time these trails all lead
easily to the same man.
Israel Aaron Broadsword was born in Putnam County Ohio into a
farming family. He is only one of the few among the twenty nine claimants in
this book to have an undisputed birth date. As a boy he worked in Saint Joseph,
Missouri for outfitters to wagon trains and mountaineers. His son William wrote
to Professor Hoar in 1972, describing how the sight of a female slave being
separated from her child and then being whipped down the street gave him a
passionate hatred of slavery. This led Broadsword to joining the Troy Kansas
Home Guard in 1859 and he would experience the violence of the Kansas
conflict before the war began.
By Broadsword’s account repeated in newspapers and also in the
recollections of one of his sons, he ran away from home aged fourteen to fight
and was in Missouri’s battle of Lexington in September 1861. Soon after this
his parents found him and took him home, but realised he would only run away
again, so with their permission at age sixteen he enlisted.95 This would put his
second enlistment between the end of 1862 and the end of 1863. This fits with
his son William’s account, who recalled that his father saw action several times
This account of Broadsword’s life is based on his enlistment documents and war record,
Hoar’s segment on Broadsword Vol. II pp857-859 and on newspaper accounts. Professor
Hoar uses several detailed passages from his son William and several other sources. The first
newspaper source is an unsigned article, ‘Civil War Veteran Lives Peacefully On Idaho
Farm.’ In The Register Guard. May 4th 1951. p57. The second is an obituary article in The
Spokesman Review. July 26th 1952 p57. The last is the May 1951 Associated Press article.
against Quantrill, who was active in Missouri in those years but had moved to
Kentucky by the spring of 1865.
However all his official documents have him enlisting aged eighteen on
April 4th 1865. He would have seen very little if any fighting while on garrison
duty at Saint Joseph Missouri as he was hospitalised on April 30th for an
unspecified period. In the twilight days of the war the last Confederates active
in Missouri were bushwhackers and isolated cavalry units, so while possible, it
seems unlikely that Broadsword was a fighting soldier – at least at this point in
time, but definitely after 1865 and probably before, in 1861. The previously
cited newspaper interviews he did recall some details apparently from his earlier
enlistment. In one an officer told the men not to abandon a cannon to the enemy
and when another man asked how much it was worth and was told three
hundred dollars, he suggested that they let the Confederates have it, all chip in
and give the replacement cost to the government! Broadsword also mentioned
the terrible taste of scarce buffalo meat.
Broadsword at an event after the 1949 Life magazine story brought him fame
Unfortunately more of his earlier experiences are at this stage,
undocumented. He was mustered out, but re-enlisted in Company H, 19th Kansas
Cavalry in 1868 where he reached the rank of Sergeant and became an Indian
fighter under Custer’s command, fighting the Sioux and probably being at the
Battle of Washita River against the Cheyenne in late 1868. The most famous
representation of this battle is in Arthur Penn’s 1971 film Little Big Man. While
this film accurately captures the ruthless savagery and the unexpected nature of
the attack and many of the more bizarre aspects; it does not depict how the
Seventh Cavalry were tracking a raiding party returning to the village. This
group had been raiding settlers and brought Custer’s ferocious destruction to the
apparently unknowing villagers.96 A kidnapped white woman had also
smuggled out a note pleading for rescue for herself and her toddler, they were
among the fatalities, but it remains unclear who killed them.97 To what extent
this surprise attack on a sleeping village where an American flag flew could be
called a battle was then and still remains controversial. Of the hundred and three
Cheyenne Custer supposedly killed, only eleven were warriors and Custer lost
Examples of Israel Aaron Broadsword’s military documents. These were
as god as it got for details of enlistments on either side
The raiding party is mentioned by James Donovan in his A Terrible Glory: Custer and the
Little Big Horn: The Last Great Battle of the American West. New York: Little Brown and
Company, 2008. p63 p65.
Evan S. Connell, Son of the Morning Star: General Custer and the Battle of the Little Big
Horn. 1984. London: Pan Books, 1986. pp181-182. The note is reproduced.
nineteen cavalrymen. Custer would claim in his official report that he had killed
a hundred and eleven warriors, but Evan S. Connell in his Son of the Morning
Star names all eleven killed Indian warriors and states that the other ninety-two
were women, children and the elderly.98 James Donovan also mentions Custer’s
claim on casualties, but concludes that he was overstating, while Cheyenne
estimates of thirty to forty fatalities of which half were warriors, were
Broadsword’s role in this is unknown, he may not have even been there,
but this man who loved army life resigned soon after. However he clearly
admired Custer; his first child, born in 1885, was named George Custer
Broadsword.100 Comparing his earlier sense of injustice over a female slave to
what happened to Cheyenne women at the Washita shows what war can do to
people, or can possibly do. As a child Custer did not tolerate bullies and
defended those attacked.
In 1870 Broadsword was employed as a wagon train scout, but quit over a
wage dispute around halfway through the journey. After hauling freight for a
time, he returned to farming and family life, having married in 1871. A
physically strong man, he had a resilience and a toughness about him that not
only got him through the 1850s border wars, the Civil War and the Indian War
of the 1860s, but also the world of freighting and farming. The Broadswords
had to battle prairie fires, hailstorms, drought and grasshopper plagues: despite
this Israel Broadsword never gave up, never suffered a crushing defeat and
showed the resilience that so many veterans, North and South, possessed. His
son William recalled how after the death of his wife in 1900 he moved to
Colorado, taking up farming there and around 1929-1930 he retired to live with
his sons in Idaho.
He took part in the 1949 Life magazine story which gained him public
notice. He stayed in general good health until the last years. He is credited with
being Missouri’s last Civil War veteran and the last living veteran in the NorthWest states. He would have also been among the last Indian fighters. Ten days
before he died he was rushed to Spokane Hospital and his death was much
noted in the North West media. Widely respected, at his funeral, the largest
building in his town could not hold not even half of the mourners present.101
O’Connell, p187.
Donovan, p65.
The Broadsword Family Tree.
Hoar, Vol II p857.
Broadsword at 105, still wearing farm working clothes
Richard William Cumptson
He was born on 23rd May 1841 and died on the 5th September 1952, being of
Virginia. Official Records list a William J. Cumpston as having served in the
47th Virginia Regiment. An R. J. Cumpston served in the 1st Georgia Cavalry
and a James Cumpston served in the 12th Missouri. The only Richard William
Cumpston known of was a Union soldier stationed in North Carolina, and
perhaps he was from there as twelve thousand North Carolinians served the
Union. Several Cumpstons served in the Union’s West Virginian forces. Even
the Cumpston family tree notes that they have no information. That was all that
was known then and the situation is essentially the same at present. Even
assiduous archivists have had to give up on my requests on this man. That is not
the problem, the problem is proving that this man even existed. If records of this
man are found and verified, he could be the last Virginian on active service for
the Confederacy and possibly the last man to serve in the Army of Northern
William Murphy Loudermilk
Result: His Confederate service is very probable, almost verifiable, but without
enlistment documents and some irrefutable evidence, he cannot go beyond
being tantalisingly close. He definitely does not deserve to be labelled a
discredited imposter out to falsely claim pension money. Unlike Rockwell, who
also had no enlistment documents, there are barriers and unanswered questions
that stop his verification. More clarification, more detail and written Civil War
era evidence would be good. Unfortunately for Loudermilk’s verification,
relatives with the same name particularly least two with very similar names
confuse the records. Most, but not all arguments against his verification rapidly
fall apart on examination.
Date of Birth: 27th October 1847 but 1846, 23rd October 1848, about
1849, about 1850, 1851 and/or 1857 have all been claimed by others.
Date of Death 18th September 1952.
Age at enlistment: uncertain, sixteen remains most likely.
Rank: Like Witkoski he started as a cavalry water boy and then a bugler,
a private and a sharpshooter. All these positions would have been in the
cavalry of the Army of Tennessee.
Unit: uncertain, possibly the 36th Georgia (Boyles) or with much more
probability the 6th North Carolina Cavalry.
Reasons Against Verification: One reason given for debunking is that he
supposedly never claimed to be a Confederate until he applied for the
Confederate veteran’s pension in late 1949 or early 1950. This is untrue. About
forty to fifty or more years before applying for the pension he had himself
photographed in his Confederate uniform. He affirmed Civil War status in
response to an official question in 1930 and was among the last thirty eight
surviving Confederates who were photographed and mentioned for a May 1949
Life article about remaining Civil War survivors at that time.102
The census birth year dates and the lack of a name on a muster roll are the
other usual reasons for rejection. The Sons of Confederate Veterans had rejected
his claims by May 1951.103 Several writers who mention him call him a fake or
hint at that. These are issues to deal with chronologically, starting with his birth.
Due to his statements concerning his age his birthdate becomes vital for
verification or rejection and so should be examined closely. The same date in
October is always used, but years vary. Only the October 1847 birthdate works
with his professed age on enlistment and his given battle record. He said he
volunteered at sixteen in the spring of 1864, so if he was born in October 1848
he must have been a soldier in October 1864 at the earliest. This means he could
not have been in any of the battles he claimed, excepting Nashville, fought that
December. In Professor Hoar’s account his age at enlistment in April 1864 was
still fifteen, he puts his birth year as 1848.104 This contradictory information
means that establishing his birth date gives him basic credibility; without it he
looks dubious.
Critics use or refer to the 1900 census where his age is given as forty-nine
and his birth year as 1851. After earlier research on the censuses made me doubt
their veracity I checked the 1910 census and got the obviously impossible birth
year for Civil War service of 1857 and nearly joined the deriders. He also had a
chance to describe his Civil war service in that census but left the space blank.
In vexation this writer tried the 1920 census which came up with “about 1857.”
1930 census question about veteran status and involvement in conflicts; John Osborne,
untitled photograph collection Life May 30th 1949. p9.
Unsigned Article, ‘J.A. Marcum, Gray Veteran Passes at 98; The Anniston Star. May 27th
1951. Front page story.
Hoar, Vol. III. p1688.
The Loudermilk Pension Card. Note the e or C after William
No chance exists that these census dates come from one of the others with
his name. In the 1910 census he gives his full name and the Jonesboro Arkansas
locale which matches the other censuses. The Kerrer’s Chapel Cemetery staff
where Loudermilk and his wife were buried were apparently so bewildered by
all these date confusions that they used the internet to put out a public appeal for
help – and got it. With information about the census records from 1900, 1910,
1920 and 1930.105 His surname gets misspelled way off four times out of four
and in three different ways. His birthdate in 1900 is written as 1841, not 1851,
but his age is listed as 49 not 59. If this is not bizarre enough, his age becomes
younger in 1910 when he is listed as 43.
To believe the census so far we must believe that this Arkansas farmer was
privileged to find the fountain of youth. Given that one of the writers believing
in the veracity of Civil War era censuses writes for a flying saucer magazine
some other people just might swallow that one. When in the encyclopaedia
entry I replaced the magazine’s missing subtitle that revealed the magazine’s
Melanie Atkins, Posted response to Kerrer’s Chapel Cemetery Need Help. October 28th
interests that information was rapidly deleted. This writer can even design a
tabloid headline for the readers:
BUY OUR FLYING SAUCER DETECTOR KIT for only $29:95 and pay
within 30 days to get your free trip to the fountain of youth at Jonesboro!
Conditions apply. Do not examine evidence and believe everything you read in
an encyclopaedia.
However like Ayesha in Rider Haggard’s She the life giving elixir can be
treacherous and age the taker with impossible ferocity, well sometimes. Poor
Loudermilk ages twenty years in ten years by the 1920 census, making him
aged supposedly sixty-three. This process continues as he ages another nineteen
years in the next decade. Finally the 1930 census get his age of eighty-two close
to right and came close to his real birth year, giving 1848, but his middle initial
is wrong. His wife suffers similar impossibilities with her birthdate and name,
so she did not fill their census out.106 For some reason the 1940 census finally
spells his name right but this time his age is 91, giving a birthdate of around late
in 1848 or the first half of 1849.
In the response blog to the cemetery request one typo involving
Loudermilk’s birth year appears. The suggested ancestry disagrees with the
main family version. Even so, much of what is here, (such as differing birth
dates) matches the computerised census roll entries. The computerised version
of the 1930 census notes the original errors and corrects. Other bits elsewhere
seem tidied up with records being computerised. One fact worth noting is that
the census records show that he did not alter his age to get a pension, he only
applied at the end of the 1940s.
Loudermilk has been labelled a fraud, but what investigations reveal can be
remarkable for what they do to the credibility of censuses. Misspelling his own
name four times and in three different ways? Lowering and raising his age?
Writing out a different name for his wife on four different censuses? The
censuses were the strongest evidence that he was a fraud, but as evidence for
anything - for or against, they are worthless and would be laughed out of court,
assuming a fool took them there.
This immediately raises the question of why make obviously impossible
and contradictory statements on census forms? Handwriting shows that
someone else filled out the forms. Even allowing for the patronage system and a
lack of training investigators must ask: what on earth was happening with the
census collectors? Were census officials foreigners without much English - or
going deaf? Loudermilk claimed to be literate on the forms and did not sound
addled or senile in 1949 and 1951 newspaper coverage, let alone fifty years
In contrast to the censuses, between 1949 and his death in 1952 many
magazines and newspapers always gave his correct age. If they did not spell it
out as October 1847, still they gave him the correct age to support that birthdate
on their assorted publication dates. As well as local publications such as the
Jonesboro Sun, the Sedalia Democrat, The Arkansas Gazette and the Northwest
Arkansas Times, these publications included some of America’s most respected
names: Life, The New York Times, The Miami Daily News Record and Stars and
Stripes.107 All but the latter of these publications were printing individualised,
not syndicated stories. Two apparently syndicated brief obituary stories
appeared in several American papers: some mentioned his service in Hood’s
cavalry, some did not.108
Two other points of confusion are best cleared up: even apart from several
Confederate enlistments written up as W.M. Loudermilk There are others
causing more confusion: the man being investigated is not even the only
William Murphy Loudermilk. Another with that full name was born in
Randolph County North Carolina in 1850, to a black family. Another soldier
with this exact name was a Union private from Indiana killed in 1863, but in
records it is not always clear which soldier is referred to. There was also his
cousin who served in the 39th North Carolina Infantry and even in Official
Records they initially seem confused, as his record also goes under “William
Murphy Loudermilk” or was that perhaps both men’s middle name was the
same? This would explain much.
With the evidence against his Civil War service discredited, what evidence
exists for verification?
Jonesboro Sun.; The Sedalia Democrat. 23rd September 1949 computerised pages; The
Miami Daily News Record. 21st May 1950 Computerised pages; The Arkansas Gazette.
September 6th 1951 “Private Made Colonel 86 Years After War.” p5 and “Last Confederate
Veteran of Arkansas Dies at 104.” Front Page. 19th September 1952. The Northwest Arkansas
Times. 19th Sept 1952, Computerised pages; Life. previous citation; The New York Times
Obituary of 19th Sept 1952 is reproduced in Loudermilk’s entry on Find A Grave. See
Citation 38; Stars and Stripe.s 20th Sept 1952. Computerised pages.
Compare for example the unsigned brief obituary in Ohio’s The East Liverpool Review.
September 19th 1952 with the fuller versions mentioned in the previous citation.
Evidence for Verification: In the 1930 census when he reached the tiny
column for war experience he wrote “civ.” This was almost twenty years before
he applied for a pension and before the hoopla about veterans began. Why lie on
a census form, who would see it? In his research Professor Hoar was aided by
Loudermilk’s relatives who recalled that Loudermilk kept his battered
Confederate cherry wood canteen and a tattered Confederate flag. He also
clearly kept his cavalry uniform, hat and bowie knife as some years after the
war, he had himself photographed armed and in uniform, apparently to show
that he could still fit into it.109 This happened around half a century or more
before he applied for a Confederate veteran’s pension. If he was not the
cavalryman he claimed to be this must be very strange and untypical behaviour
for this level headed and prosaic man.
In Hoar’s account Loudermilk stated officially and repeatedly that he was
never written up as enlisting or given discharge papers, but simply told “It’s all
over .You may go home.”110 This sounds very likely, for when the Army of
Tennessee surrendered it was not like the surrenders at Vicksburg or
Appomattox, where in a few days the army laid down its arms and all the
soldiers filled out the parole lists. The surrender began on April 14 th when
Johnston asked for terms and got them days later, but Sherman’s generous terms
were rejected by his government and negotiations were delayed while new
terms were drawn up. In the meantime much of Johnston’s scattered army
melted away. There are no parole lists for all of that army.
The family genealogy Descendants of George Washington Loudermilk
website also revealed much. In this massive work compiled by Aline
Loudermilk Jones which was finished in 2007, William Murphy Loudermilk’s
parents, his birthdate, siblings, marriage, bequest in a will, move to Arkansas
and his burial are all correctly mentioned. So his Civil War life with the
tantalizingly brief “he served the CSA.” and “See Aline’s File”111 That file is
not in her genealogy and seems unfindable at this point.
The authenticity of this genealogy is obvious. Over a thousand people are
listed in Aline Loudermilk Jones’s work, many of them in great and prosaic
detail and the information comes from family bibles, military records, land
sales, births, marriages, wills, bequests, death registers and yes - censuses.
William Murphy Loudermilk had a life cursed by censuses. Although his
Hoar, William Murphy Loudermilk’ in The South’s Last Boys in Gray. Vol. III pp16881690.
Ibid, p1689.
Aline Loudermilk Jones, Descendants of George Washington Loudermilk. 2007.
www.roots web. ancestry .com gaunion/gw/text entry. pp38-40.
siblings are in the 1860 census contained in the genealogy he is not listed with
them by name, but curiously is recorded as an unnamed male aged twelve. Did
he presciently avoid the census taker or being in a sullen mood refuse to give
his name? Was not being listed with the others a punishment for a sibling
squabble? Or were parents disputing what his name should be, perhaps because
his cousin William M. Loudermilk, was about fourteen years old and may have
had the same middle name, let alone initial? This would have provided enough
confusion – and subsequently did. The name Murphy incidentally came from
the nearby town.112
Whatever the reason other documents show that nobody else could be
there. He is listed by name among Daniel Loudermilk’s children with his
October 1847 birth date and mentioned again by name with the other same
siblings by Daniel in his 1900 will.
The family genealogy is strong for verification, but precise details of his
service are a morass.113 Even his middle name or initial takes time to find. Even
without the censuses his birthdate remains confusing. October 27th 1847 is on
his tombstone and a personal memorial, and in the family genealogy tree, while
October 17th is on the same Find A Grave memorial site that has the photos of
the tombstone and the memorial. It also reproduces a brief September 18 th 1952
New York Times article that states he died aged a 104 years.114 His wartime
service appears as almost certainly true, but what form did it take and where?
One web site seemingly lists him as serving in the Twentieth Virginia
Cavalry. They had a William Loudermilk, who had no middle initial and that
unit was never in the fight against Sherman where the man who died in 1952
said he served.
It is claimed on the memorial stone that he was a private in the North
Carolina Cavalry. William A. Loudermilk served with the 2nd North Carolina,
but he enlisted in June 1861 and was discharged in February 1863 with a
disability. He emerges as a cousin, being listed in the massive family genealogy
and Moore’s history.115 This man with the wrong initial lived to 1950. His
regiment did not serve anywhere near where William Murphy Loudermilk said
he served and WML never mentioned being disabled. He enjoyed good health
Personal phone communication with Jay S. Hoar on an earlier version of this book. May
Pvt William Murphy Loudermilk (1847-1952) Find A Grave Memorial.
Moore, Vol.2 Muster Role of the 19th North Carolina Cavalry. p114.
into advanced old age.116 There was a training unit with the 2nd North Carolina,
Company F, this was their junior reserves. Their muster rolls show that most of
them were also born around 1847 and also like him, were usually North
Carolinians. After training in North Carolina they were sent to fighting units,
including apparently their own, but no Loudermilk appears on their roll. Even
so, his training here sounds possible.
The most likely possibility for his unit is the 6th North Carolina Cavalry,
which was the only North Carolina cavalry unit that did serve on the Western
arena when and where William Murphy Loudermilk said he was serving in the
cavalry. The unit was with Johnston from August 1863 onwards and then
continuously with Hood and then Johnston again until his surrender. Many from
this regiment were recruited in the Loudermilk’s family area, western North
Carolina. Folk’s 6th North Carolina Regiment (65th) was an amalgamation of
forces and also of their muster rolls. These motley units had kept what rolls they
had, but there was no neat, systematic reenrolment into one unit called Folks.’
The website introduction to its roll clarifies that those rolls were muddled,
incomplete, left out a group stationed away from camp and some parts are no
longer existent. Another website on the same topic 6th North Carolina Cavalrythe 65th North Carolina State Troops lists the known cavalrymen, without
Loudermilk, but also notes roll parts were no longer existent, adds that there
was confusion over the doubling of companies with the same identifying letter
and ads that this unit was confusingly identified as the 66th Regiment. Rolls in
that state would explain why Loudermilk was accepted but not enrolled, new
enlistments would have added to the confusion. There are no Loudermilks listed
here, but he may have served with the 6th regiment and it would explain why no
record of him could be found – and why he has that memorial.
In a 1951 newspaper interview he claimed that after enlisting aged
sixteen in the spring of 1864 he served as a water boy in Hood’s cavalry, then
became a bugler and then been promoted to sharpshooter and fought in the
battles of Chattanooga, Marietta, near Atlanta and Nashville, staying in the
army until the end, five months after Nashville.117 Chattanooga was a siege that
ended in late November 1863, and the size of the city, dominated by massive
and dramatic Lookout Mountain, would combine with the massive and dramatic
Evelyn Rard, Posted to Arkansas In The Civil War. 5/1/2009. This was written in 1949
and for the Jonesboro Sun. No author is credited. It describes Loudermilk still gardening and
walking a distance.
Civil War Men in Ranks Archive org/ stream 5 civilwarmeninranks. This website is a
collection of snippets from newspapers and magazines from the early 1950s about aged Civil
War veterans still living at that time.
Confederate defeat there for a battle hard to forget or mistake for another, so he
seems to be misremembering his enlistment date by six months.
Or did Loudermilk serve the Confederacy for that long before officially
enlisting? It is possible that he was referring not to the great battle but to some
cavalry actions continued on in the area during 1864, both in the spring and
later in the early winter of that year? Woolson mentions that on their way to
Nashville in late 1864 the Confederate Army came so close to Chattanooga that
with field glasses they could see their fires.118 What is also possible is that
eighty-six years later Loudermilk’s chronology and recollection of names and
dates was confused. To add to the confusion some infantry regiments recruited
in Western North Carolina were in most of these battles and one, the 39th North
Carolina, contained several soldiers with the family name, mostly cousins,
including one with his first name and initial.
What clarifies from Moore’s record is that this 39th North Carolina
private William M. Loudermilk is not the same man who survived to 1952, but
a cousin. They have different entries on the family tree, where the cousin
appears as listed as a deserter, as were his brothers Allen Lafayette and Leander.
However those two brothers returned with the spring in 1863. As Margaret
Mitchell describes in Gone With the Wind many in the Army of Tennessee
deserted in the autumn and winter months when fighting usually stopped, but
then many of these frequently returned to their units after harvesting crops at
Hoar, Vol. II p893. Woolson is quoted from a 1949 recollection
home or after foraging or hunting expeditions. This different William M.
vanishes from the war before late February 1863 and from the family genealogy
in the first half of 1863. The latter records him as a deserter on June 30th of that
year: he was not returning to fight in the summer campaign. He may not have
had his return recorded, being a returned deserter was a dangerous game and
could lead to execution, as reading Charles Frazier’s Cold Mountain or seeing
the film version vividly depicts. The other seven William Loudermilks in
Official Records, the compilations of Henderson and Moore and the family tree
were in units placed elsewhere, Virginia and Missouri mainly. The William M.
Loudermilk born in the summer of 1850 came from the Randolph County
branch of the family. They were black and apparently emancipated. While the
birth year matches those in one census and there were black Confederates, for
this to be the man described as the one who lived until 1952 he must have
misremembered his enlistment age and the evidence for the son of Daniel
Loudermilk must be disregarded or disproved. Another possible explanation
concerns another W.M. Loudermilk. His unit name and muster roll he appear in
is reproduced in Lillian A. Henderson’s 1959-1964 Collection. Roster of the
Confederate Soldiers of Georgia. This has an introduction that explains much.
Captain John Loudermilk applied to raise a force of cavalry from East
Tennessee, Northern Georgia and Western North Carolina where he was from;
The accoutrements of a Confederate cavalryman’s war
the latter being families’ home area. Apparently he recruited among his relatives
who could very likely see the appeal of being commanded by one of them.
Robert was his brother, Allen Lafayette his nephew, other have the same names
as cousins.119 However Company D were not given government permission to
be cavalry and so while probably initially assembling and training as cavalry,
functioned as infantry and eventually they were designated as such, Company D
the 36th Georgia (Boyles).120 No other W.M. Loudermilk emerges in
Confederate service against Sherman in the massive North Carolina genealogy or the one for the Georgia cousins or the extremely detailed family notice board.
This matches Henderson’s roll and Jones’
Aline Loudermilk Jones,
Lillian A. Henderson, Introduction to the Company D Muster Roll 955 Lillian A.
Henderson Roster of the Confederate Soldiers of Georgia. Hopeville; Congina and Porter,
1959-1964. Five Vols. Computer Edition by the Hathi Trust.
Although obviously old, this photo is not of Civil War vintage, although
the hat and uniform are. Loudermilk was showing that in middle age he could
still fit into his uniform. The photo was supplied by his descendants to Professor
Hoar, who included it in his section on Loudermilk in Volume III of Last of The
Blue and the Gray. It is reproduced here with his permission.
A modern depiction of a Confederate Cavalry bugler that is probably
close to the reality. The style of hat, the cut of the coat and the clutching of the
short sword and the intensity all bear similarities to the real William Murphy
Loudermilk in his “uniform” photo
genealogy. This W.M. Loudermilk is written up as serving with four other
Loudermilks who have the names of cousins and uncles from Cherokee County,
North Carolina.
They are specifically mentioned in the family genealogy as serving in the
36th. This W.M. Loudermilk was enlisted at Etowah Georgia by Captain John
in early 1862.This does not come close to Loudermilk’s enlistment age,
enlistment date or motivations for fighting. Hood, cited by WML (1847-1952)
as his commander, was in Virginia in 1862 and Union Cavalry were unlikely to
be raiding as far into North Carolina as Loudermilk recalled. Unacknowledged
enlistment in Folk’s 6th North Carolina Cavalry for William Murphy
Loudermilk (1847-1952) remains the most plausible and easy answer. His claim
about serving in battles from Chattanooga to Nashville and lasting to the
surrender makes sense as this regiment was in all these battles and was part of
Johnson’s surrender in April 1865. He said that he had joined Hood’s cavalry
after seeing Sherman’s devastation.121 This devastation happened he said,
around Lake Hiwassee in the spring of 1864, but if he was at Chattanooga in
late 1863 he must be misremembering the date. He saw homes burned and
hardships and miseries inflicted and so “”Seein’ their destructions on an
innocent people made me pretty hot.”122
After the war he returned to Murphy and worked to rebuild the family
farm. He married a woman from the town, Sarah Elizabeth Bruce, at the start of
1887 and soon after they moved to near Jonesboro Arkansas, where they
became charter members of the local Methodist Church and set up a vegetable
farm. He also worked at a local sawmill and a railroad line. In 1947, the year he
turned one hundred, they sold the farm and moved to town where he was
frequently visited by well-wishers, schoolchildren or the curious, all wishing to
meet a Civil War veteran.123 Then somewhere he heard about the Civil War
pension: the trouble started and few if any were alive who could sort out the
Apart from the census mess the confusing numbers of men named W.M.
Loudermilk is probably why he is often considered a fake. Officials may have
found nothing for him but found the records of his cousin, the other William M.
(Murphy?) and probably assumed he was lying on age grounds alone – and/or
they refused to pay a deserter as this was a pension rule. They may have thought
he was the rejected applicant of 1901 trying again. This also explains the
contempt the old man got from some townspeople if the story of his application
emerged. It may explain why in the late 1940s an ancient old man and his wife
left home and travelled extensively and doggedly by bus and train around
Tennessee, North Carolina and Georgia, trying to find people who could verify
his claim amongst his many relatives.124 A brother and sister could not provide
Mark Polston, William Loudermilk: The Last Confederate.;
Hoar, Vol. III p1688.
Ibid, pp1688-1690.
Unsigned report, The Sedalia Democrat. 21st September 1949. Page 1.
the necessary evidence for his age.125 As his cousin William A. of the 2nd
Cavalry lived until 1950, perhaps he hoped he could verify.126 Travelling over a
thousand miles and spending months trying to clear his reputation would have
cost considerably and meant more than the pension. Surely a deserter or a fraud
would have quietly slunk away hoping for no exposure, but an honest man
proud of his service would strive as he did to prove himself.
There are some minor problems with his creditability, more likely with
his memory. His claim stated that he started as a water boy in Hood’s cavalry,
and was at Chattanooga, but Hood was not in the Chattanooga campaign. Being
badly wounded, he was recuperating in Georgia.127 Chattanooga was an 1863
battle and WML said he was there, but he also said he joined in spring 1864. He
may have been referring to skirmishing in the area before the battle of Dalton in
May 1864 or to skirmishes while moving past there later that year.
Some locals where he lived supported him, but others laughed at his
Confederate claims and baited him over it.128 The Sons of Confederate Veterans
ultimately rejected him. Why? Did the pension rejection and its misunderstood
reasons become common knowledge? He did not identify himself as a veteran
in the 1910 census. Many elements in his wartime story match Witkoski’s down
to details. Even so, his official statements, the photograph and the kept war
the state of
the 6 Cavalry’s rolls and the family tree explains so much.
There was no reason to fabricate on the 1930 census. He was almost
certainly the last Confederate living in Arkansas, and among the last few living
men to have fought for the Confederacy.
Hoar, Vol. III p1689.
Aline Loudermilk Jones.
John D. Dyer, The Gallant Hood.1950. New York; Konecky & Konecky, n.d. pp211-212
Polston, p2.
William Jordan Bush also known as William Joshua Bush
Result: His Confederate Service is verified √
Date of Birth: usually given as 9th July 1845 but it was probably 9th July
1846. Less likely from censuses sources are 1844, perhaps 1847 or even 1849.
Date of Death: 11th November 1952
Age at enlistment: One day before his fifteenth or sixteenth birthday.
Rank: Private
Unit: Company B. The Ramah Guards 14th Georgia Infantry. JulyOctober 1861. Perhaps he was under the command of General John B. Gordon
from late 1861 until April 1862 or General George W. Gordon in 1862-1863.
He probably served in the 2nd Georgia Militia from July until October 1864 and
was definitely in the militia from October 1864 until April 1865.
Service: Infantry in Virginia, probably the Army of Tennessee and then
the Georgia State Militia infantry.
Combat Experience: Plenty.
Length of service: By official records he was an 1861 volunteer and was
there at the war’s end, although perhaps he was out of service from October
1861 until October 1864.
Evidence of Service apart from his own accounts.
At least two different units as listed above recorded his service, one with
several 1861 documents signed by a total of five officials and witnesses and
verified by the adjutant-general in 1953. Three websites that contain the muster
roll of the Ramah Guards list him and with several details that preclude
mistaken identity or fraud. These include his full name, birthdate and date of
enlistment.129 His militia service is also listed in Lillian A. Henderson’s massive
multi-volume work on Georgia’s enlistments. Records of his militia service
were eventually found in 1936.130 Five other officially verified Civil War era
documents are referred in detail towards the end of this biographical segment. A
recently posted copyrighted photo of Bush in uniform can be viewed here or at
the website “Images of William Joshua Bush.” Despite nine decades, the young
soldier in this photo does bear a very strong resemblance to the man in the top
photo of this segment. His widow donated his effects to the local museum ‘The
Blue and the Gray’ and these effects included his tattered Confederate battle
All of these sources are much more than can be found for many verified
veterans. They should be enough to verify his military record. He has long been
claimed as the last Georgian Confederate. That claim is now beyond dispute.
With equal credibility he currently holds the position of also being the third last
living verified Confederate combat soldier.
Although he served, there are problems with his record, accounts of his
life and his statements, both official and unofficial. From birth to death there are
factual contradictions and vagaries open to differing plausible interpretations.
There are several Confederates named William Bush or even William J. Bush
serving in Georgian units and frequently they seem individually
indistinguishable. Much of this confusion originates in too brief records or
missing documents. Other problems originate with Bush, but who can blame a
man in his nineties for not having a perfect memory about his youth, especially
concerning horrific events?
Those who in the past would not verify him had some evidence for their
views. Once again a belief in census records causes problems. The birthdate on
his tombstone and in most accounts is 10th July 1845.131 This is now doubtful.
Robert Fisher, Wilkinson County GA. Military Civil War Co B 14th Davidson
[email protected]; Victor Davidson “History of Wilkinson County” in 14th
Regiment Infantry Company B “Ramah Guards” www.civilwardata.
Serrano, p95; Lillian A. Henderson, p349.
Southern Graves: Telling the Tales of Tombstones. 6th September 2010. ‘The Last
Confederate of Georgia: William Joshua Bush.’ HTTP:/blog.southern
Apparently to get enlisted he added exactly a year to his age in 1861 and made
errors when filling out a form in the 1930s, he was ninety or more at the time
and frequently could not recall requested details, but he admitted this.132
Various censuses from Central Georgia written up between 1844 and
1850 give us several births for those named William Bush. This seems to be the
evidence indirectly referred In ‘Fakers’ which goes for one of the last born in
this range as being Bush and then states that Bush was fifteen when the war
ended and so could not have been in the war.133 Disputing that logic against boy
soldiers has already been done extensively.
Bush, Salling and Townsend at the 1951 Richmond Reunion
What the records state with more clarity is that he was born on the family
plantation in Wilkinson County. Several other Georgians born in this time have
this first name and surname, but with an initial that exclude them as being
William J. Bush. Even if going against the best evidence, it is accepted that he
was born in 1850, this does not necessarily exclude him from Confederate
service as the Fakers article suggests.
He stated twice, once in his 1936 pension application and again in a 1949
interview, that he was discharged from the regular army because he was too
young. The youthful age of many soldiers in Georgia were not just words on This source contains a picture
of his gravestone.
Serrano, pp94-95; Bush, William Joshua: Confederate Pension Applications. August
1936. http:/sos state 20 11cdm/co,poundobject/collection/TestApps/id/149449/rec/p1
Posted by Kevin Randle, “Fakers!” A Different Perspective. ‘A Commentary on UFO’S
Paranormal Events and Related Topics.’ Sept 8th 2007. p4.
paper to bolster paper figures. Eight of Georgia’s cadets died during the
preliminary Atlanta battles.134 Union soldiers at the battle of Griswoldville
found Confederate boys “not over fifteen years old” among the dead. Bush was
at this battle. A first reading of Bush’s Confederate service using his accepted
dates gives an impression that he was discharged in 1861 for being too young at
fifteen or sixteen. Being too young at eleven or twelve is also possible – but
how did this short statured man initially fool them? His existing discharge
papers show a surgeon writing that the reason was disability.135 Was the surgeon
confused? Did Bush want to hide an injury? Or was the discharge he mentioned
only the first? Was he discharged a second time from some other unnamed unit
for being too young?
In a 1973 letter his widow wrote to Professor Hoar recalling family
traditions. Bush’s memories and perhaps what was contained in now destroyed
documents seem the basis for these and other recollections as Mrs Bush states
that Bush “ran away from home several times to visit his father” who was
already in a unit and the company, being short of men, accepted him and
therefore so did his father. They came under the command of General John B.
Gordon.136 Although she then places his father as already in the Ramah Guards
and Bush junior joining as a result of this incident, this cannot be exactly as
stated from the records still existent. This may have happened while they were
training in the spring and early summer of 1861 in Georgia, as Bush apparently
did runaway to join the guards and may have tried to do this early in their
training. However records show Bush already enlisted in July 1861. His father,
(who is named Francis Marion Bush in his daughter in law’s letter and William
in the 1850 and 1860 censuses) is unlisted under either name in the Ramah
Guards, although the possibility (without evidence) exists that he may have
briefly trained with them but not gone north.
Evidence for backing Effie Bush’s recollections appears in The War For
Southern Independence in Georgia. They list a William Joshua Bush and then a
William J. Bush both in Company B. of what they call the 14th Infantry
Regiment in one enlistment and the 14th Regiment Volunteer Infantry in the
second. Is this Bush’s father? Or Bush enlisting again? Or a clerk making a
duplicate? His cousin remains the most likely possibility. Official Records and
Ibid, p219. They reproduce the original July 12th 1864 report of their commander Major
Original Discharge Papers.
Hoar, Vol III p1691. He reproduces a large segment from the letter.
Henderson’s compilation show six Georgians named William Bush served in
Georgia infantry units. These were:
William 63rd Georgia
William F. 15th Georgia
William H.H. 45th Georgia
William N. 6th Georgia
3rd Georgia
William S. 55th Georgia
William S. (unit uncertain) born January 8th 1865 captured at Gettysburg
Others not in Official Records are:
William 2nd Georgia Infantry Regiment (militia)
All but the first enlistment and the last can be discounted as being either
William Jordan Bush or his father as extra information their service records
reveals clashes and impossibilities that are solid in Bush’s record and details
that exclude them from being Bush’s father.137
Not one of these units served under General John B. Gordon. Of these
men and their regiments the first listed seems the most likely for the origins of
this story which may have referred to another unit that another General Gordon
did command, and it may have been after Bush’s October 1861 discharge. This
possibility is dealt with before this section ends.
The phrase about running away several times aged seventeen indicates he
may have served in another unit and the given age of this happening, this
suggests the second half of 1862 until middle 1863, unless the 1844 birthdate is
accepted. In that same letter Effie Bush also mentions a fire destroying his home
and military records in the late 1880s. His father’s and brother’s documents
were probably also destroyed. That fire means that writer after writer (including
this one) has assumed they had the full documented story when a good deal of it
must have gone up in very literal smoke. Until now Bush’s statements have
been matched against supposedly complete paper documentation and judged
across a range going: proven/plausible/possible dubious/impossible. However
Official Records; The War For Southern Independence in Georgia. p7. Computer listing;
Lillian A. Henderson, Computer listing p777.
that method must now also go up in smoke. Writers are now left with
guestimates, probabilities and possibilities.
That fire destroying records means that Bush may really have served in
Virginia in John B. Gordon’s regiments as he said, fought at Gettysburg or
served in the 2nd Georgia Militia Regiment, or the 63rd Georgia. He may also
have stayed on the farm between returning home in late 1861 and being enrolled
in the militia in October 1864, but given Bush’s temperament, his adamant
statements and Georgia’s urgent manpower needs, this most prosaic and
initially plausible option soon becomes the most unlikely. However Mrs Bush’s
recollections do suggest he was at home sometime during the later stages of the
war, although she never clarified if this was Bush’s eyewitness account or retold
at second hand. The family story was of how a Union officer, being a
freemason, stopped the plunder of the Bush plantation when he found the
masonic apparel belonging to Bush’s father. By that point they had already
wrecked both the stored lard and the beds by mixing them together.
Apart from some brief and ambiguous documentation and Effie Bush’s
sometimes apparently partially muddled account, all that we have on these
particular matters between October 1861 and October 1864 are one enlistment
document for July 1864 and the sometimes accurate, sometimes forgetful and
confused memories of a man who sometimes liked to kid about his wartime
service. We do have some negatives, but they are powerful. He is not on muster
rolls where he should be for the first two of these events. He is not on Georgia’s
published militia muster rolls either. 138 However those same publishers of these
rolls refer to the prevalence of “indifferent record keeping”139 Serrano does
mention that even he archivists had a battle finding Bush’s records, bur were
eventually successful.140 His widow recalled the homely detail that Bush
apparently indulged in the common practice of trading Confederate tobacco for
Union coffee while on nightly sentry duty, very believable.
Other problems with Bush’s credibility soon emerge. In the 1910 census
his response to the last four questions was, to draw a loop of Os through them.
One of those questions concerned his farm record, another asked if he was a
Civil War veteran. Denial? Boredom? Refusal? The middle name on his
tombstone and some documents is Joshua, not Jordan. These factors alone cause
uncertainty and his faulty memory caused more. In his last years Bush claims to
William R. Scaife & William Harris Bragg, Joe Brown’s Pets: The Georgia Militia 18611865. Macon: Mercer University Press, 2004. pp258-313
Ibid, pX.
Serrano, p95.
have been Lee’s bodyguard, to have been at the battles of Cross Keys,
Gettysburg, Atlanta, Milledgeville and an unknown battle, Duncan’s Old Field
and then at Appomattox.
On investigation these claims are a mixture of true, untrue and uncertain.
In a 1951 news release fellow townsman Ben Chatfield recounted how Bush
would gleefully tell tall tales “with a sly twinkle in his eye that tipped you off to
the fiction.” 141 Unfortunately facial expressions are lost when going into print
and Chatfield was not explicit about which stories were true and which were
How much of Bush’s recollections were in this vein and how many were
serious remains uncertain. When he filled out his 1936 pension claim Bush said
he served for about six months, and then wrote what is apparently “don’t
remember of discharge” in bad handwriting next to that. When asked for his
militia unit’s name he wrote that he was in the Georgia State Militia but could
not remember exactly, but they were named Joe Brown’s Pets.142 This derisive
nickname applied to all those units in Georgia held back for state defence by the
Governor Joe Brown, not to a single unit. However accounts of the Georgia
State Militia after Atlanta’s fall list it as just that, Georgia State Militia. Bush
remembered their name correctly, but assumed it was descriptive, not official,
and that they had some other title that he did not know. He may have been
trying to recall the 2nd Georgia Militia Regiment, a unit of ninety men that were
part of the militia division that were in the battles for Atlanta: a William Bush,
probably from Laurens County, was enlisted in their ranks in Company A in
July 1864.
Bush stated that he had not been allowed to re-join the army because he
was too young and to have served in the Georgia militia and surrendered with
them at the war’s end. At one stage in one application document he said he had
stated all that he could remember of his war service.143
A 1949 interview with him ‘Georgia’s Last Confederate’ by Wylly Folk St John
clears up some of this uncertainty.144
Hoar, Vol. III p1692.
Carter, pp273-274.
Bush William Joshua: Confederate Pension Applications. Pages 1-5 computer reprint.
Wyilly Folk St. John, ‘Georgia’s Last Confederate’ April 24th 1949. Reproduced under
Bush’s entry in Find A Grave.
Bush loved to flirt and clown, but he has gravitas and gains respect in this
1940s photo.
He admitted to lying to enlist, serving in Company B 14th Georgia
Infantry, and said he would have lied to get out, then contradicted himself
saying he served until the end and would do it again. He stated he spent much of
the war under General Gordon (which seemingly meant service in Virginia
sometime between 1861 and 1865) and some of it under General Johnston. The
latter claim mentioning generals seemingly narrows it down to service in
Virginia from late 1861 till possibly late May 1862 and from Georgia from late
1863 to July 1864 and eastern Georgia and the Carolinas in 1865.The
computerised muster roll typed up in 1963 of ‘The Ramah Guards’ Company B.
14th Georgia Infantry gives information that ties in with some of his statements
given in the 1936 pension claim and the original documents, but also raises
more confusion. It gives his war service as lasting from enlistment on July 9 th
1861. This was the same day the Ramah Guards had their ceremonial awarding
of the colour and the day before his twelfth, fifteenth or sixteenth birthday and
just days before the Ramah Guards went to Atlanta.
The 14th
Georgia Infantry’s original battle flag. This flag matches the description made
by Bush’s widow, who donated it to the Blue and Gray museum in Fitzgerald
With his cousin Ben H. Bush he seems to have enlisted and committed the first
of his run offs just days before the company left. This ties in with his widow’s
recollection of his running off several times. The 14th Georgia were given
“splendid” uniforms and a farewell barbecue on July 4th just before they left for
the front in Virginia that summer. They arrived too late for the first battle at
Bull Run, but by that autumn they knew some of war’s more dreary horrors.145
The unit was hit by outbreaks of mumps and measles, and also exposure
and fatigue. Medical help was so rare and disorganised, that at one stage of the
regiment’s 770 enlisted soldiers only 120 reported fit for duty and many died.146
This situation led to Bush being discharged on 22nd October for an unnamed
disability. Ben Bush was given the same cause in his discharge six weeks
later.147 Enlistments were for 90 days and he may have been found out to be
under aged as he said. Hs war record lists Cross Keys as his first battle, which
sounds odd, as this was fought in Virginia in June 1862 and was followed by
another battle the next day at Port Republic, which is not listed on his record. In
Fisher, previous citation; Davidson, previous citation; Ray Dewberry, History of the 14th
Georgia Infantry Regiment. Winchester; Maryland, 2008. pp5-6.
Dewberry, previous citation.
Davidson; Fisher; See also Bush’s discharge documents.
his August 1936 pension application he denied ever being wounded or captured,
so why wasn’t he at the next day’s battle? This makes for a gap of two years
four months in his war record. His unit did serve at Gettysburg where he said he
was, seriously or not, but unlike other battles, Gettysburg does not appear in his
muster roll war record list. This Gettysburg story was among those previously
mentioned as being related to Ben Chatfield, perhaps “with a sly twinkle in his
Other serious problems emerge with what he says, most can be cleared
with investigation.
The Georgia regiments at Cross Keys in June 1862 were the 12th Georgia
and the 21st Georgia. Bush does not seem to have been enlisted in either from
the written evidence now left. Although the handwriting is nearly illegible at
times his records then seem to refer to being mustered out in April 1862. The
previously mentioned possible second enlistment in the 14th Georgia might be a
factor here. Bush may have spent time serving with one of General Gordon’s
units and then been rejected as being too young when it came time to fill out the
enlistment papers. These were not done on a daily basis, but were weekly,
monthly or quarterly tasks. He could have been discharged twice: once in 1861
for a disability and once in April 1862 on age, with the second discharge papers
possibly being burnt in the 1880s fire. The reference to General Johnston as
overall commander suggests that if this happened this way, as General Johnston
commanded from the middle of 1861 until he was wounded and replaced by
Lee on May 31st 1862. This would explain the discrepancy between his recorded
discharge and his unrecorded claim about age.
If he served in the Virginian theatre of war after being discharged in
October 1861 there seems to be no known trace apart from the date April 1862,
and the words Cross Keys on his record. This reference to Cross Keys has two
other possible explanations. The first possibility is that when the 14 th Georgia
were in the Kanawha Valley in 1861 under the command of General Floyd, they
were one of three regiments there. Only forty Confederate casualties were lost
and at least twice that for the Union, but the thousands involved would have
made Cross Lanes looked like a major battle to a boy.148 The larger, more
famous Cross Keys battle made more of an impression. The two locales in
north-western Virginia were in fairly close proximity to someone travelling up
from Georgia. Unfortunately for this idea, a letter written by a 14th Georgia
soldier says the regiment had not taken part in a battle or a skirmish before
The alternative title is just Cross Lanes. A fairly detailed account is 7th Ohio Volunteers at
Kessler’s Cross Lanes. www.oberlinheritagecentreorg/research/lear/kesslers
April 1862.149 This letter may be erroneous or Bush and others may have been
rushed in as piecemeal replacements, or enthused, rushed to take part without
orders. Even Bush’s account of being Lee’s bodyguard story may just possibly
have an exaggerated grain of truth. Lee was in the same area at this time and it
was standard practice for sentries and guards to be outside a commander’s tent –
or to guard his horse.
However the Battle of East Macon provides the most likely explanation
among the three possibilities. It occurred near Macon Georgia on July 30 th 1864,
was part of the Atlanta Campaign and the Confederate unit most heavily
involved in the fighting were the Georgia Militia. This was where and when
Bush said he was involved. The village of Cross Keys was very close nearby
and in the way of the Union attack.150 Rebel militia man Sam Criswold recalled
the battle for a magazine article in 1909. He located their militia “on the left of
the road to Cross Keys” where they came under artillery bombardment, but
eventually routed the enemy and captured its commander after taking around
eighty casualties.151 The militia were then placed in the defences of Atlanta,
where they stayed until the city fell. They were praised for their stoic courage
for enduring regular “close fire of the enemy mostly night and day” during
much of that time.152
General John B. Gordon
Brigadier George W.
Dewberry, p10.
Scaife and Bragg, p37.
Ibid, pp37-38 p340 s/n 51.
Ibid, p39. The authors give a long passage from a contemporary report by the militia’s
commander, General Gustavus W. Smith. p39.
This copyrighted photograph of William J. Bush is courtesy of Richard Menard.
The original in different sizes and also other Civil War photographs can be
viewed by going to the website “Images of William Joshua Bush’ and then
clicking ‘open’ on the small image, then follow the links.
Bush in old age wearing the replicated Confederate general’s uniform he loved
to wear on special occasions. His facial expression here has something of the
trenchant expression of the Civil War photo.
Another similar confusion with a likely resolution seems to be over General
Gordon. As mentioned Bush may have served under John B. Gordon in some
unmentioned unit or capacity if he was mustered out in April 1862. More likely
possibilities emerge. The 14th Georgia was formed at the locale of Gordon, but
apparently did not serve in General John B. Gordon’s famous Georgia Brigade,
nor was he the 14th Georgia regiment’s colonel or its brigadier, at least
officially. Its brigadiers were Floyd, and then in order J.R. Anderson, Wade
Hampton and E.L. Thomas. The last mentioned replaced Hampton after Seven
Pines, commanding them until their surrender.153
General John B. Gordon served in Ewell’s Corps, then commanded it.
Thomas served in A.P. Hill’s Corps.154 Bush may have been confusing the
famous General John B. Gordon with the officer George W. Gordon, who was
in the fighting near Charleston in 1863 and then in Georgia and Tennessee,
rising to the rank of brigadier. This General Gordon would later hold a high
position in the Ku Klux Klan. The more famous General John B. Gordon would
be rumoured to do the same.155 Many years later both would be Commanders in
Chief of the United Confederate Veterans.156 Bush would have much to do with
the latter organisation.
General George W. Gordon commanded the 63rd Georgia where a Private
William Bush was enlisted.157 Bush junior never claimed enlistment with this
regiment, but this unit would be in the Atlanta battles where Bush said he
served. Like Bush’s father in the 1860 census, this man gave no middle initial.
Like Bush’s father, this regiment’s volunteers came from south-east Georgia.
The unit was formed in late 1862, being stationed near Savannah. Effie Bush’s
account starts to sound plausible as running away from Gordon, Georgia to
nearby Savannah to visit his father several times must be much more likely than
continuously running the long distance up to Virginia to see a man who is not
known as enlisted there.
While General Beauregard commanded in Georgia, Florida and South
Carolina, after recovering from his wounds General Joseph Johnston was put in
supreme command of those Confederate forces between the Western armies of
Edmund Kirby Smith and those of Lee. Knowing that means Bush’s statement
Official Records. History of the 14th Georgia Infantry.; See also Dewberry p5 p14 p18
Dewberry p86, p103, pp112-113.
Hurst p287, p294.
Hoar, Vol. III p1174.
John Griffin, History of the 63rd Georgia Volunteer Infantry (CSA) Confederate States of
America Posted 23 Nov. 2003.
about being commanded by Johnston and Gordon makes sense, although not in
the way that initially seems obvious.
Alternatively Bush’s stays with this unit may have been tolerated by his
father without enlistment while it was on peaceable garrison duty, especially
allowing for the long regular time gap in the enlistment process. However he
may have been sent back by his father in late June 1863 or at the beginning of
July when the unit knew that it was being sent to defend Fort Wagner against
the obviously upcoming Union attack. Being rejected as too young at seventeen,
the age Effie Bush gave, now fits a birth year of 1845 or 1846 in this possibility.
That reason for rejection of being too young initially sounds odd, considering
how young many at this age were serving by then. However William Bush
senior may have had enough clout to stop his son’s enlistment in the 63 rd and/or
to send his son back as too young. All this is hypothetical, conjectural, thin on
evidence – and quite plausible, fitting in with what we do know.
Whatever the reality of his life in the period between October 1861 and
the summer of 1864, Bush would soon be in other battles – and once again they
lead to tangles as efforts to place him hit snags. Even so, as with Cross Keys,
once again a closer examination of what Bush claims proves his veracity about
matters which initially seem dubious. Like Griswoldville, Cross Keys and
Gettysburg, at least initially, fighting at Atlanta looks like a very probable but
unsubstantiated claim. ‘Atlanta’ was actually a series of battles fought from
mid-July until 1st September 1864. His known militia enlistment however, dates
from October 1864 to the militia surrender in Georgia in 1865.
Margaret Mitchell, a journalist before she was a novelist, spent years
doing her homework using family stories, history and eyewitnesses before Gone
With the Wind was published.158 Bush himself said the movie was like being
there.159 She writes of Georgia at this time, sinking into destruction and chaos,
where youngsters try to enlist, jails were emptied as prisoners were made
recruits and elderly gentlemen marched in the infantry. She had it right;
historically prisoners and cadets were joined in Confederate units as boys were
accepted.160 Several historians tells a similar story. These include Samuel Carter
III in his The Siege of Atlanta 1864, and Shelby Foote in his sections dealing
Anne Edwards, The Road to Tara: The Life of Margaret Mitchell. 1985. London;
Coronet/Holdder & Stoughton, 1985. pp136-137 and passim through the first half of her
Serrano, p94; Hoar, Vol.III quoting Chatfield p1692.
“Joseph E. Brown” Wikipedia quoting a long highlighted passage from Georgia Land and
People. (1919) by Frances Letcher Mitchell.; Samuel Carter III, The Siege of Atlanta 1864.
New York; St. Martin’s Press, 1973. p371.
with the 1864 Georgia campaign in The Civil War; a Narrative. Red River to
Appomattox. Daniel Cone’s recent Last to Join the Fight: The 66th Georgia
Infantry is a well-researched history of the last raised Georgia regiment. This
book also deals extensively with the desperate manpower situation. William R.
Scaife and William Harris Bragg do the same with the whole militia in Joe
Brown’s Pets: the Georgia Militia 1861-1865. General John Bell Hood
permeates the second half of his memoir Advance and Retreat with his concern
about the desperate situation, manpower losses, recruitment and their
replacement. The expressed concerns were shared by the state government and
acted upon with diligence as the state and Savannah council proclamations
show. All of these works recount in detail the desperate scouring for recruits
and the determined and ruthless effort to stave off defeat.
To solve the manpower shortage they were taking nearly anybody,
including boys. In a proclamation of November 19th 1864 Georgia Governor Joe
Brown declared that all white males in Georgia with very few exceptions aged
between sixteen and fifty-five were to be conscripted and those who failed “to
report shall be subject to the pains and penalties of the crimes of desertion.”161
Six days later Savannah’s mayor went even further: “The time has come for
every male who shoulder a musket can make himself useful in defending our
hearths and homes.”162 His proclamation ended with similar threats. Both threats
were not just sabre rattling. Possès brought in many of those arrested for failing
to report.163
Given the way that the state government scoured Georgia for every able
white man from their early teens to their sixties, then used them to face
Sherman’s brutal invasion and that he already had military experience, he was
almost certainly doing what he claimed: fighting at Atlanta and Cross Keys
Georgia months before his written up enlistment date – or perhaps it was written
up in any one of the units which took part in those battles and had a William
Bush enrolled – in the 2nd Militia Regiment, (the most likely) or the 63rd. With
every available white man under the conscription edict, with Bush’s 1861
service and his age, what strains credibility is that he would not have served
somewhere. The questions become where? For how long? And what was his
1864-1865 service like?
He adamantly insisted he had been at Atlanta’s battles and his claimed
battle list matches the battle list of the 2nd Georgia Militia. The battles that unit
Scaife and Bragg, pp68-69. They reproduce the proclamation.
Ibid, p143.
Ibid, p155. They reproduce this proclamation.
missed were the ones he did not claim, so he was almost certainly the William
Bush enlisted in that unit.
Confederates attack at the ferociously fought battle of Atlanta
He had his enlistment recorded in the Georgia Militia in October 1864.
This was when the militia were reassembled at Macon as militiamen were
returning from a furlough granted for harvesting.164 Redoing or adding to the
muster rolls was a likely part of this reorganising and so Bush was enrolled,
whenever his service started. It lasted till the militia’s surrender at Stephens
Station, near Macon.
His listings include taking part in the battles of Cross Keys, Atlanta and
Duncan’s old Field.165 Milledgeville gets mentioned, but probably as a
mustering point or garrison duty as there was apparently little resistance when
Sherman invaded the town and burnt it. Bush could have been part of that scant
resistance or skirmishes or battles fought near there.
Duncan’s Old field sounds an odd reference; it does not show up on listed
detailed civil war battlefield lists. However one of the few battles fought by the
militia was called the battle of Griswoldville. This was fought on November
Scaife and Bragg, p43.
Bush William Joshua:: Confederate Pension Applications.
22nd 1864 and although it was named for a nearby town, the Georgia State
Militia charged across open farm fields at Duncan’s Farm, towards Duncan’s
Ridge.166 A battle Bush did not mention was at Honey Hill on December 1st
1864. Several Georgia militia units were involved there, but the 2nd Brigade, in
which he was probably enlisted, was among the militia units which could not
reach the battlefield in time. After this victory the militia were involved in
preparing and manning Savannah’s defences. They were involved in evacuating
that city just before Christmas and then guarding Macon, Georgia’s new de
facto capitol. The surrender there was on April 20th.
The Confederate forces there were held captive at a stockade nearby at
what had been a Union officers’ prison.167 Governor Brown gave the formal
surrender followed by paroles on May 8th. This roughly matches Bush’s brief
However another statements Bush made cannot possibly be true: such
being at Appomattox. Being Lee’s body guard is a very long stretch, even for
possibly doing sentry duty near him. Gettysburg also must be extremely
unlikely. Others are dubious or ambiguous. His lack of affirmation on the 1910
census reads oddly for such a proudly die-hard Confederate. His statement
about serving six months jars when even the records we have clearly show at
least nine combined and indicate much more. His vagaries, jokes and omissions,
the confusions over his discharge, his different birthdates and middle names and
some of his delight and boastfulness in his celebrity role in old age initially
change a certainty into a probable for many.
Until early in 2014 when this writer’s efforts were initially accepted in a
famous encyclopaedia entry and Bush was verified, and then eight weeks later a
photograph appeared on the net, virtually every writer on the topic treated his
war record as probable at best. Even so, without the burned documents, even
without the dubious 63rd record or the more probable 2nd Militia Regiment
enrolment, indisputable primary source evidence even apart from the muster
rolls shows that he was a soldier in the Civil War.
After having gone through the possibilities, confusions and probable things
that are not so, it is worthwhile to reaffirm the undisputable evidence.
“Griswoldville _The Gettysburg of Georgia’ Stewart “Goober” Douglas ACWS Newsletter
Spring, 2012. http://www.acws. – Georgia.php.; Richard J.
Lenz, The Civil War in Georgia, An Illustrated Traveller’s Guide. p2. All three sources make
some reference to Duncan’s Farm or Duncan’s Ridge.
Ibid, p159.
Five original 1861 documents, from official archives, showing enlistment
and discharge were signed by two copyists, a paymaster, Bush’s captain and a
legally required witness. They were verified as Bush’s records by MajorGeneral Bergin in a letter of August 25th 1953.168 As well as this, Bush could
not fabricate two other muster rolls, that of the 14th Georgia and the militia.
Serrano, while sceptical, states that Georgia officials eventually found his
militia records.169 The age factor has already been dealt with in earlier sections
on boy soldiers as well as what has been mentioned here. Now we even have a
portrait, a Civil War era photo of him in Confederate uniform. Despite over
eighty years between them that photo shows a strong resemblance to 1940s and
1950s portraits.
Those who call him a discredited imposter have only two things to hang
their evidence on: his tall stories and the census irregularity. A point needs to
be made for the census as ultimate evidence for census obsessives. Even if he
was born as late in 1850 he was still old enough to be conscripted in Georgia in
1864. The same people who reject Bush accept the Union man Woolson, born
between 1847 and 1850, a teller of tall tales and an 1864 enlistee. As in law, in
history the rules of evidence should apply equally.
All this evidence leaves only one other possibility for those who cannot
allow him verification, identity theft. That however, would have been the
world’s most prolonged confidence trick as it lasted over a hundred years: from
birth till death he lived in the same small area where such a trick would be
evident and nobody has ever accused him of that. How many soldiers of low
rank have so much evidence for their service? He was in the war.
Other evidence, conjectural at present, fills in several gaps and reveal his
vagaries to be essentially accurate. We could start with the way Bush may have
understood the word “serve” in the departmental question of how long did he
serve? He may have took that as meaning “serve in actual fighting conditions”
not train in uniform or lie sick in hospital. If that is so his reply makes more
sense, for his undisputed recorded continuous battlefield service in the militia
comes to six months. Alternatively he may have meant army service and
discounted militia service, and/or time in hospitals or furloughs. He wrote on his
pension application that he could not remember many details and this seems
Collection from Fold 3. http:// www.
Serrano, p95.
Letter to Dan Askews, 22ND August 1936; Confederate Pension Applications.
Bush’s payout in October 1861
Bush during his years as a farmer
After the war, he returned to farming and married soon after, but outlived
his first wife and their six children. In 1922 He married Effie Sharp, a local
school teacher. Bush retired to Fitzgerald, Georgia. Like Townsend and
Woolson, Bush loved music, socials and was a popular figure in the community.
Into advanced old age he would still dance. Bush attended over sixty
Confederate reunions, including the last in May 1951, held in Virginia. With the
other two attending veterans, Salling and Townsend, he was feted; the three
men got on well together. He loved the attention, frequent merriment and the
company, delighting in flirting and making confident comments about his age,
vigour and stamina. After his wartime suffering, the burning of his home, the
deaths of his wife and children and decades of the hard life of a farmer, who
could blame him for wanting an escape?
Bush’s home in Fitzgerald
He faced life with a trenchant, tough energy, but also with a good
humoured outlook that was totally lacking in self-pity, remorse or maudlin
sadness, despite a lifetime of harder blows than most suffer. He was a staunch
Democrat who always voted for eighty-five years.171 He served as a Baptist
deacon and also as a master mason. He lived in good health until his last
Perhaps because the area had voted against succession in 1861, the town
of Fitzgerald was established in 1895, being a remarkable settlement as it was
Hoar, Vol. III p1692.
Robert Calhoun, Previous Citation.
deliberately designed as part of the reconciliation process, bringing Union
veterans to live with Confederates. It was named after a former Union drummer
boy who thought up the scheme.173 Only a few other similar schemes were set
up, in Florida.174 Streets alternated names of Union and Confederate celebrities
and one local hotel was entitled The Lee-Grant Hotel. Bush had a street named
after him.175
The local museum is entitled the Blue and Gray. The scheme was a quiet
success. Bush took part in the reconciliation ceremony every Veteran’s Day.
The senior Union soldier would lay a wreath on the Confederate monument and
eventually Bush, as the senior Confederate, would match this with a wreath on
the Union monument.176
That ceremony was designed by the wise.
A Mural in Fitzgerald, based on the city’s seal.
Unsigned website Brown’s Guide to Georgia.
Hoar, Vol. III p1691 n2.
Hoar, Vol. III p1691.
St. John.
Arnold Murray
Result: His Confederate Service is verified.√
Date of Birth: given as 10th June 1846 perhaps 1847/1848 and possibly as
late as 1854/1855 although this is unlikely.
Date of Death: 26th November 1952.
Age at enlistment: One newspaper in an obituary notice said he was
fourteen, another claimed eighteen and another stated he was a teenager.
He said he was “a youngster.” He may have been nine or ten.
Rank: Private.
Unit: 11th South Carolina Infantry.
Probably also the 4th South Carolina Cavalry from September 1863 until
early 1864.
Service: Training and garrison service on the coast of South Carolina.
Combat Experience: He denied combat experience but he may have
Length of service: “Late in the war” until just after Joseph Johnston’s
surrender, for Murray this was in late April or early May 1865.
Although many source notes are given, much of this account of Arnold
Murray’s life is based on the following sources:
‘Arnold Murray’ by Jay S. Hoar The South’s Last Boy’s in Gray Volume
III of his trilogy. Pages 1694-1695.
The Associated Press story of May 1951.
Three obituaries from November 1952 by local papers and The
Charlottesville Observer.
Arnold Murray Memorial Wall Fold 3 This contains several newspaper
stories from the early 1950s and other information.
Irvin Shuler, Memorial Service Arnold Murray This booklet was put
together for the December 2nd 2002 50th Anniversary Commemorative Service
for the 1952 funeral of Arnold Murray.
Irvin Shuler, The Last Confederate Soldier of South Carolina.
the-last –confederate-soldier-of-south-carolina. Posted March 24th 2014. With
added contributions.
E-mails from Linda Baker 8th April 2015 and then later in April. In May
and a letter containing transcripts and facsimiles of South Carolina enlistments
and UCV documents were sent.
Evidence of Service apart from his own accounts; After this book went
into the first printing website statements made by a descendant by marriage
mentioned evidence, which when assessed and credited, would verify Arnold
Murray beyond anyone’s capacity for doubt. This as yet unseen evidence
includes enlistment documentation, letters written home while serving in the
army and a Confederate medal. At this point these matters are being
investigated by this writer.
At least four enlistments with his surname and different middle initials
were in the 11th South Carolina Volunteers muster roll. Two cannot possibly be
him, and another is unlikely, but just the name “Arnold Murray” located in
Charleston, appears on two Confederate military documents in connection with
a petition to transfer from the 4th South Carolina Cavalry into the 11th South
Carolina Infantry. He knew the name of his commanding officers and where and
when his unit was located.177 He also had a photograph of his young self in
Confederate uniform. In the 1930 census, he identified himself as a Confederate
by writing yes to being a veteran and “civ” for the narrow column which asked
in what conflict. He is listed as a Confederate veteran in a family bible, but this
might be a 1980s comment. His death certificate lists him as a Confederate
veteran. Starting in 1896, the South Carolina Branch of the United Daughters of
the Confederacy started interviewing veterans for their stories. They
interviewed him when he attended a Confederate Veteran’s Reunion near his
home in Orangeburg South Carolina on October 12th 1910. His entry states his
full name followed by “Co. A. 12th SC Capn. Raysor.”178 This officer was one
of his regiment’s commanding officers, but the company and regiment are
wrong listings. Raysor is listed commanding Company H in the 11 th and
appears not at all in the 12th.179 Arnold Murray would later claim to be in the
11th SC Infantry. As early as 1910 he was beginning to muddle details in his
memory. On May 28th 1913 he was in a group photo while attending a large
Confederate Veteran’s Reunion in Tennessee, the second last place where any
faker with a grain of sense would go. The title of first place would have to be
the Orangeburg reunion where men from the large 11th South Carolina unit were
likely to be. If he was a fraud this disgrace would rapidly spread locally as an
incomplete roll for that event shows that of the fifty-seven listed, thirteen were
from Orangeburg and as he had been living there for about forty years, would
probably have known Arnold Murray, and probably his age and past.180 The
1913 photograph shows that he kept his Confederate uniform.181 Others in South
Carolina e-mailed me enlistment documents for A.B. Murray of the 11th SC that
Roger K. Hux, p11. This information comes from a 1950 interview with Arnold Murray
by James A. Rogers.; Hoar also mentions Arnold knowing his officers but gives different
names. Vol. III p1694.
Linda Baker e-mail April 8th 2015. The original document was in a collection eventually
printed in 1986 as Recollections and Reminiscences 1861-1865. The reference to Arnold
Murray is in Volume V on page 575. See note 178.
Find the Best ‘ Civil War Soldiers’ This database lists Civil War enlistments and has the
entire enlistments for the 11th South Carolina Infantry Regiment.
‘Roll of Confederate Veterans Attending A Reunion at Orangeburg, S.C. Oct. 12TH 1910’
Vol 5. Recollections and Reminiscences 1861-1865. pp 574-575.
This is apparent from a group photo with names on the back in a computer catalogue
specialising in Confederate antiques. Among the others are Pleasant Crump and a Thomas E.
Riddle of Texas who is more likely to be a doctor of that name than Thomas Evans Riddle. 3/4/2014.
put me on the trail to Fold 3 where two of these 1864 military documents have
the full name Arnold Murray on them. These show him as serving in the 11th SC
Infantry Regiment, in Charleston, where he said he was, when he said he was
there. Other 1864 documents have A. Murray or A.B. Murray serving in the 11th
South Carolina and link to the same man with the first name Arnold. The
original documents have him in Company I under the command of Robert
Campbell. This matches the naming of his new officer in his transfer documents
He was accepted as genuine by the state government’s pensions department.
This initially looks like a cast iron strong case, but military records show
a perhaps muddled, and definitely ambiguous account. Even more muddled,
mistaken, ambiguous and at times ridiculously impossible census records may
also, despite their many errors, may still possibly have a point against
Confederate verification. However those who doubt the reliability of censuses
also have an extremely strong case, in fact an exemplary case when census
documents concerning the Murray family are examined. For those believing in
America’s censuses it would be difficult to find or even imagine a more
damaging case to their credibility than census documents for the Murray family.
The reasons for being listed as debunked: Even among those who would
seem to be his most ardent supporters, the Orangeburg Daughters of the
Confederacy, there were some sceptics about his claims and archivists could
find no record of his service.183 They apparently did not know of the 1910
interview. He left the Civil War question in the 1910 census blank. Three early
censuses are a major reason for doubt and so should be examined in depth.
Strong if confused evidence against verification concerns soldiers with the
enlistment names A. Murray in the 11th South Carolina and also a W.B.Murray,
also in Company H. The man who many often credit as being him on enlistment
documents, A.D. Murray of Company H, cannot possibly be him. Details of the
second enlistment, for an A.B. Murray shows evidence for and against this
being Arnold Murray (1846-1952). The for side comes out as the stronger.
While some parts of this record agree, other large parts are very different to
Murray’s accounts. Arnold’s receiving a Confederate pension gives a motive for
possible falsification.184
The debate: The Murray family suffered at the hands of the census takers
more than most, beginning before Arnold’s birth and continuing into his
Find the Best ‘ Civil War Soldiers’ 11TH South Carolina enlistments list. See also the
request for transfer letter February 1864 towards the end of this segment.
Hux p10.
Unsigned Article, Arnold Murray 1846-1952. Wednesday July 18th 2007. p2.
nineties. Although records give his mother’s exact full name and her maiden
name next to the full name of her husband in two records, she was listed as born
in 1825 in one and in 1829 in another.185 Apparently an illiterate man, in one
census Arnold Murray misspelt his name Murry - or the census taker did.
Either way in a house full of people listed as Murray, the census collector did
not pick up the error. Another stunning ambiguity was that somebody listed
Arnold as head of the household and then listed a very large number as a son or
daughter, by implication even the nine year old was his when he was ninetyfour! Clearer 1950s accounts describe two daughters and a son and many
grandchildren in the one household.186
More seriously, in 2010 a descendant of Arnold Murray’s brother went
into the 1870 census lists and found her ancestors. She found both of Arnold
Murray’s parents, and four of his siblings, giving full names which match those
all correctly named in This website lists such sources as assorted
censuses, obituaries, grave stones, family photos and voter registration lists.187
Arnold appears there with his parents George and Elizabeth and his siblings. He
is listed as sixteen years old on his last birthday. The badly written month seems
to be July. If he was born in June, even allowing that the census month took
place a month earlier, that means he could have at the most, been aged twelve
when the war ended, and probably was as young as ten – if this document is
reliable. This assumes that the census taker filled out the forms correctly. They
are in his cramped to almost illegible handwriting. The 1880 census essentially
repeats this idea, listing him as twenty five last birthday, also meaning he was
probably born in mid-1854. The 1900 census stays in line with this date. One
document does list his birth year as about 1854. Initially this looks damning to
his credibility. However the 1870s and 1880s censuses prove unreliable and
contradict all censuses after and including that of 1910. The censuses officials
and their believers stated that their own 1910 census for him did not exist, but it
does. This mistake gives some idea of the unreliability of the censuses.
Every ten years the federal census supposedly counts every American. A
researcher points out that he does not appear in the 1850 census, therefore he
See ancestry .com Elizabeth Olive Murray (nee Groom) Wife of George Edward Allen
Murray. Compare the first entry of the printout page 1 with the one on page 4.
Unsigned Article, Arnold Murray 1846-1952. Wednesday July 18th 2007.
Louise Murray-Pino, “Re: Arnold Murray, the Last Confederate Veteran of the Carolinas
died in 1952.” January 3rd 2010. Genforum / In reply to JC Block.
could not have been born before 1850.188 While such negatives are usually
flimsy as evidence, this time a valid point initially appears to have been made:
despite Home Alone, forgetting a toddler must be difficult. The record here
shows his parents and two of his brothers. James is born in 1846 in the family
tree and in one document, but appears as apparently aged sixteen in the 1850
census, meaning his birthdate should be 1843 or 1844. The younger brother
Arthur was born in 1849 - and then no other sibling appears. Like the 1870 and
1880 censuses, this also initially looks like a solid case - until the family
censuses on both sides of the family are examined more closely.
The contradictions in this census marks just the start of the problems.
Their father George Murray is listed as aged forty-eight here, meaning he was
born in 1801 or 1802, but several other census documents put his birth year as
1825. Given his Civil War service as an infantryman the later date seems more
likely. His wife is listed as aged thirty-eight, therefore she was born in 1811 or
1812, but other documents, while disagreeing with each other, as already
mentioned, put her birth year well into the 1820s. The younger son Arthur, is
listed correctly as being one year old in 1850 and his sister is fourteen. However
if George, Elizabeth and James, three out of five all have their ages wrong by
over a decade or two, can we trust their statement about Arnold’s birth year
being wrong by around seven to nine years? Perhaps we could, if this was the
last of the errors so far, but it is not. A great deal of other obvious evidence
emerges against the census statements.
In the 1860 census only one man named George A. Murray in South
Carolina is present. His birth year here is around 1805, while Arnold’s father
was probably born in 1825. His Charleston parish address and his occupation
are the same as in other censuses. His wife is Elizabeth, but her birth year is
around a decade earlier than for Arnold’s mother and no James, Arthur, or
Arnold appear. Instead there are ten different children listed. Only one, Mary
has a name the same as those listed in the 1870 census for the Murrays and her
birthdate is very different. These children have birthdates ranging from
1836/1837 to 1849/1850. In the 1860 census at least three of these names are
misspelled, when compared to what they were a decade before. Unless the
census taker mixed up the parents putting Arnold’s parents at the top of a list of
other children (totally possible from the levels of competency suggested so far)
this must be another family. This probability must be so when transcriptions
from their family bible are compared. Amazingly two men named George
JD Block posting in reply to Nancie O’Sullivan “Arnold Murray Confederate Veteran
Living in 1950.” http:/ dated
August 5th 2005.
Murray, both with the initial A and with wives named Elizabeth, just might
have lived in the same parish in Charleston. Cousins? Not even in the muddled
world of the censuses can parents have ten children suddenly appearing to
replace another vanished group. Or can they?
In a 1981 transcription of their family marriages listed in the family Bible
birthdates refers to a missing Rachel from the list and then the names of two
sets of children are listed. A list of marriages involving several of these ten
children including a marriage apparently among the two families, involving
Arnold, suggestive evidence for two different families. The way Arnold’s
siblings are not mentioned here suggests that this is so. These children are listed
sequentially, number first, name next, then the letter M for married and the
name of the person they married. In the transcription next to Laura, (born
1848/1849 by the 1860 census) is an obvious marriage to the Civil War
claimant Arnold Murray, who they list here by his full name. He is described as
“Confederate veteran” but it remains unclear if this is modern information (there
are several such annotations) or 1870s writing transcribed. The family tree, but
not the bible, has her maiden name or middle name as Bunch; was she widowed
or adopted? No trace of a Laura Bunch shows up on the South Carolina
archives. Marriages among cousins were common, but is this the case here? Or
was a mistake made in the transcription, mixing up two Lauras? Given the
orderly detail on the list this seems unlikely.189 Perhaps the error about the name
Bunch is in the family tree. This bride would show up as Arnold’s wife in all
the censuses they filled out up to her death in 1930. This transcription can be
seen among the Arnold Murray documents at Tracing copyright
may be difficult as the writers appear to be elderly in 1981.
The Murray family tree also gives her an 1848 birthdate, as does the 1850
and 1860 censuses and her tombstone. The 1910 census gives her a birthdate of
about 1843. That of 1920 gives around 1845, but the 1880 census gives Laura’s
age as 26. For that to be correct four other censuses and a family tree must all be
wrong and wrong by at least six years. Another factor is that women at that time
seldom marry men six or seven years younger, perhaps… The 1910 census
states they were married thirty-eight years, which means 1871/1872. Arnold
marrying between the supposedly possible census given ages of fifteen/sixteen
to seventeen/eighteen seems young for marriage, especially for a male,
In 1981 Members of the Murray family Minnie Murray and Tressie, wrote out by hand
family ancestry from their 1829 family Bible. Arnold’s marriage and his Confederate service
are mentioned, but not his date of birth. See “Murray Family Info from Tressie Murray”
http://trees. DErOj U51KDdyo71 Vxxn
especially as the first child Dorcas, apparently named after one of Laura’s
siblings, was born in 1876. The 1910 census incidentally puts a line in Arnold’s
first initial, making it look like an H and computerised lists recording it as such,
creating a whole new non-existent person. This makes it seem that a new man
has become household head in their home at Orangeburg County and fathered
Arnold’s already growing children. In that census Arnold’s birth year is now
recorded as 1842 and he claims literacy, but not Civil War service in that
question box. The computerised version lists his age in 1910 as sixty-eight then
forty-eight, but the original document seems to be clearly 68. Either age seems
unlikely, not matching any other. If it is 48 he married Laura aged nine or ten.
This impossibility based on the given marriage date and the interpreted age
derives from the way both facts appear on the same page in that one census.
Laura Murray has been put through exactly the same process as her
husband, having her birth date and age mistakenly recorded by about six years
either way, giving her birth as from around 1843 to 1854. While it could be
argued that Arnold had a motive in concealing his real age to get the
Confederate veteran’s pension, Arnold’s wife had no such motive and the old
documents cannot be forged. Yet another case of massive census errors has
emerged here and of census documents contradicting each other – and now
themselves. The loss of a whole census document is also new and a new low in
census inefficiency and errors.
In the same note that said the 1870 census cast doubt on Arnold’s record
the researcher mentions that all the census records they have for Arnold Murray
show that he was “born in the area of 1854-1855.”190 This is vague for a census,
which usually relies on precise ages or states otherwise. There may be
confusion with others. Two Arnold Murrays are listed in the later census
documents, and an Arnold Murry, all three apparently born or raised in
Charleston. Given the census levels of unreliability it is entirely possible that all
three different entries are not for three people but for one. The misspelling
Murry also appears in later census documents applying to Arnold Murray. He
stated that he was born near Holly Hill and Monks Corner before counties were
drawn up.191 He moved to Orangeburg County in the Reconstruction era. This
suggests there may be no official records and that he might not know his birth
date, he was illiterate. This writer’s computer search and search by letters in
likely places around Orangeburg has turned up nothing. Arnold’s in law’s
Arnold Murray 1846-1952. Postnote.
Unsigned report “S.C. Mourns Last Rebel Soldier.” Charlotte Observer. Nov 27th 1952.
family Bible apparently ran out of space for new entries in genealogies in the
early 1840s.192
Little reliance can be placed on the 1870 census after comparing it to
other censuses or the Murray family tree. This tree remains incomplete, may
contain errors and it does not list all the children of Arnold and Laura. No
mention of her parents or siblings exists there: as his father’s siblings are
recorded they were not first cousins. Of Arnold’s six siblings listed in the
census, only one. Anna aged seven, has an age that agrees with the family tree
birth year of 1863. Arnold’s younger brother Julius is out by two years, to be
expected with the census’s usual last birthday rule, but Mary Ann, referred to as
just Mary, gets a census age of twenty five when she is born in 1852 by the
family tree. George is listed as eight when he was five sometime that year.
William, turning ten that year, does not even get a mention or a listing. This is
not due to an early death; he lived until 1916. The problem of Arnold being
unlisted with his parents in the 1850 census finds a match and therefore an
answer here. Others unspecified who are apparently not the children of George
and Elizabeth are included. They may be adopted, visiting relatives or house
servants: the census does not specify.
The 1930 census demonstrates yet again the unreliability of census
collectors. Arnold (described as “farther”) gets sandwiched between his sons
Lee (name misspelled) and Lewis. With the description “brother” below
Arnold’s name it reads as if his son Lewis was his brother.
What does put Arnold Murray’s credibility into question more than the
erroneous and confused censuses is his claim that he was born on 10 th June
1846. Whoever supplied the information in the 1870/1880 censuses gave him a
much later birth year that cannot be explained by the frequent two year problem
of requesting the age as of last birthday. In the Arnold family tree they accept
Arnold’s 1846 birthdate and place it next to his brother James, 1846-1860. The
options are that they were twins, somebody got James’s birth year wrong (most
likely given his 1850 census age) or Arnold cannot have been born in 1846. It
would be easy to say that the 1854/55 birthdate is so what? He must have been a
child soldier, but if this claim that he was born in 1854/1855 is true, what do we
make of the photograph which shows a young man who looks like he is a
It is possible but very unlikely to be the photograph of a boy of aged
around ten, even if at the war’s end, South Carolina Confederates took them this
The last new individual entries stop in 1841 but some extra information is added for those
already there.
young for infantry – and like other Confederates we definitely know of, they
probably did. “Big for his age” applies to William Townsend and may apply
here, but to give some idea of the odds consider some personal observations. I
went to an all-male school of over a thousand students and have taught High
School and some primary for over twenty-five years, that makes for contact
with thousands of adolescent boys and the “big for his age” “mature looking for
his age” is fairly unusual. As a rough and generous estimate it applies to around
four hundred out of several thousand I have taught or gone to school with. I did
teach one such boy recently, turning twelve, he was continually taken for
around sixteen or seventeen. He could, in a Confederate uniform, be a twin of
the boy in the photograph. That makes me more receptive to Murray as a true
veteran than many. It also gives yet even more good grounds for doubting the
After putting this late birth date into the extremely dubious category it
should be pointed out that possibly both the census birth year of 1854 and his
military service can both be true. As previously mentioned, nearly thirty known
Confederate soldiers were verified at eleven or under and Susan R. Hull
mentions coming across records of several aged eleven or twelve – and she did
not launch a systematic search for them. Arnold Murray said he enlisted as a
This photo was for the 1949 Life magazine article on Civil War
survivors. Beside this is an early version of the Confederate national flag
developed into a regimental banner. It served as the battle flag for the first few
months until Confederates at First Bull Run mistook it for the Union flag.
Unsigned article, Charlotte Observer November 27th 1952. Associated Press May 1951
Generals Joe Johnston and Beauregard designed the crossed bars battle flag,
but a few units, such as the 11th South Carolina kept to the original design.
What does make the photo creditable are the obituaries which give separate
information that have him enlisting in 1865 and then put his age at enlistment as
fourteen. Considering that the alternative must be to give a respected man who
told people to always be honest the reputation for fraud and hypocrisy, some
caution with contrary, muddled and missing information must be the best
option. Such a view is also very probably justified by reality: where Sherman
marched Southern youngsters enlisted and officers were desperate for recruits.
With three census documents against him, three other census
documents go in Murray’s favour as a Civil War participant, those of 1920,
1930 and 1940. The 1910 census gives information for and against. While the
birth dates 1854/1855 do not preclude Confederate service on age, but they do
make it much less likely; it means he would have been younger than most of the
frontline boy soldiers and teenagers of the Georgia State Militia when his war
ended. In The South’s Last Boys in Gray Professor Hoar lists twenty two known
boys aged under twelve serving in the Confederate forces. Of these only one
gets enlisted as a musician and most have some fighting role.194 This writer
found four more such fighters mentioned elsewhere. Even this record must be
incomplete as it cannot list the many who overstated their age so as to enlist.
Later censuses give later birthdates for Murray: a 1920 census giving his age as
seventy-two. In the 1930 census he also gives his birth date as about 1848 and
in the Life magazine article of 30th May 1949 his age is given as 101 (see the
above photo) as Life states that they did carefully check all records.195 These are
all plausible dates and they make the Confederate photo plausible; the boy in
the photograph looks more like fifteen to twenty than ten to twelve. However
only the 1940 census and his death certificate give the precise 1846 date.
The 1913 reunion photo, while still strong evidence for Murray, is not
quite as good as it could have been. The names of the men at the 1913 reunion
who were in the photo total eight but only six are in the photo. Their names are
on paper scraps that were with the photo; they do not indicate names in order,
but he appears on the list. Three could be Murray but one of these, the tallest, is
very probably Pleasant Crump. Among the six others one is identified as Renes
Lee. Two others look stockier than Murray and one of these must almost
certainly be Doctor Riddle. Another has a skull shape different to Murray’s.
That still leaves two possibilities and one, the man on the end in his Confederate
uniform, does look very much like him in Life. Murray’s height was five foot
seven and this man looks about that height.196 If Murray was born in 1854 and
Hoar, Vol. III pp1733-1734.
John Osborne, Life May 30th 1949. p9.
so was possibly too young to be the Confederate in the Civil War photo, he
appears as too old to be born in 1854/55 for the 1913 image, for all these men
look like they are well past sixty. That same shoe now goes on the other foot:
those wishing to disprove Murray on age will have a stretch to prove that any of
these men are only in their late fifties.
Left: Arnold Murray’s transfer documents. Note the correct use of his
first name. A second document using his full name is virtually identical to this.
Right: A record of his second hospitalisation
Below Left: His first hospitalisation
Below Right: His Civil War Photograph (Photo courtesy of Irvin Shuler)
Arnold Murray
This photo provides strong proof for his claim in another way, for to
attend such a reunion, and particularly posing in a Confederate uniform for a
group photo, can only be very strange, motiveless and foolish behaviour for
someone posing as a veteran. At such a large national conference he would have
been risking meeting men from the large unit he claimed to be in or be picked
up as a fraud as soon as recollections or questions started. This is even more
obvious with his attendance at the October 1910 Reunion at his home town in
Orangeburg as South Carolinia’s veterans would have predominated. Over 350
veterans present were listed and many were presumably interviewed.197 Surely
someone, either a veteran or a townsperson would have picked him up as a
fraud or remembered him as being too young to have been in the war.
Although the censuses are always used to disparage his claim and label
him a fraud the more creditable and therefore more initially damaging
information comes from the military world. This gets less attention.
The 1870 census also reveals an A. D. Murray born in Shelbyville in
1840. Earlier censuses and slave owner schedules also list an A.F. D. Murray as
a slave owner in South Carolina: either man might be the man who served in the
An e-mail from Linda Baker 8th April 2015.
11th South Carolina Volunteers, but the Shelbyville resident seems more likely.
His census and enlistment ages and his company designation all match. Two
men with Arnold’s first initial and surname were known as 11th South Carolina
enlistments and A.D. Murray’s original documented record contains details that
preclude him from being Arnold Murray. A.D. Murray aged twenty, enlisted in
July 1861. He was captured during the Virginia campaigns in June 1864, but
stayed on the rolls till August 31st of that year.198 He survived over a year in the
hellish prison camp at Elmira and was freed around the time he took the Oath of
Allegiance in July 1865. On three important counts, age, enlistment date and
being removed from the scene at a time Arnold claimed service, this cannot be
him. What interests and would strongly count against Arnold Murray is that this
man served in Company H. This company identifying letter and the man’s
middle initial often appear as being Arnold’s in secondary writings, so where
does the information come from? Did Arnold, his family, the pensions office or
researchers make an assumption?
Pleasant Crump, Thomas E. Riddle, Renes Lee, Unknown, Unknown, Arnold
Murray. Use of Photo courtesy of Peggy Dillard of Website Tennrebgirl
Confederate Abstract from the South Carolina Department of Archives & History. 22nd
April 2014. Documents checked in Fold 3 contain this information and the other facts
mentioned here containing his war service. This can be found by following these steps I open
Civil War records. 2 Open Confederate Records 3 Type Arnold Murray in the search bar.
This identifying list is on the 1913 reunion
This company was under the Command of a Captain Raysor. In Roger Hux’s
sceptical article he quotes from a 1950 interview were Murray identified this
man as his captain.199 Arnold did the same in the 1910 interview. Professor
Hoar gives different names for Arnold’s commanders, Captain Owens and
Lieutenant Minus.200 In the 1930 census Arnold is listed as Arnold D. Murray
and this nomenclature does not appear anywhere else. If it were proven that
Arnold Murray insisted in his pension application or in interviews that he was
A.D. Murray of Company H serving under Captain Raysor, his claims would be
extremely dubious, at best. It may well be that an official finding that name
assumed much and told him that this man’s record was about him and Arnold,
being illiterate or uncertain in his memory or thinking it best to agree to what he
thought was an 1860s clerical error, agreed. As early as the 1910 interview he
was making mistakes with his military details, giving the wrong company and
regiment as well as the wrong commanding officer.
The record of the second man, A.B. Murray, reveals evidence showing
that he is almost certainly Arnold Murray. He initially enlisted in the 4th South
Carolina Cavalry in September 1863 and was transferred at his request to
Company I of the 11th South Carolina in February 1864. Although most
documents list him by his initials and surname, two other Confederate
documents show that he was either Arnold Murray (1846-1952) or that he had
Hux p11. The interview was conducted by James A. Rogers for the Florence Evening
Hoar, previous citation.
the same name as Arnold Murray and that he was where Arnold Murray said he
was in 1864. His transfer was into the 11th South Carolina Infantry in early 1864
was when they were training along the coast near Charleston. If this is
coincidental it is a quartet of coincidences consisting of both having the same
name, both being in the same locale and organization and both enlisting in that
organisation at roughly the same time. That makes for quite a stretch! The only
other findable Confederate soldier titled A. B. Murray was Augustus Babington
Murray (1848-1924) who lived a very traceable life that cannot be that of
Arnold Murray. He served in Company D of the 5th South Carolina Cavalry
with his father John and brother Joshua.201 My first reaction on seeing the unit
designation was to check the old documents, concerning the transfer of A.B.
Murray into the 11th SC, but they clearly show that the 4th SC Cavalry written in
as his original unit. This man gave a different birthdate, eight year’s earlier than
Arnold’s earliest of 1846. He was a resident of Harleyville, (twenty five miles
away from Orangeburg) suffered different war wounds on a different date and
then went to a different hospital; he eventually surrendered in Virginia in April
Less than clear is the role and the roll of a soldier named W.B. Murray.
He was born on April 26th 1837 and enlisted on the 10th or the 16th of August
1861 in Captain T.E. Raysor’s Company H of the 11th South Carolina Infantry.
During his service he was slightly wounded. It would be easy to dismiss this as
badly written initials for or by Arnold Murray, but the writing is clear. It is also
on a witnessed official document, a South Carolina pension application dated
and signed May 28th 1919. The application also mentions that he is getting
feeble. Arnold was noted for his good health and stamina in old age. Further
proof that this person existed comes from a list of officers and men of the
United Confederate Veterans drawn up by Major Goodwyn at St. George South
Carolina on November 14th 1916. After their typed up names their units are
given in handwriting in abbreviated form. Next to W.B. Murray is a 12 with a
line through it then an 11. In 1910 Arnold mistakenly said he was in the twelfth
SC Infantry and later said he was in the eleventh. Coincidence? In the Civil War
Soldiers Database “findthedata’ this man does show up as W.B. M. Murray.
This shows him listed in the company and unit where his pension application
said he was. Enlisting as a private, he reached the rank of corporal. Too many
Linda Baker, previous citation.
Signed and Witnessed Pension Application Statement dated 27th September 1919 for the
State of South Carolina.; Confederate Abstract for A.B. Murray, from compiled service
details are different for this to be Arnold Murray. A.B. Murray of the 4th S.C.
Cavalry is another matter.
A.B. Murray was hospitalised in Richmond in May with a minnie ball in
the back and hospitalised again with diarrhoea in the same Richmond Hospital
for almost all of December. He was paroled at Greensboro on May 1st 1865. His
service record initially appears as different to Arnold’s account to the extent that
they if both accounts are accepted at face value and as substantially complete
they seem very unlikely to refer to the same person. A closer look reveals
The 11th South Carolina Field and Staff with companies B,C,F,G,H,I, and
K marched from Camp Milton, Florida to Charleston, arriving on April 21st
1864 and were stationed at Sullivan’s Island, where Murray said they were and
where he said he served, but they left on May 1st 1864 for the fighting at
Petersburg, Virginia.203 They were in the fighting at Petersburg from May 6th
and would be involved in the battles of Deep Bottom, Drewry’s Bluff, Cold
Harbour, Jerusalem Plank Road, Wilmington, Fort Fisher, Bentonville and
others.204 After being moved to Wilmington on Boxing Day 1864 they were
involved in The Army of Tennessee’s struggle against Sherman’s advance.
Murray said he joined “in the latter part of the war” in one account and in 1864
in another while a third has him enlisting in 1865.205 He also said that he did not
fight, but trained, first at James Island and then at Fort Moultrie on Sullivan’s
Island.206 He correctly remembered this as their training base. The soldiers there
were apparently trainees intended for the regiment, but seem to have served as a
defacto garrison.
The enlistment/ transfer documents for A.B. Murray from the cavalry to
the 11 South Carolina are reproduced in this segment and while this man’s
enlistment differs in many details from what Murray said decades later, there
are three similar Confederate military documents that refer to Arnold Murray by
that name. One probably refers to a Georgia enlistment with nearly the same
name as it contains the name Arza - and nothing else. The other two both
John P. Deeben, Archives I Reference Section e-mail 3rd October 2014. His source is
Compiled Records Showing Service of Military Units in Confederate Organizations. South
Carolina National Archives Microfilm Publication M861.
This record of the regiment is based in the work of Deeben, a history of the regiment by
Steve Batson on the Website South Carolina in the Civil War, the charts graphs and account
given of the regiment on the website Search for Soldiers findthedata and the history
contained in the U.S. Civil War Soldiers and Sailor’s Database.
The different enlistment dates come from the different obituaries.
Hoar, Vol. III p1694.
definitely link him to the man from the 4th S.C. Cavalry and they place him in
Charleston and Black Oak, South Carolina. One bears the word ‘petition’ and
they both refer to seeing “the personal papers of a Private M.N. Waring of
Company K of the 4th South Carolina.”207 Was this a friend who wrote and read
for the illiterate Murray? These facts suggest the personal papers had something
to do with the transfer because he no longer had a horse. A.B. Murray’s
reproduced petitioning letter was written by an officer.
One factor does count against A.B. Murray being Arnold Murray and that
is the use of the middle initial, he apparently never had one or at least did not
use it. A clue for why this might be so emerges from the pictured forms. While
the words Arnold Murray appears in the forms where space seems ample, A.D.
Murray and A.B. Murray - almost always appear in large handwriting on the
smaller cramped documents, where not enough space appears as obvious.
Unless he is someone different from A.F.D. Murray even A.D. abbreviates all
that man’s initials. With two men having the same surname and initial in the
same organisation, some form of differentiation was necessary.208 Was this the
explanation? Interestingly the medical report for May 15th which deals with his
Minnie ball wounding, just lists “A. Murray.”
This enlistment opens up four possibilities, the first is that there were
three or even perhaps five men in the 11th South Carolina Regiment with the
surname Murray and the initial A and another Murray with the initials W.B.. Of
these, three or even four previously mentioned soldiers were enlisted; perhaps
Arnold was not, at least by his full name. He may have not been there long
enough for the time lapse in enlistments to take place, especially with
Beauregard’s and Johnson’s forces retreating and the surrender clearly
approaching. An 11TH South Carolina enlisting clerk may have not wanted the
confusion of yet another Murray or given him a new initial. If Company H had
their own enlisting officer he must have laughed at getting another A. Murray
and shooed him away – or he may have given him an initial, B. Arnold may
have been a victim of the confusion years later. Now historians are.
The next possibility is distasteful, reluctantly considered and without
supporting evidence apart from early muddled censuses, and the Company H
identification and possibly the use of the middle initial D. Did Arnold Murray,
wanting the pension in old age, find or know of a soldier with the same name,
Fold3 Transfer Documents reproduced at the end of this segment.
A few years ago I had two students named Corey Campbell in the same form. One had to
be given an initial he had not used regularly before to stop assorted forms of chaos in the
official documents and day to day practicalities.
knew of his details and steal his identity? Apart from the massive coincidence
of two men with the same name being in the same area at the same time and one
of them conveniently being an enlisted soldier, other probabilities go against it.
Everything about the man’s character that this writer has read, both from
his own words and the opinions of those who knew him, suggests that he was an
honest, respected man who would not have done this. Second, no strong motive
for money emerges. Arnold Murray lived a life of ample self-sufficiency that
met his simple tastes and had relatives to care for him. Third, any fraud taking
over A.B. Murray’s identity would not have boxed himself in with information
about not killing anybody and only doing training in South Carolina, especially
when A.B. Murray was a long term three year enlistment in a well-known and
hard fighting unit that served in the Virginian and Carolinas campaigns. If
sensible he would have avoided interviews altogether or talked vaguely or
researched the history of the man or the unit at least and mentioned that he had
been fighting in Virginia and the Carolinas. The problem that applies to any
identity theft before the computer age soon emerges: the likely risk of detection.
Arnold Murray attended at least two veteran’s reunions where somebody from
the large 11th South Carolina could have said that he was not A.B. Murray.
Whoever he was, the man listed by those initials survived the war and if his
identity was stolen, the thief would have had to know he was dead and had no
surviving relatives or friends to expose him. Pension fraud could easily lead to
jail and definitely lead to ostracism, fines and disgrace. The fact that no A.B.
Murray in South Carolina apart from Augustus Bascom Murray emerges in
post-war Confederate pension records (albeit incomplete records) censuses
(albeit muddled and incomplete) or apparently anywhere else suggests, but does
not prove, that Arnold Murray was A.B. Murray. Coming from the other side
even conjectural evidence to prove that they were two different men seems nonexistent, apart from the second initial, which by itself also seems weak
Another possibility emerging could be that Arnold Murray’s military
service was at least in parts very different to what he did state. Going by the
regiment’s history, and this documentation, he probably was training where and
when he stated. If he was born in 1846 the photo of him as a Civil War soldier
does make sense – and so does a late 1863 enlistment and his statement about
wanting to enlist to fight like his father and older brother were in Virginia.209 He
was probably telling the truth about not killing anyone. No evidence emerges
that he was lying. By the time of his cavalry enlistment between September
Associated Press, May 1951. previous citation.
1863 and February 1864 the cavalry of the Army of Northern Virginia where
involved in few big battles, being used more for raiding, screening, scouting,
foraging and escorting.210 If his cavalry enlistment was at Green Pond in
September 1863 he would probably have done little active duty during the
winter months as Virginia’s fighting season ended with the first frosts in late
autumn. This assumes he even made it to Virginia as a cavalryman. His infantry
record might be different, but much of that was spent in hospital –As an
infantryman he did get there, but not for long. The 11th South Carolina left
Charleston for days of travel to Virginia starting on May 1st and he was
hospitalised with the Minnie ball in the back on May 15th and then sent to a
Columbia, South Carolina hospital. It is unclear for how long he stayed there,
but by December 2nd he was back in Richmond, in the same hospital. When he
said that he did not fight, did he mean that stints in the unattacked trenches at
Petersburg did not involve actual fighting, at least for him? His unit was
involved in heavy fighting at Fort Fisher, Avesboro and Bentonville in early
1865, but was he there? His involvement at the surrender of his unit at
Greensboro on May 1st 1865 suggests that this was so.
Why would the man who told people to always tell the truth not tell
everything about his war experiences? Veterans who dislike talking about war’s
more horrible experiences seem more common than happy warriors. In his last
years the Murray family had to cope with the battlefield death of his namesake
and grandson in Korea. Discussing battlefield killings with interviewers would
have been painful, tasteless and best avoided. Being shot in the back, killing
people, enduring the dreary horrors of the Petersburg siege and enduring
hospitalisation for a month with diarrhoea were hardly the tales of military glory
that interviewers wanted to hear.
An apparent disagreement arises between censuses and Professor Hoar’s
research, based in family accounts in the Reconstruction Era. In the 1870 and
1880 censuses he was a Charleston labourer. In Professor Hoar’s account he
returned to Monk’s corner partly by rail and partly by foot after the war and
lived there a few years. He may have worked as a Charleston labourer in the
summer months between spring planting and autumn harvesting: this was also
census time. He married Laura a few years after the war’s end and in Arnold’s
vague words “We kept gwine up country till finally we got to Orangeburg.” 211
George Augustus Sala, “On a New Kind of War.’(1865) Reproduced by Sears, pp208209.; Catton pp358-359.
Hoar, previous citation.
Once on a farm nine miles from Orangeburg they lived a life of peaceful
self-sufficiency, growing or hunting and fishing for the family’s own food and
keeping pigs and cows. There was the peace of the forests, the abundant birdlife
and the view from the rocker on the porch. This peaceful life was marred thrice.
Arnold and Laura outlived some of their children, then Laura died in 1930. War
returned to Arnold’s life when his grandson was killed in the Korean War. Like
so many of these aged veterans, he enjoyed good health until his last few
months, still walking regularly until just before heart failure started. On his
hundredth birthday he went hunting and proved himself a crack shot.212
Unfortunately the grandson who witnessed this does not mention the date of that
event. However the fact that he celebrated a hundredth birthday at least two
years before the census stated he turned a hundred in 1954 or 1955 says
While this remains conjectural, the alternative for those who insist that
Arnold Murray was born in 1854 have to believe in the previously mentioned
quartet of coincidences or explain why a nine year old’s name appears on
military documents. This cannot be creative identity theft through forgery by
Arnold Murray. The documents are very old and one of the very few things the
census takers got repeatedly right was his first name, and they got that right
about thirty to sixty years before he applied for the pension.
Despite some confusion and uncertainties his listing as verified has a
basis on the evidence already dealt with and summarised below.
He had the two photographs, one from the Civil War, one from the 1913
reunion. He kept his Confederate uniform. As early as 1910, forty years before
the fuss and attention over veterans started, he claimed Confederate service. He
knew where and when his claimed unit trained. He made the 1930 affirmation.
In the censuses of 1910, 1920, 1930, and 1940 he gave ages consistent with
Civil War service. Life magazine’s stated age did the same and matched the
later censuses. The awarded pension means someone verified his claims. The
1952 death certificate stated his veteran’s status. The description of
“Confederate Veteran” is in the in-laws family Bible, where relatives are
unlikely to desecrate a consecrated work with lies. The enlistment documents
for an A.B. Murray are ambiguous, but his full name ‘Arnold Murray” on two
related Confederate official military documents from Charleston in 1864 are
not. This was where he said he was, when he said that he had served. It gives
the unit he stated he served in. Most soldiers had one and nothing like the
amount of supporting evidence.
The census documents that supposedly disprove him on age are too full of
errors, ambiguities, omissions, contradictions and dubious statements to prove
or disprove anything. Disproving Arnold Murray’s service must start with
finding better evidence than the extraordinarily confusing and egregiously
wrong censuses. Disproving the favourable evidence will be essential – and
extremely difficult.
Note that the document on the left above has the first name Arnold, while
others list A. Murray and A.B. Murray, but the regiment and the company stay
Note that the document on the left above has the first name Arnold, while
others list A. Murray and A.B. Murray, but the regiment and the company stay
A.B. Murray’s 1863 enlistment document
Arnold Murray’s Death Certificate. Note that he is listed as a Confederate
The 1864 enlistment transfer document of an A.B. Murray. Below Enlistment
documents and a hospital record. Couresy of Fold 3.
Murray’s last resting place
William Allen Magee
Result: His Union service is accepted √
Date of Birth: 19th August 1846 possibly 1848.
Date of Death: 23rd January 1953.
Age at enlistment: seventeen.
Rank: Bugler and private.
Unit: 12th Ohio Cavalry Regiment Company M.
Service: Magee’s main area of service was in Stoneman’s Cavalry.
Combat Experience: Magee was engaged in training, skirmishes, raids
and some smaller battles in Kentucky, Tennessee, North Carolina and
South Western Virginia.
Length of service: October 1863 to 1898.
Magee ran away from home to enlist and the records put his enlistment
aged eighteen, while his age was put at sixteen. This discrepancy is topped by
Find A Grave which after giving his birthdate correctly as 1846, tells us that he
ran away aged thirteen “to become a bugle boy with Gen. Sherman in his march
to the sea.” Two years before the Civil War began?213 Journalists also frequently
state that he took part in Sherman’s March to the Sea, but a history of his unit
does not have them in that campaign but in South-Western Virginia and
adjacent areas.214 Others claim he was involved in the 1914-1918 border
troubles with Mexico, but no facts are mentioned and no proof seems to be
offered anywhere easily found. By the standards applied to Confederates all
these errors would make his record dubious, but he is accepted - and rightly.
Official Records list him as a trumpeter in the unit he claimed to serve in.
In The North’s Last Boys in Blue Vol. II Professor Hoar has drawn up a
list of his Civil War experiences and although Magee was not in the March to
the Sea or any of the battles that became household names, his battle list is quite
extensive and cavalry raids into the crumbling Confederacy’s last territory
meant isolation and unknown dangers in a hostile land.
Magee left the army in November 1865 but re-joined a year later. He
went on to gain seven honourable discharges between 1869 and 1898, but
‘Sgt. William Allen Magee, (1846-1953)’ Find A Grave Memorial. March 20th 2004.
Official Records History of the 12th Ohio Cavalry Regiment.
always re-joined, eventually becoming a sergeant in 1895.215 Although he
respected the Indians, and told his daughter to do the same when they were
stationed on a Nez Pierce reservation in the 1880s, he fought in the Indian Wars
in the Dakotas. He served in some capacity in the Spanish-American War, then
retired soon after. His service provided a continuous record over four decades,
making him the only one of the veterans mentioned in this work to get a regular
army pension.
He had married in 1873. After sixty-three years of marriage, his wife died
in 1935, so he lived in Los Angeles with the youngest of his three daughters.216
In his retirement he was strongly involved with veteran’s affairs for decades,
working closely with his friend Douglas T. Story. When Story died that news
was kept from him for fear of its effects.
His statements and photograph in Professor Hoar’s segment on him in
Volume II of Last of the Blue and the Gray reveal a strong, stalwart character,
modest, but totally loyal to America and confident of American military
Hoar, Vol. II. p863.
Ibid, p865.
Sergeant Magee would have worn a coat like this.
William Daniel Townsend also known as William W.
Townsend, Uncle Eli and Billy Dan Townsend
Result: His Confederate Service is verified √
Date of Birth: Family ancestry gives 12th April 1846. Census dates
February 1850 and 1853 are possible but unlikely.
Date of Death: 22nd February 1953.
Age at enlistment: Probably Fifteen. Eight according to some census
records but that is unlikely.
Rank: Private.
Unit: Company B. 27th Louisiana Infantry.
Service: Training, then battles at Natchez in Mississippi and the
Vicksburg campaign.
Combat Experience: Although sick in late 1862, his combat experience
started before the siege, in Mississippi and northern Louisiana, but most
of it was during the campaign in and around Vicksburg. He was wounded
at the siege of Vicksburg.
Length of service: September 1861 to July 1863.
Evidence of Service apart from his own accounts. He appears in the muster rolls
of the 27th Louisiana Regiment in some detail due to health problems and
enquiries.217 He also appears in the Vicksburg parole lists as captured on July 4th
and paroled four days later.218 When applying for a pension in the 1930s he was
asked who could vouch for him. He named four individual soldiers by surname
and first name. By surname and initials they were listed in muster rolls, parole
lists, Official Records and Booth’s records as being at the siege of Vicksburg.219
These may have been men he met during either of his hospitalisations as they
are from different units and one was a hospital attendant. He also gave the full
correct name of another Confederate and eventually found another listed veteran
who signed an affidavit that they remembered him.220 Documents at the Baton
Rouge statehouse are mentioned in his 1953 obituary as proving his age and
Apart from muster rolls has a collection of reproduced
primary source material online. These include his enlistment papers, a
November 1862 furlough permission note due to illness, a clothing allocation
dated April 1863, a personalised document giving his name and regiment for the
prisoner of war roll and his Vicksburg parole. Several of these documents have
attestations or superior’s signatures. All five documents are signed with his
Company B 27th Louisiana Infantry Muster Roll 27TH Louisiana Infantry Data Base page
5 of 14 pages in computer image numbering.
‘Federal Rolls of Prisoners of War Captured and Paroled at Vicksburg July 1863’; Andrew
B. Booth, Military Records of Louisiana Confederate Soldiers and Louisiana Confederate
Commands. New Orleans: N.P. 1920 archiveorg>e book and texts Allen County Public
Ibid.; Serrano gives the names p76. I looked up those names in the Vicksburg Paroles,
Booth, Official Records and Confederate Muster Rolls and found them in at least one of these
forenamed sources.
Serrano, p76.
Unsigned Obituary Article, Lewiston Evening Journal, February 23rd 1953.
name, give his regiment and are verified in a 1953 letter by Adjutant-General
William Daniel Townsend, was born in Meridian Mississippi on 12th
April 1846 according to family genealogy. The family moved to Louisiana
when he was three. He ran away from home to enlist aged fifteen in September
1861.222 His records which correctly show him as from Mississippi, show that
he was enlisted in Company B of the newly formed 27th Louisiana Infantry on
9th August 1862. His record between the remembered date for running away and
the enlistment date nearly eleven months later seems unknown. He was
probably training in camp for much of it as he was granted a sickness furlough
for pneumonia and general disability in November 1862.223 He said that aged
sixteen he saw battle service in Northern Louisiana and in Mississippi in battles
at Natchez and Vicksburg and in actions around Alexandria and Pineville. His
account of these actions was that “Whenever something would go wrong and
more men were needed, they’d call us out of Vicksburg to go to the relief of our
hard-pressed units.”224 He claimed he served for two years, spending time in
hospital because a bullet tore open his right arm and left it gangrenous during
the siege of Vicksburg. He did have a very faint three inch long scar there in old
age.225 He was captured at the siege’s conclusion and he was paroled in July
The besieged trenches around Vicksburg
Company B 27th Louisiana Infantry Muster Roll.; Sickness Furlough original document
see then type William Townsend 1846-1953. Place: Louisiana. Reproduced in
this segment.
Hoar, Vol. III p1696.
Serrano, p74; Hoar Vol. III p1696.
Vicksburg during the siege. Civilians and those soldiers not in the trenches both
lived in the dugouts. While conditions were horrible they would have been safer
from the continuous bombardment than those in the mansion in the background.
This would have been an obvious target and if it collapsed the occupants would
have been buried under masonry and rubble. The shallow dugouts would have
been safe except for direct hits.
William W. Townsend was enlisted in the company Townsend claimed
he served in and was again listed in that same unit when Vicksburg surrendered
and thousands of Confederates were recorded on the parole lists. The scant
details in records fit in exactly with what he claimed – and scant or not, several
of those records exist and are not forgeries, ambiguous or contradictory.
Evidence against verification: The two census birthdates of 1850 and
1853 (which disagree with each other, let alone his record) the use of his middle
initial being a W. instead of a D and the given age on his clothing allocation
form of 21 years are the only hard evidence against him. Although the
commissioners did not quite say it, Townsend was a man desperate for
Confederate pension money and insistent for it. This probably counted against
him, but how many people in the USA in the 1930s was not financially
desperate? Suspicions that he was not that same man as W.W. Townsend when
he claimed his pension in 1935 were probably influenced by his hunger for
money, but also based on the following facts, many of which Serrano
By official records he was supposedly only thirteen when he enlisted. He
claimed fifteen. Census records show him as born in February 1850 and as born
again in 1853. The latter date means he was eight when he enlisted and this
supposed fact still shows on some official documents. The issue of child
soldiers and the unreliability of census documents has been dealt with
The other evidence against him is that:
He could not prove his age.
The muster roll he claims as his has William W. Townsend on lists in his
unit, without his middle name of Daniel.
He named a Captain Gus Cobb as his commanding officer. No record of
him could be found.
He probably indulged in the common practice of hiding his real age and
identity so as to be accepted for enlistment and not sent home. He named five
Confederates as former comrades who could vouch for him, John Orr, Jim Orr,
Lum Knox, B. Russell and Dave Seats. The commission quite seriously claimed
they could not find them.227 This was in the later 1930s, over seventy-two years
after the siege ended! They should have looked at muster rolls and then very
closely in the list of paroled Confederates at Vicksburg’s surrender. Annoyingly
only first initials were usually written on that parole list, but there are two J.
Orr’s, an L. Knox and a hospital worker B. Russell. All were Louisianans
except one of the Orrs, a Tennessean officer. The only Dave Seats on muster
rolls anywhere was a Texan cavalryman who spent some of the first half of the
war in Louisiana. Knowing one name might be a coincidence or passed on
knowledge, but five?
Eventually a Louisiana veteran, Alfred Fuller was found who signed an
affidavit stating that he remembered Townsend and then he got his pension. 228
Alfred Fuller was not doing a favour for a similar favour in return, he was
already a well-known and established figure in veteran’s organisations.
Ibid, pp75-76.
Ibid, p76.
Serrano, pp 76-77.
Townsend’s 1863 Parole document. The muddled second initial does not match
the first as a W and could be a D. After surrendering there was no need for
pseudonyms. Townsend’s war record file contains several other such verified
documents. All of these verified primary source documents were referred to and
cited in an encyclopaedia entry, but Townsend was rejected as being one of the
last surviving veterans because he had “insufficient evidence.” More
“insufficient evidence” primary source documents are on the second last page
of his section
He would go on to be the last Division Commander of Louisiana’s United
Confederate Veterans and as Townsend was active in this organization, they
knew each other.229 While no “Gus” Cobb turned up in the records, the 26th
Herman Hattaway, “The United Confederate Veterans in Louisiana” in Louisiana History.
Quarterly of the Louisiana History Association Volume XVI. No 1. Winter 1975. p15 pp3536.
Louisiana had a first Lieutenant George Cobb and another Lieutenant Charles
Cobb was nearby in the Crescent Regiment, the same unit as L. Knox. Was Gus
a nickname? Townsend stated that Lieutenant Gus Cobb was of Lincoln Parrish
and commanded when Townsend was in battle at Natchez.230
The difference of the middle initial on his records looks suspicious – until
his muster roll record is read. It has a note, written by someone in the
Confederate army and reading like a tip off, which the Union provost general
was enquiring after a William D. Townsend. It may well have been that his
desperate parents contacted the Union officials about their runaway son.
The point about his age emerges as weak: the officials should have
looked in the archives. In a 1953 obituary article documents at the statehouse
that prove his 1846 birthday and his enlistment are referred to as valid. Photos
of him show a very tall man who could have passed for older than his age, as he
claimed. The earlier photo of the three veterans at Richmond in 1951 makes this
point. Townsend stands beside and much higher than Salling, himself taller than
average at six foot one. Townsend made no contradictory, outrageous or
unlikely claims and recalled prosaic details of army life such as standing guard
for thirty six hours and how eating mule meat seemed comparatively
scrumptious during Vicksburg’s siege.231 Like William J. Bush he talked of
wanting to leave, but stayed.232
With so many prisoners taken at Vicksburg Grant paroled them on their
word of honour not to re-join Confederate forces; many reneged, but Townsend,
did not; either because his injury was slow to heal, or from being fed up with
the war or from a sense of honour. Whatever his reasons, he kept his word. In
old age he said he could not remember taking the oath of allegiance to the
Union, but if he did so it was under duress.233 He became a farmer near Olla,
and by his own account he once rode with the Ku Klux Klan in the
Reconstruction Era.234 He admitted to not being reconciled to “the Yankees”
until the 1951 veteran’s reunion. In one of his last interviews he stated that he
saw the war as being caused by a personal power struggle between Lincoln and
Davis. More sensibly he soon added that the North should have bought the
slave’s freedom to avert the war, but although they could afford it, they would
not pay the cost.
Hoar, Vol. III p1696.
Serrano, p74.
Lewiston Evening Journal. previous citation.
He also said that Southern people saw slaves as an expensive investment
and were reluctant to part with them for nothing. He added that his family
owned forty four slaves. On another occasion he bluntly said that he enlisted
because he “didn’t want to see papa’s Negroes go free.”235
Like Albert Woolson and William Bush, family, music and veteran’s
affairs became big parts of his life; he was a popular figure playing at dances.236
Even after turning a hundred he would still visit hospitals to play tunes and to
give patients cheer.237
More primary source evidence exists for Townsend’s service than exists
for many accepted veterans, despite an encyclopaedia writing that he had
“insufficient evidence.” Despite some of his actions and opinions he should be
recognised for what he was. Those wishing to dismiss his claim and say that the
W. W. Townsend of the 1860s documents is a different person have a difficult
case to prove. From ample primary source evidence available he was the second
last living man who definitely fought for the Confederacy and the third last man
to definitely fight in the war. Few veterans have a single piece of evidence
beyond their name on a muster roll. He had five government verified documents
from the 1860s, the successful naming of five veterans and a testifying
creditable eyewitness. Unlike many veterans his health never waned in his final
weeks. He died less than an hour after being suddenly stricken on February 22 nd
1953, only eighteen days before James Hard, the Union’s last fighting soldier.
Hard is widely but incorrectly considered the last man to fight in the Civil War.
A rebel outlived him by three months.
Anon. Statesville Daily Record. 23rd December 1952. p18; Esthman Newman, “State’s
Sole Confederate Veteran Marks his 104th Birthday at Olla.” The Shreveport Times. Sunday
16th April 1950.
Serrano, p74; Eric C. Brock. “Shreveport’s Last Four Confederates.” 1950s newspaper
clipping. Identification details not included. previous Townsend citation.
Serrano, p74; Hoar, Vol. III p1699. Photographic evidence and caption. Townsend plays
the violin for an audience of veterans in a Shreveport hospital.
Townsend’s enlistment, his sickness cerificate and his listing as a
prisoner of war
James Albert Hard
Result: His Union Service is verified √
Date of Birth: July 15th 1841 or perhaps 1842 or 1845. This is uncertain
as census and enlistment dates contradict.
Date of Death: 12th March 1953.
Age at enlistment: given as nineteen but possibly younger.
Rank: Private.
Unit: 37th New York Volunteers. Company K and E.
Service: Infantry.
Combat Experience: extensive, from early in the war till Chancellorsville.
Length of service: April 1861 to June 1863.
Evidence of Service apart from his own accounts. He is listed in Official
Records and in his unit’s muster roll. He had a sickness furlough recorded in
late 1862. He went on to hold high office in the Union veteran’s association, the
Grand Army of the Republic.
James A. Hard: from soldier to railway construction to notary to retiree and
By his own account given in old age James Albert Hard was an upstate
New York farmer’s son who worked from the age of five onwards.238 He would
rise at four and work till nine at night – and then study by lamplight. The second
eldest of four, he would sometimes be hired out to labour for other farmers and
his father kept the wages. This life was strong on self – sufficiency and simple
Much of this account of Hard’s life comes from the segment on him in Jay S. Hoar’s
second volume of The Boys in Blue pp872-880. Professor Hoar bases much of his segment on
1950 interviews with Hard, conducted, written and edited by Andrew D. Wolfe. These were
published by the Rochester Historical Society. Another major source were Hard’s
descendants who sent very detailed accounts and recollections to Professor Hoar.
pleasures and simply made, clear decisions. Hard recalled how he enlisted:
“One day a wagon – load of fellows came by noisily and I asked what the racket
was about. ‘The President wants volunteers and we’re enlisting.’ I joined them
and we all went to Dryden in Tompkins County and enlisted Apr. 18th 1861 for
two years.”239
Herd’s record has the usual problems with age/census/ enlistment
verification and contradictions. Several sources give his birthdate as 1841, but
three census statements give 1842 and 1843. He claimed to be nineteen when he
enlisted four days after Fort Sumter fell, but may have been seventeen. He also
claimed to have met Lincoln at a White House reception.240 Accessibility to
Lincoln by ordinary citizens was extremely open.241 Even so, this sounds odd
for one of the millions of privates like Hard who came from an undistinguished
family. He was at both the Bull Run battles, but saw only some fighting towards
the end at both.242 He also fought in much of the 1862 Peninsula Campaign,
including two of its toughest battles, Gaines Mill and Malvern Hill. For his unit
the little known battle at Etham’s Landing was the toughest. He was also in the
Battle of South Mountain, then Antietam. At the latter he was lucky to survive,
a bullet going through his coat.243 He also fought in two parts of the
Chancellorsville battle, Second Fredericksburg and Salem Church. His obituary
and some accounts state he was at the battle of Fredericksburg, but these
accounts probably confuse the second battle of Fredericksburg in May 1863
with the better known first battle in December 1862. Writer David George
Martin states that he was on sick leave from October 29th 1862 until the year’s
end.244 His two year enlistment expired and he left the army on June 9th 1863.245
He was a man of the most extraordinary luck, never being wounded despite
being in some of the war’s toughest battles and missing both Fredericksburg and
Gettysburg by fortuitous circumstances.
After his discharge he worked for the army in railway construction until
March 1865. During this time he worked at rebuilding bridges destroyed by the
rebels in Virginia, Tennessee and Georgia. Several times he was “close to the
Ibid, p873.
Unsigned Obituary, ‘Hard Oldest Veteran, Dies at 111; He Spent Boyhood in Windsor’
Binghamton Press Fri. March 13th 1953 p12. ; Hoar Vol II, quoting Hard, p873.
David Herbert Donald, Lincoln. London; Jonathan Cape, 1995. p311.
David George Martin, Second Bull Run Campaign July-August 1862 .Google Books n.d.
p250 http:/ EC&PG
Hoar, Vol. II, quoting Hard, p873.
fighting” and was also in Nashville when it was besieged in late 1864.246 He
then worked for himself in railway construction in the west for several years,
bluntly saying that he was working to make money fast. He married in 1868 but
was left a widower twelve years later. He remarried in 1884 and survived his
second wife and his only child, a daughter who died in 1948. He studied and
became a successful notary in Rochester concerned with pensions, particularly
Civil War pensions. He was a familiar figure as grand marshal of the veteran’s
parades there. He never really retired from involvement in veteran’s
organisations, despite blindness hitting in his last years. As one of the last
veterans he did give some interviews and attended public events, but apparently
avoided the fuss made over his Southern counterparts.247
James Albert Hard would have worn a Union Infantryman’s uniform like this.
Binghamton Press; Martin, p250.
William Albert Kinney aka William A. Kiney
Result: His wartime service is verified√
Date of Birth: 10th February 1846 is most likely. Although the same day
and month in 1843, 1845 or 1861 are sometimes credited. About 1848 and 1864
are also mentioned, but cannot be.
Date of Death: 23rd June 1953.
Age at enlistment: not totally certain, but very probably fifteen.
Rank: Private.
Unit: Company G 5th Kentucky Mounted Infantry and 2nd Kentucky
Cavalry Company D (claimed by others, no documentation evident) and 10 th
Kentucky Cavalry Company L. from November 1863.
Service: Mounted Infantry and Cavalry.
Combat Experience: Extensive. He claimed service at Shiloh. The 5th and
2 Kentucky Cavalry was heavily involved in Morgan’s raids and the war in the
western theatre. The 10th focused on raiding in Kentucky. He claimed to have
“fout nigh the whole wahwa.”
Length of service: uncertain: enlisted 1st -5th November 1861 for a year.
He was at least fighting until after Shiloh in April 1862 and (as above) claimed
to have been in most of the war. His second enlistment in November 1863 bears
this out.
In Professor Jay S. Hoar’s massive and comprehensive account of the last
Confederate veterans The South’s Last Boys in Gray: An Epic Prose Elegy.
Volume III (2010) he proved with irrefutable evidence that Kiney was the last
fully verifiable combat veteran of the Civil War, and yet this gained little
recognition. This writer’s segment here only adds similar primary source
evidence to what Professor Hoar found four years before this work began.
Professor Jay S. Hoar has found, compiled, published and explained
much about Kiney. My responsibility for finding sources here includes all the
census documents except that of 1850, the work record of the ash felt worker,
comments on the 1920 marriage certificate, Official Records and 10th Kentucky
Cavalry document and history, the work on Morgan’s Raiders and on Little Big
Man and the illustrations and captions. All the other evidence presented here
comes from Professor Hoar’s entry ‘William Albert Kiney Feb.10th 1846 - June
23rd 1953.’ (pages 1700-1703) The mentioned possibilities are my conclusions.
William A. Kiney initially seems a fraud and for decades that has been
the way he has been treated. The case against him initially seems irrefutable, but
has been re-examined with crucial evidence against him now irrefutably
disproved. This writer, initially sceptical about Kiney, found that the censuses,
seemingly the source of almost all the evidence against Kiney, help prove his
To present the case for fakery first:
Summary: Several state that William A. Kiney faked Confederate service to get
the Confederate pension. He claimed to be born on February 10 th 1843 but he
was really born on February 10th 1861 because two censuses, those of 1900 and
1920 show him living in Louisville and his given age being 59. The census
estimates that he was born in about 1861. A March 1920 marriage certificate for
William A. Kiney shows him living in Indianapolis and somebody wrote on it
that he was born on February 10th 1861. The birthday gives away the connection
and shows that they are the same man: therefore this faker has been disproved
by three different primary source documents. None of this has been
systematically questioned.
It is if only one man named William A. Kiney, William A. Kinney,
William Kiney or William Kinney existed in Indiana and Kentucky during
Kiney’s lifetime. In fact the 1880 census just for Kentucky alone shows that
there were at least eleven born with one of these names between the 1830s and
the 1870s. Adding those born with the same name from later censuses who
claimed to be born within that same time frame gives a very conservative
estimate of at least thirty-three men. This applies only to those resident in
Indiana and Kentucky.
Nobody ever searches for evidence of the much mentioned but nonexistent pension claim that supplies the motive for fraud. Nobody examines the
1920 wedding documents in detail. No mention ever appears of the strong and
clear proof in two consecutive censuses showing him as born in the middle of
the 1840s, or his two enlistment documents or all the links that show that the
man who died in June 1953 was a Confederate veteran. Cynics repeat the
evidence for fraud but rarely examine, let alone question the documents: they
Evidence against service in detail:
As mentioned, somebody named William A. Kiney of Indianapolis when
filling out his marriage certificate, gave his birth date as February 10th 1861.248
Detractors have reproduced other information from these 1920 marriage
records. These give Kiney’s age as 56, his birth year as 1864 and his birthplace
as England. Oddly, amongst the evidence Professor Hoar gives is the fact that
Kiney told his granddaughter that he was born in America but conceived in
Apart from this apparently damning evidence another problem is that he
is a difficult man to trace. He may have filled out a census in 1870. If he did it
As the major website concerning this information is no longer easily available this writer
is unable to contact the writer for permission. The records do bear out what is said. Similar
information is also included in ‘Fake and Exaggerated Claims’ (October 2009) www.grg
org/Adams g2 filestab strip.
was his only findable one after childhood. One photo and one newspaper story
are all that can be said to exist with certainty on the internet. Several men with
slight variations of his name were born in the 1840s in the upper south. Several
others migrated from England and Ireland, settling in the mid-west. Official
Records lists thirteen Confederates with names that are variations of William
Kinney and another is William A.C. Kinney, but none are in the 2nd Kentucky
Cavalry. One of these (as matching evidence proves) is William Albert Kiney of
the 5th Kentucky Cavalry. Apart from Company F, a group of mostly
Mississippians who kept “skimpy records” the 2nd Kentucky are believed to
have had no muster roll.249 Kiney’s name does not appear on that company’s
roll. So where does that precise information on the tombstone come from?
Assessing the evidence: Dismissing him seems reasonable, and many
have. Before doing so consider the duplications in nomenclature and the long
coincidences given so far on others. If these factors work against verification
with Ross, they work against debunking with Kiney/Kinney. After a platoon of
forty named Thomas Ross, four of them being Kentucky cavalrymen, after all
the different men who were all Private William M. Loudermilk, two of them
Confederate infantry privates with the same middle name and both from
Cherokee County; after all the Georgians entitled William J. Bush, after two
Confederate Texans being Thomas E. Riddle bearing some physical
resemblance, after two couples George and Elizabeth Murray, both in
Charleston and after the Witkoski/Witkowski/Mitoski chaos, dismissal on
similar nomenclature cannot be easily done. We must consider that the Kinney
born in 1861 was someone else or a red herring, but was not the Kentucky
cavalryman born in the 1840s.
Another consideration is that Kiney, far from forging evidence to make
himself seem a Confederate, may well have left a false trail with his enlistment
age, his later birthdate and changing the spelling of his name. While honest, he
had plausible and traceable reasons for not wanting public attention. Those
reasons will be assessed in his war service record.
Evidence for service:
Once again one census contradicts another. The censuses reveal more to
suggest different identities and that the 1861 date is wrong. The 1850 census has
a William A. Kinney living in Bracken County Kentucky, aged four. His
parents are listed as Isaac and Jane in the census and they also appear by those
Unsigned, Cover note to the 2nd Kentucky Cavalry CSA. Website.; Company F is dealt
with in detail by Jim Power The Iron Man and the Mississippi Raiders. n.p. Author House,
2009. The quote comes from p163.
names as his parents in a 1991 letter to Professor Hoar by William Kinney’s
granddaughter. She had heard their names in Kiney’s reminiscences and
apparently did not refer to, or perhaps did not even know of the 1850 census.
This makes this clearly the same man.
The 1850 census also names a twin or adopted sister Melisa and six
others. In the 1860 census this Kiney family are located in the town of Moultrie,
Missouri. They are clearly the same family as that of the 1860 census as Jane
and Isaac are the parents. Some of the older children have gone and three born
since the 1850 census are added, but William A. Kiney and Melisa are still
there, although her name is now spelled Mallissa and their sister, initially named
Milden aged 10 in 1850 is (apparently? perhaps?) Milley aged 12 in 1860!
Typical census! William A. is now aged twelve as he is now supposedly born
about 1848. Despite the usual census errors with ages and spelling this is clearly
the same family.
In that same 1860 census, a different Kinney family, from Ireland, reside
in Henderson Kentucky. The parents are William R. and Fanny and they have
two children Willis J., and Wm. A. This boy was born about a month before the
census was taken on June 4. The 1860 census alone shows that they can only be
two different people and the different names of both sets of parents makes their
movements and careers unambiguous and to some extent, traceable.
This Irish Kinney family excepting Willis, turn up in Louisville in the
1910 census. The names are the same and as is usual in censuses, the ages do
not quite match. The parents being 24 and 25 in 1860 and both are 71 in 1910,
but they are still from Ireland and a William A. is on the same page but with
other families interposed between him and his perhaps/probable parents. The
problem here is that his age is 39, so his birth year is 1871, and this birth year
for him is repeated in the 1930 census, with his parents now from Kentucky. Is
he their son or is the bachelor lodger, born in about 1861 their son? Are they the
same man?
The censuses of the bachelor who lived in Louisville had his parents from
Kentucky in one document and one from Kentucky and one from Virginia in
another. Did he mean where they were living when he was born? Kiney said his
parents migrated from England. Recent computerised census comments state
that the Louisville man was also known as William Spivey and also as William
Kumey. After seeing the cramped, tiny handwriting these may not really be
aliases, just difficult to decipher handwriting. In 1900 he listed his occupation
as a farmer: Kiney never claimed to be a farmer. Why should a farmer
continually live in a boarding house for decades? While Kiney’s detractors do
not mention it, the Louisville lodger also was in the 1910 and 1930 censuses. In
all four, from 1900 to 1930 he was a Louisville lodger, a bachelor born about
1861. His last listed occupation was in 1920 and 1930, running a picture show.
For three decades he apparently lived and worked in Louisville, while Kiney
lived and worked in Indianapolis from 1870 until his retirement in the 1940s.
He is not known to have returned to Kentucky even briefly, let alone for the
long periods of time needed to farm or run a picture show. In contrast to the
Louisville Kinney being a bachelor for decades, Professor Hoar states that the
Indianapolis Kiney was married four times. As his son Wallace was born in
Iowa in January 1898, he was probably married when the Louisville namesake
was still a bachelor. To this writer the issue of a possible marriage in 1920 that
shows his supposed real age is a red herring, but as it is often used to clearly
disprove his record, it must be assessed.
What remains unclear is that the man who said he was a Confederate
veteran is the man with the same name who married in March 1920. Because
this marriage has someone named William A. Kiney stating that he was born on
February 10th 1861, this supposedly proves that he did not fight in the Civil
War. Even accepting that this groom is Kiney, all that this definitely proves is
that at the most, he did not tell the truth on a marriage certificate. His enlistment
documents and census references prove that like David Story and William
Townsend, like thousands of others he altered his age upon enlistment. Mayer,
Woolson, William Allen Magee and Bush all said things that cannot be so, yet
all these individuals had enough evidence for verification: so does Kiney.
While one of Kiney’s marriages was perhaps in March 1920 and another
did come after that, in 1942, he was also a married man in 1932 and probably
married during the time between the censuses of 1900 and 1930. In the
information Professor Hoar has collected he seems to have lived regularly in
Indianapolis, apart from visiting family members in Chicago and being in Iowa
in 1898. Apart from the name and the 1920 marriage birthdate matching his, all
evidence known of at this point clearly proves that the man in Louisville who is
supposedly the Confederate faker must be someone else.
Even after stating that, the balance of evidence goes against this 1920
groom being the Civil War veteran. Apart from their errors with birth dates and
spellings, the marriage documents do reveal several big and insurmountable
differences that block concluding that they are the same man.250 If he told his
The marriage documents for both William A. Kiney and Pauline Dinkins are findable
through Ancestry .com by using their full names the date 11th March 1920 and the keyword
granddaughter that his parents were named Isaac and Jane, if descendants say
that and the 1850 and 1860 censuses record the same, why are the groom’s
parents listed as Mary and G.W. Kiney on the marriage certificate documents?
Is this the Confederate Kiney in 1925, the man who married Pauline
Dinkins or one of Indianapolis’s many other William Kineys?
Was this the man from Louisville marrying in Indianapolis? This already
appears unlikely as the parents’ names are different from his as well. What
becomes even more unlikely is that the groom is either man when more
evidence becomes assessed. In three marriage documents connected to the bride
Pauline Dinkins, she is given a wide range of ages from 56 to 59 and her name
is misspelled. So how reliable is the groom’s given and differing ages? 1861 or
1864? The documents give us a choice. As mentioned, documents state that the
groom was born in England in 1864 when strong evidence shows that W.A.
Kiney was born in Kentucky and was an enlisted cavalryman in 1864.
The first reaction to the different names of the groom’s parents from the
names of both the Louisville namesake and the Indianapolis Kiney was ‘Why
would one of them create fictional parents?’ But they were not. The marriage
documents show that these parents of the groom were actual people. They are
listed as residents in the same house as the bride and groom. Coaxing or hiring
people to pretend to be his parents, in some connection to an approaching
wedding, combined with lying about his birthdate and pretending to be English
would be far-fetched. This scenario should be filmed from a particularly
preposterous locale in sit–com land.
Although the birthdate of February 10th is initially only a one in 365
chance of being coincidence and goes into much higher odds as they are in the
same city, coincidence becomes the most plausible explanation after assessing
the evidence which is contradictory, strange, mistaken, erroneous and
sometimes impossible. Coincidence becomes more plausible when the number
of men named William A. Kinney or Kiney or William Kenney are found in
Indianapolis, elsewhere in Indiana and in Kentucky. This writer limited himself
to those with the first name William without an initial or having the initial A
and did not accept those with birthdates below 1857 or over 1875. One who
had the 1861 birth year was accepted for this examination with the surname
Kine. Only a few were surnamed Kenney and those included were listed
because they had some reason that increased their chances of being the man,
such as being born in 1861 or being a resident of Indianapolis in the 1920s. I
only trawled through the first 500 Indiana or Kentucky located men named
Kiney/Kinney/Kenny on the web and found among them thirty-three who could
be Kiney within these limitations. Only a few had wives alive during Pauline
Dinkins known marriage years of 1920-1940, but the rest were eligible with the
largest cluster of birth dates were between 1860 and 1864 and the largest
grouping was in Indianapolis.
The ash felt worker and the Louisville lodger were each listed only once
although they were listed several times in records. Those who wish to lengthen
the odds further and have time to trawl through around half a million listings of
Kinneys/Kineys/ Kenneys and related names are welcome.
One of the most enigmatic among those who might be Kiney also listed
his birthdate as February 10th but in 1864, not 1861. Employment records from
1925 of this other William A. Kiney of Indianapolis show a man working for
the asphalt plant and street repair department. This sounds like the English
groom, but as the records show, this man claimed to be born in Kentucky.
Another or the same man with the name, who was working in Kentucky as a
labourer with tobacco, was born in 1864. This could also be the groom and/or
the city road worker Kiney. The photo comparison goes against the idea that
this is the Confederate veteran, but that this is the man remains a thin
possibility. Ultimately the photographic evidence must be considered
inconclusive. W. A Kiney (1846-1953) the veteran was known to change his
age for enlistment, so perhaps he changed it to gain employment.
On the right is perhaps the only known photograph of William Albert
Kinney 1846-1953. This dates from 1952. This was given to Professor Hoar by
Kiney’s relatives and used here with his permission. On the left is a photograph
probably dating from 1925 of an Indianapolis street repair worker definitely
named William A. Kiney. The photographs are taken twenty seven years or
more apart: are they of the same man? Almost certainly not. Their hair and
moustaches are different, the man on the left has hair that looks more bristly
while the other has soft looking hair. Their ears look different, one has rounded
ears, one pointed. Their moustaches shape very differently. In the 1925 photo
the man has a widow’s peak and receding hair, while the man on the right has a
straighter fuller hairline. Hair rarely grows back. Even so the faces are slightly
similar. The beard could hide what might be an age line but looks like a knife
scar, perhaps a battle scar, on the younger man’s cheek.
His true age would have meant at the best, employment for less than a
year as seventy was the usual age for retiring government employees. Was he
found out and sacked? His employment badge was redeemed within weeks.
This is the evidence against his military record. What is in his favour? A good
deal and the evidence is much less convoluted and ambiguous.
The story of his enlistment is familiar: being under-aged, he added the
needed years. He was really only fifteen when he was accepted for enlistment
on November 5th 1861, supposedly aged eighteen. This would later cause
confusion over his real age, getting the mistaken 1843 date into some records.
His enlistment was at Pound Gap Virginia and into Company G, Fifth Mounted
Infantry captained by James M. Carey with his enlisting officer being
Lieutenant R.B. Thomas. As Professor Hoar notes, copies of these enlistment
papers have been kept by Kiney’s descendants and the enlistment is also printed
up in Kentucky Adjutant General’s Report – Confederate Volunteers 1861-1865
Vol. 1. 251 Kinney’s enlistment appears listed here on page 254 under number
80. In the Official Records in computerised form he is listed as ‘Kinney,
William. 5th Regiment, Kentucky Mounted Infantry.’ As two others surnamed
Kinney, Henry and Juo W. enlisted in the same company on the same day he
was obviously staying close to his male family members. His first battle was
probably just three days after being accepted, for the regiment was in the battle
of Ivy Creek on November 8th 1861. This regiment was recruited in the
mountains of eastern Kentucky and South-West Virginia, where slavery was
rare and the isolated local people were fiercely independent and suspicious of
the federal government and Abolitionists.252 These characteristics would lead to
a mutiny and a disbanding of the regiment in October 1862, when the troopers
refused to retreat from Kentucky with Bragg’s Army, so the unit was
disbanded.253 Their commander gave them a three way choice, honourable
discharge, joining another cavalry unit or re-joining a reformed 5th Regimental
Between the disbanding of this 5th regiment and November 1863 Kiney’s
whereabouts and service seem unknown. This period could be when he served
in the Second Kentucky Cavalry before transferring, for a regimental muster roll
shows that on November 18th 1863 he enlisted in Company L of the 10th
Kentucky Cavalry as William A. Kiney, interestingly without a designated
rank.255 This unit had been formed in late 1862 and early 1863 by officers
wishing to keep the Confederate presence in Kentucky alive.256 They were
nominally still part of Morgan’s cavalry division, but distance and enemy units
Linda Anderson, Cover Letter of December 6th 1982 sent to Professor Hoar and an
attached photocopy of the Company G roll with Kiney’s name listed in alphabetical order.
John B. Wells III & Jim Pritchard, The 10th Kentucky Cavalry CSA: The Yankee Chasers.
Gateway Press, 1996. This source note is from a computerised excerpt without page numbers.
‘The 5th Kentucky Cavalry.’ Wikipedia
Muster Roll of Diamond’s 10th Kentucky Cavalry CSA. 10th
Ky.html. This computerised version is also taken from the book The 10th Kentucky Cavalry
CSA.: The Yankee Chasers.
Wells & Pritchard, previous citation.
would have separated them from regular communication. They fought on by
raids and skirmishes until disbanding in April 1865.
In a rare or perhaps unprecedented discussion on his war experiences in a
1952 interview he stated that he could not remember much about the war,
especially units and their details, but he recalled he was in the Kentucky
cavalry. This could easily be forgetfulness after seventy years, but it could also
not wanting to remember horrible realities – or have his role in them known,
even ninety years on.
With recent attitudes being like this, how would Confederate raiders been
treated in Kentucky after the Civil War?
Even by Civil War standards. Kentucky during the Civil War was
savaged by both sides and by bandits with tenuous ties to either side, if that.
Some of these units were outlaw gangs who would attack anyone who came in
range: even Morgan’s Raiders suffered their sniping and hit and run attacks in
the Cumberland Mountains.257 The gangs there considered “normal business” to
be theft, rape and murder.258 Some gangs even contained deserters from both
sides.259 Much of Tennessee and much of Kentucky during the war were a
paradise for psychopaths, firebugs, sadists and marauders eager to live by
William R. Brooksher & David K. Snider, Glory at a Gallop: Tales of Confederate
Washington: Brassey’s, 1993. p20.
Bryan S. Bush, “Guerrilla Warfare in Kentucky.” Bryan S. Bush Books A website. articles & layer a0807
plunder.260 Conditions were so bad in Tennessee that by early 1864 even Nathan
Bedford Forrest complained of murder, torture, extortion rackets, and wanton
destruction; his report focussed on the Union and also Confederate deserters,
both of whom he tried to subdue.261
Those forces supposedly committed to protecting Kentucky, both the
predominantly Union aligned Home Guards and the predominantly Confederate
State militia, were among the worst marauders.262 Confederate guerrillas
prowled the roads looking for civilians to plunder and unarmed civilians would
sometimes be summarily executed for suspicion of loyalty to the other side:
armed civilians could be killed for possessing weapons.263 This was in a land
where many males used hunting to eke out food supplies.
Morgan himself and his deputy, friend, brother in law and eventual
successor, Basil Duke, were not like this. Duke warned the notorious Champ
Ferguson against killing prisoners and Morgan gave orders not to violate private
property.264 When an enemy commander, a childhood friend who had
surrendered was held accountable for Morgan’s brother’s death, the punishment
Morgan gave was that the Union officer had to inform Morgan’s mother of her
son’s death.265
Their troops however, were not necessarily the same as their
They disobeyed Morgan’s restrictions on plundering private property.266 While
not as psychopathically murderous as the worst gangs, Morgan’s raiders were
involved in massive destruction, which in the Indiana town of Corydon alone
totalled over half a million dollars in 1860s values. 267 The same value was
placed on plundered supplies at Tompkinsville, there they took four hundred
prisoners, twenty wagons, fifty mules and rifles for all.268 They also sometimes
took ransoms and inflicted some loss of civilian life.269 One eyewitness to that
raid stated that they killed three civilian men defending their homes and she
Bush previous citation; Paul Ashdown & Edward Gaudill, The Myth of Nathan Bedford
Forrest. 2005. Lanham, Maryland; Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc., 2006. p48.
Ashdown and Gaudill, p48.
Bush, previous citation.
Brooksher & Snider, pp24-25.
Zuzanna Balewski and Maya Fraser, “The Invasion of Indiana: Morgan’s Raid and the
Battle of Corydon.” Moment of Indiana History (sic) posted 2nd August 2010.
Brooksher & Snider, p23.
Zuzanna Balewski and Maya Fraser.
then described them as “a herd of horse thieves.”270 They also had an
impromptu extortion racket going where buildings would not be destroyed upon
payment of a substantial fee.271
A contemporary Union account describes their activities thus:
The lower counties of Kentucky suffered chiefly from their ravages.
Property was stolen, outrages of every sort were not infrequently
perpetrated upon Union citizens, bridges were burned, and even the
friends of the Confederacy did not escape the lust of these desperadoes
for plunder. The most successful of these expeditions was one undertaken
by John Morgan, the most noted guerrilla leader of the war.
Harper’s Weekly p307.
This is not an exaggeration. Morgan’s great raid left the following casualties
and damage and destruction:
34 bridges destroyed.
60 railway locations destroyed.
Assorted warehouses trains, factories, boats, depots, wagons, destroyed.
6,000 Union prisoners were taken and 127,000 militia were mustered to
deal with the raid.
Most cyclones are less destructive. Indianapolis during Morgan’s 1863
raid was a centre of resistance: church and fire bells were incessant, while home
guards frenziedly prepared as Morgan was expected to raid the city to free its
Confederate prisoners.272 Clearly causing panic, devastation and misery in 1863
meant that former raiders would not be welcome there.
Courage, dash, élan, audacity and stoic loyalty to a losing cause were
among the qualities many Kentucky cavalrymen clearly possessed. However
their capacity for destruction, havoc, ferocity, cruelty and ruthlessness were
equally common. Mercy, forbearance, and justice were rarely evident. What
role Kiney had in this horrible world remains unclear. Both the Second
Kentucky Cavalry and the reformed Fifth were in Morgan’s raid on Indiana.273
Quoted from an 1863 letter by Altia Porter, “A Young Girls Brush With The Civil War.”
By the staff of the Indiana Museum. Moment of Indiana History (sic) posted 14th November
“In Morgan’s Wake Without a Break.” By the staff of the Indiana Museum. Moment of
Indiana History (sic) posted April 29th 2013.; Brooksher & Snider, p162.
Brooksher & Snider, p162-163.
Ibid, p20, pp157-158.
This 1863 Union newspaper illustration gives a vivid idea of Morgan’s
devastation in Salem, Indiana
The reality of raiding. The raiders mentioned here were commanded by Captain
Taylor. A man of that name and rank was one of Morgan’s Raiders. In other
accounts of this incident nearly thirty black soldiers were killed and only their
white Commander and two Blacks escaped by hiding.
While it is possible that Kiney was absent, being on furlough, suffering sickness
or between enlistments during the raid, it is more likely that he was there.
From around 1870 on he worked in the Indianapolis railways, where
militiamen who had been mustered to deal with Morgan’s raid also worked. Is it
likely that he would have deliberately made enemies in his workplace by
revealing his past? Either as participant or eyewitness he had good reasons for
letting all this pass. Just to be enlisted in a rebel Kentucky Cavalry unit would
have been enough to cause hostility, regardless of individual actions. Whatever
he did do, he did not lie about it or brag. Finally in 1952 Kiney did state his
involvement but did not mention Morgan’s Raiders. This legendary unit was
akin to the units of Mosby and Quantrill to many, all were essentially bandits.
Admitting being one of them would have sounded a tall story or if believed,
would have caused hostility.
Is this why Kiney said little about the war before 1952 and perhaps
changed his birth year and surname? Much of his life after the war remains little
known. He apparently did not fill out censuses, have photographs taken, attend
reunions and may not be in street directories. Even his marriages are difficult to
trace. In March 1867 a William A. Kiney married in the town of Reynolds,
Kentucky. In 1870 this man or another of that name aged twenty-five filled out
a census in Kentucky, naming a wife and two baby children. At the recalled age
of twenty nine in that same year Kiney moved to Indianapolis and seems to
have stayed there. He worked at different jobs, with the railways for twenty
years, then as a saddle maker and also as a cabinet maker. In old age with his
wife they ran a city newspaper stand.
A dramatic moment came into his now prosaic life when he was involved
in transporting equipment by rail from Indianapolis to fight Chicago’s great fire
of 1871. Family members recalled how his recounting details of this matched
information revealed many years later in the media. His story here has no
motivation, no gain for fabrication. Why would he lie about this to his family?
For those who believe the 1860s birthdates, this presents a problem. Boys aged
seven to ten do not work on trains in emergency situations. They do not rush to
travel hundreds of miles away from parents and home. They are very rarely
employed in government departments.
He married four times, having several children. Two, perhaps three of the
wives names are known, but not Pauline Dinkins. His last marriage was at the
age of 96! After his last wife’s death in the summer of 1951 he went into a
home where he was popular. He liked playing dominoes, card games and
attending Bible study.
Nearly two years later he suffered broken bones in a fall, dying on June
23 1953 and was buried two days later. In Thomas Berger’s 1964 novel Little
Big Man these are the exact dates and the exact year that Jack Crabb, a 111 year
old Indian fighter originally from Indiana, now existing in an old people’s
home, dies. This writer was actually planning a clarifying letter on this matter to
Thomas Berger when news of the novelist’s death appeared. Whatever the
origins of his idea, it is now lost.
Although he is a Wild West character, Crabb expresses hostility to the
Union cavalry. Like Kiney, Crabb also outlived four wives. Like Kiney, Crabb
has a credibility problem in verifying his long distant and violent past during
interviews in an old people’s home. Real life inspiration? Art imitating life? As
coincidence this would have to be in the millions to one. Like the 1920 marriage
information this is a point to investigate even if the fictional Crabb, lecherous,
bloodthirsty and cynical in old age, appears as the opposite to Kiney. Hoar’s
work shows that that Kiney’s death and funeral happened on the days given
here, eleven years before the novel was published. The reproduced death
certificate and the reproduced funeral director’s letter means there can be no
doubt on this.
It has been alleged that Kiney was a fraud trying for the Confederate
pension, but although he knew of that pension, he did not apply. In the 1952
interview he explained that Kentucky only paid pensions to its residents and he
was not moving back there. He did not publicise or deny his Civil War service,
gain any known aid from the Southern charities that cared for veterans or get
himself feted by assorted organisations. A polite, modest and quiet man with no
taste for attention, he had no motive for pretending to be a Confederate.
To be a fake he would have had to fake the 1850 and 1860 censuses and
two separate enlistment documents. Forgeries do not easily get into Adjutant’s
records, muster rolls and into America’s Official Records. Supposing that
somehow this happened or somehow identity theft occurred, why someone who
was not odd, did not want government money, attention or aid should put them
there or thieve another’s identity becomes an implausible puzzle. Assuming
they did manage that, or knew of them and pretended to be this person, why
then insist on being born in 1861 or 1864 on other official records? Doing this
would clearly make Kiney seem a fraudulent liar, a lunatic or a fool. In the
recollections of his granddaughter he casually recalled seeing soldiers march off
to war in 1861. Why lie to her? If he was Dinkin’s groom or the ash felt worker
did he want to seem younger to his bride or his employers than he was?
The odd answer to this odd puzzle may well be the third possibility raised
earlier in this segment: reversing exactly what those believing the 1861/1864
dates thought: Kiney may have been a genuine veteran trying to avoid
confirmation of that fact. Giving a birth year that precluded him from being in
the war would obviously do that. This may also be why he changed the spelling
of his name. Why hide?
Morgan’s raiders were legendary heroes in the South, but they were
obviously seen as something very different in the North and Kiney was living in
the North. Did he deliberately give a birth date that would preclude Civil War
service and hence avoid ostracism? Did he change his name to avoid detection
and live in a Northern state and avoid veteran’s organisations for the same
reason? Or did he find himself in a northern state for other reasons, but came to
the same attitude? A raider who perhaps killed, stole or destroyed among
civilians would be treated differently to a regular army soldier who fought
against other soldiers.
During the war in Kentucky enemy combatants were given two
categories, Confederates and guerrillas. The latter were considered outlaws who
could be executed and at least three were, two of them months after the war.274
One of these raiders, Champ Ferguson, admitted to assorted atrocities and
killings, but said everybody did this.275 Another, John M. Bradley, only escaped
execution by killing his sleeping guard and escaping.276 He also avoided later
publicity. When Morgan and hundreds of his men were captured, they were
jailed, not sent to a prisoner’s camp. Even being a regular Confederate did not
guarantee regular treatment if caught. In 1863 it was reported as far away as
Virginia that Confederate officers had been hanged by General Burnside for
merely trying to recruit in Kentucky.277 While this does not sound like the usual
image of Burnside, Confederates believed it. In 1863 did Kiney get a taste of
jail experiences he never wanted repeated? Or did he hear of what had happened
to his compatriots? Things that he would never want to happen to him? Raiders
were likely to face retribution in some form: execution, vigilante justice, legal
prosecution, compensation payouts or ostracism were all possibilities. Captain
Clarke’s trial served as a warning for others and hardly inspired confidence in
Unsigned web contributions from Executed Today.
Hoar, Vol. III p1621.
John B. Jones, p265.
Kentucky’s justice towards Confederates. Clarke was not allowed defence
witnesses, his rank as a Confederate officer was ignored, the gallows were being
built while the trial proceeded and no appeal was allowed.278
Like many soldiers did Kiney become disillusioned with the military
world, or the Confederacy? Or was it that just he disliked feeling guilt and stress
when asked about horrors he preferred to forget? Is this why he left Kentucky,
apparently to never return? Kentucky was predominantly Union and
Reconstruction Era life there would have been difficult for a man seen as an
enemy causing death and devastation. In Indiana he could make a new start,
keep quiet about the war and be unknown, especially with a new surname, and
the new birth date year of 1861 or 1864 would disconnect him from the war.
Captain Clarke, a Confederate officer in Morgan’s Command was
hanged as an outlaw. This poster suggests that Morgan and his raiders were
seen more as outlaws than soldiers, a good reason never to be identified with
Even these possibilities are just that. Ironically among the many claiming
to be the last Civil War combatant, the last adult who probably was that did not
want the title or the attention. Unlike those who lived after him he had the
required enlistment evidence to prove that he was the last confirmed combatant
Unsigned web contributions from Executed Today.
A coat of the 2nd and the 8th Kentucky Cavalry
Morgan’s Raiders: The life of a Kentucky Cavalrymn
Two portraits of John Hunt Morgan. His charisma, calmness, dash and selfconfidence are evident. His receding hairline is not
Hunt was the official leader of Morgan’s Cavalry from early in the war until his
death by shooting in September 1864. His successor was his brother in law
Basil Duke. Both men had trouble controlling their troops.
Basil Duke
A portrait of a Kentucky Confederate. The southerners usually had weapons
prominently displayed in their portraits and warlike expressions are much more
common than smiles.
The Second Kentucky Cavalry original flag is reproduced below. A modern
replica of the Fifth Kentucky Volunteer Infantry, who became mounted infantry
is above. They kept their battle flag design close to the Confederate national
flag rather than the stars and bars. This state contributed many cavalry
regiments to both sides.
This uniform is for the enlisted men in the
9 Kentucky Infantry, but Kiney would have worn a similar or perhaps identical
uniform in the Kentucky Cavalry.
A Confederate Cavalryman’s kit. Note the pliers, probably for reshoeing the
A recreation that must be very close to the reality of an 1862 incident. “Raiding
the L & N” by John Paul Stain. Morgan is in the foreground. This painting
captures the heroic part of Morgan’s raiders, but there was a more sordid side.
‘Confederate Cavalry in the Mountains 1863’ No artist credited.
A 2nd Kentucky cavalryman Some of his equipment would be like this.
A portrayal of the 10th Kentucky which captures their heroic image and élan.
A different view from Harpers Weekly in 1865.
This painting by Mort Kunstler depicts the arrival of the Kiney’s
probable unit, the 2nd Kentucky Cavalry into Montgomery in July 1863.
Although it looks like a romanticised image, note the dragged banner on the far
left, the plundered lantern or food chest and the woman in the blue dress tensely
hugging the man. Like all images this captures a moment, one that asks us to
ask what happens next?
What happens next. A Union image of Confederate raiders coming to town.
Scared civilians have been rounded up and Unionists singled out or killed. Note
the prostrate body on the right, the fire in the background and the pleading
woman foreground. While the image seems overdone, the war could be like this.
A very realistic and very detailed model of a Confederate cavalryman.
The usual image of cavalry is of lightly equipped sabre weilding warriors
charging forward, but most of the time horses were transporting men and
their equipment and so were heavily loaded.
This close up captures the worn reality of cavalry by 1864. The dash and
finery have been replaced by practicalities
James Elbert Erwin
Result: possible.
Date of Birth: disputed 1st January 1851, 7th February 1851 and 1862.
Place and Date of Death: 16th November 1953.
Age at enlistment: thirteen.
Rank: no known rank.
Unit: Cavalry in the Army of Tennessee.
Combat: Riding in Forrest’s units meant frequent fighting and raiding.
In Professor Hoar’s The North’s Last Boys in Blue Vol. II he has a section
entitled ‘Unknowns’279 This lists those aged individuals from 1939 onwards
Hoar, Vol II pp 995-998.
who were or seemed to be surviving participants in the Civil War, but lacked
evidence or possibly a desire to be known as a participant. Others may just not
have seen it as important or wish to talk about it. Amongst those in this list is
James Elbert Erwin. In a recent phone conversation with Professor Hoar he
mentioned that in a
discussion with Erwin’s grandson, Hoar was told that he believed that his
grandfather was not in the Civil War. I initially accepted that opinion but just to
be sure did a check with Find a Grave and one of James Erwin’s family gave
vital information. This was added to by this writer’s finds in censuses, muster
rolls and other official documents and much of James Elbert Erwin’s life story
can now be told, although large parts still need inclusion and with other sections
much of what is known needs expansion. Both verification and the opinions of
his grandson remains uncertain until a fuller account becomes known.
Almost all official documents agree that he was born at sea while his
family were migrating to America. They also agree that his father was Irish with
the 1930 census specifying Northern Ireland and all state that his mother was
Scottish. One census, that of 1920, states that he was born in Texas. Where the
official documents disagree is what year James was born in. His death
certificate says January 1st 1851, while family documents say 7th February in
that year. This date is also given in The Sun obituary. Other census documents
between 1900 and 1940 give birth years of “about 1861” and 1862. The “about
1861” could be bad handwriting but the year 1862 also appears in James
Erwin’s California voter registrations of 1890 and 1896, so the evidence about
his birth year precluding military service becomes stronger than if it only came
from censuses.
This frequently used birth date of 1861, his non-affirmation of military
service in the 1930 census and the opinion of his grandson are the three pieces
of evidence going against his Civil War service. This is not to say that he was
not a Civil War veteran or that the information about service came from him.
Over fifty men named James Erwin or James Irwin are written up as
Confederate enlistments. Another James Erwin (1842-1926) a Union veteran,
lived not far off when Erwin resided in California. With these two factors
existent, somebody, somewhere may have unintentionally made an identity
The Erwin family landed in New York, but where they went after this
currently appears uncertain. James writing Texas for a birthplace on a census is
a possible clue. Professor Hoar has listed the possibility that he rode with
Nathan Bedford Forest at the age of thirteen, so this would be after early
February 1864. Forrest had just been promoted to Major-General a few months
before and was taking command of more units. Before the war ended he would
be commanding all cavalry units within the Army of Tennessee, technically this
means that any cavalryman in that army, such as James Erwin, was in Forrest’s
command. Even so there seems to be a more direct link to Forrest. Although he
started as a private and became Colonel of the 3rd Tennessee Cavalry, Forrest
would be closely connected to many Confederate cavalry units, which he
personally led, first at Regimental level early in the war, then at brigade level
later, at different times.280 Muster rolls reveal that Confederate unit sizes rarely
match modern conceptions, especially as the war progressed, so regiments
which would usually number a thousand might be around two hundred in
Forrest’s command. Brigades might be twice or thrice that. These units were not
always with Forrest permanently, but were often reassigned, especially during
the Atlanta campaign when he was behind the lines and cavalry were needed for
the Army of Tennessee at Atlanta. Others needed to replenish after a campaign
and were temporarily replaced. This meant that several of Forrest’s units could
be the one James E. Erwin was enlisted in.281
An undated enlistment for a Private James E. Erwin does appear, but this
is in Company K of the 23rd Georgia Infantry where his position is given as a
musician. His middle initial is A in some records, he served in Virginia and
according to the website notes of his regiment and was buried in Colorado.
The usual problem of not finding an enlistment is reversed. Almost sixty
Confederate enlistments for James Erwin or Irwin appear. By excluding those
with different middle initials, by variations on the surname spelling, by known
age or rank or being in units outside Forrest’s command this still leaves three
strong possibilities and several others, who are less strong. All the mentioned
regiments were with Forrest at some stage late in the war and all have positives
and negatives for fitting in with accounts of Erwin’s enlistment.
These are:
James Erwin: rank private, enlisted in Holman’s 11th Tennessee Cavalry
and Company G 12th Tennessee Cavalry This apparently amalgamated unit was
involved in Forrest’s raid on Memphis in August 1864 and the subsequent battle
of East Port that October. They went with Forrest on Hood’s disastrous
Hurst, p85, p87 p205 p206; Ashdown and Gaudill, p16 p48.
The names of most of these enlistment details are taken from the data bases U.S. Civil War
Soldiers 1861-1865, Official Records, and Fold 3 which replicates original
service documents for many of those listed here. The orders of battle for Franklin and
Nashville and the regimental histories of the units involved were also used.
Nashville campaign, being involved on the edges of the Franklin battle and
being at Nashville, covering the retreat.282 This unit was consolidated with the
3rd and was with Forrest in 1865, fitting the time frame given in descriptions of
Erwin’s service. Very little emerges about this individual. He does seem the
most likely.
As teenage runaways frequently altered their surnames slightly or changed
middle initials some of these have been included below.
James R. Erwin: enlisted in the 19th Regiment Tennessee Cavalry. This
unit was with Forrest in his last campaign in 1864 -1865. The enlisted soldier is
one initial out. No service record apart from his enlistment appears to exist.
James A. Erwin: enlisted in the 4th Regiment Tennessee Cavalry and
perhaps also the 8th Regiment Tennessee Missouri Cavalry as an enlistment with
an identical name is there.
James P. Erwin: enlisted in 2nd Regiment Kentucky Cavalry. This unit
was part of Morgan’s Raiders, but after their disastrous thrashing during the raid
of 1863 it was put under Forrest’s command and built up to serve in the
Chickamauga campaign. As mentioned in relation to Kiney their muster rolls
were in bad shape and reveal very little.
James W. Erwin: enlisted in the 59th Regiment Tennessee Mounted
Infantry. Nothing emerges about his details, yet.
Less likely to be James E. Erwin (1851-1953) are:
James M. Erwin: rank private enlisted in Company F 6th Georgia
Cavalry. This unit fought under Forrest from Chickamauga until the Atlanta
Campaign, then stayed with the Army of Tennessee. As the unit was renamed
Smith’s Legion the James Erwin listed there in Anderson’s Company must
almost certainly be the same soldier reenlisting in the new consolidated unit.
This cavalryman enlisted in late 1862, was captured in May 1864 and took the
Oath of Allegiance.
James F. Erwin: enlisted in 13th Regiment Texan Cavalry. Known as
Burnett’s 13th Mounted Volunteers. He is a middle initial out, or is this
deciphering cramped handwriting? This unit rarely fought west of the
Mississippi and in the later sections of the war was stationed at Shreveport.
Civil War Centennial Commission of Tennessee, Tennesseans in the Civil War
Vol.1.1964. The website Confederate Cavalry Units is an adapted condensed section from
this book Posted August 12th 2003.
James F. Erwin: enlisted in Biffles 19th Regiment Tennessee Cavalry. He
is also a middle initial out. His capture in August 1863 excludes this man as
enlisting in 1864. While a prisoner tried to pass himself off as Joseph Erwin to
his captors.
James Erwin: rank private, enlisted in Company K of the 32nd Texas
Cavalry (Crumps Battalion Mounted Volunteers, sometimes listed as the 15th
Texan Cavalry). This unit was part of Mathew Ector’s Texan Cavalry Brigade.
James Erwin’s occupation was listed as musician. This man enlisted in 1861
giving his age as 38. It is extremely unlikely that a thirteen year old could pass
for that age.
James Irwin (alternate name J.B. Irwin) rank private, enlisted in
Company I 3rd Mississippi Cavalry. This was a unit that Forrest had much to do
with, leading it and reorganising it.283 However this enlistment has a wrong
surname spelling and a wrong alternate name.
Lieutenant James D. Erwin enlisted 1861 in the 1st South Carolina
Mounted Militia. The early enlistment, the initial and officer’s rank all preclude
this from being the thirteen year old James Erwin.
James J.T. Erwin enlisted in 9th Battalion Regiment Tennessee Cavalry.
The double middle initials go against this being James E. Erwin.
James C. Erwin: enlisted in the 38th Mississippi Cavalry. His enlistment
began in June 1862 and ended with his capture that October. He was paroled
and returned home.
James C. Erwin: enlisted in the 4th Battalion of Branner’s Tennessee
Cavalry. This unit was part of Dibrell’s Brigade and so was frequently under
Forrest’s direct command. This cavalryman enlisted in 1861, making him very
James Irwin: rank private, enlisted in Company K 7TH Arkansas Cavalry.
The evidence here is more against than for. Apart from the surname spelling,
few Arkansas cavalry units served with Forrest late in the war and the battle list
for this unit is for the war in Arkansas, where Kirby Smith commanded. This
man was taken prisoner in 1864 and paroled later that year.
James A. Erwin: enlisted in the 3rd Regiment Louisiana Cavalry. This unit
was only in Louisiana conflicts, but technically was under Forrest’s command.
Dunbar Rowlands, Military History of Mississippi 1803-1898. Excerpt from
James Irwin rank private, enlisted in Company D 1st Mississippi Cavalry. In
1902 when he applied for a pension he wrote (alias) after this name and gave his
real name as Charles Thomas.
The following section is based on an e-mail sent to me by Linda K. Lehman, a
relative of James Erwin and includes information from Donna Peternell,
Erwin’s great great granddaughter. Some of this sent information comes from
an obituary article of 17th November 1953 printed in his local paper The Sun.
After the war James E. Erwin took up mining, travelling to Mexico and as
far afield as Chile, Australia and Germany. He arrived at the Big Bear Valley
around 1878 when it was still pioneering country. One of the two goldmines he
still owned at the time of his death was from the days when Mexico ruled
California. The entrance was found accidentally when a pine tree was uprooted.
While not giving up mining, he also worked at several occupations, including
delivering the mail and building log cabins, which he sold for $15 each. In 1882
he married Alpha Elizabeth Parker (1864 -1919). Of their three children, Robert
who was born in 1883 predeceased him, William was born about 1885 and
James Erwin’s daughter, Mrs Elizabeth M. Norwood was born two years later.
In old age he lived alone in a cabin in the mountain woods, because he liked the
atmosphere. The grandeur and beauty of the area makes this very
He emerges in accounts as another of the resilient, fiercely independent
hard-working individuals who are so common among the Civil War veterans.
Being a miner, a lumberjack and a farmer are all tough occupations, but he
worked at them into old age. His toughness, resilience and his independence are
evident not only in his living alone, but in the account of his car accident at the
age of ninety-seven. Being hit he was taken to Redlands Hospital, but disliking
the way nurses fussed over him he left, going on a long trail walk to get back to
his cabin. He liked walking.
Four years later, while walking with his hearing
and eyesight failing, he did not heed a warning and was fatally injured in
another car accident.
His Civil War service was noted in a local obituary article. For
verification there are the family stories, the 1851 birthdate on his death
certificate, The Sun obituary article and the fourteen possible enlistments in
Forrest’s cavalry; many in some way have points that match what was told.
Erwin’s character emerges as another factor. He does not appear on Confederate
pension lists, gained aid from the Daughters of the Confederacy or was
dishonest, delusional or senile. So why tell the story unless it was true?
If he gains verification, he would be the last Civil War combatant. Hard
and Kiney died months earlier. Carter, Alexander and Williams did not fight.
Riddle remains controversial. Healey and Sylvester Magee had no documentary
The Erwin family homestead in 1913
James Erwin at his Sugarloaf mine
James Erwin working in a mine or a quarry in his old age
Sarah Frances Rockwell (nee Pearce) aka Fannie Rockwell
Result: verified.
Date of Birth: Very probably October 25th 1844. A range of other dates
give 1842, 1843 1847 1850 and 1854, but all of these other census birthdates,
especially the last three, must be erroneous, going against the 1850 census.
Date of Death: 23rd November 1953
Age at enlistment: at seventeen or eighteen she volunteered for nursing.
Rank: no known rank was given but she worked as a nurse.
Sarah Frances Pierce was born in Richmond Virginia, but her birthdate is
disputed. An 1850 census, taken sometime between June and October or
possibly November, gives her age as six. The Find-a-Grave entry gives the
birthdate date October 25th 1843. In an October 1952 interview she is described
as celebrating her 108th birthday.284 Her tombstone gives the 1844 date and
descendants believe this to be accurate.285 Some web entries give just the year
1844.286 Other census and government document dates give birthdates as late as
1854, and the 1920 census reaches the height of absurdity, giving three
birthdates 1842, 1847 and 1850 – and then does not mention these are disputed
dates! For those who read censuses literally this means….. well. As she is
recorded under her parent’s name in the 1850 census aged six, the dates
showing her being born in 1850 and after that year cannot possibly be correct,
although two writers who insist she is a fraud use that date – and apparently do
not know of the 1850 census. The census birth dates 1842 and 1847 are
extremely unlikely unless the 1844 birthdate is wrong and it does not seem to
The following account is heavily based on census records, her November
1953 obituary in the Danbury News –Times, an October 1952 interview in The
New London, Conn. Evening Day, e-mails from one of her descendants and a
telephone conversation with Professor Jay S. Hoar and his August 1977
biographical article in The United Daughters of the Confederacy Magazine.
Finally his entry “Sarah Frances Rockwell” in The South’s Last Boys in Gray.
(pages 1704-1709) was invaluable. As continually referencing these sources
would lead to almost as many source notes as text sentences, it is better that
they be read in full.
Civil War history tends to focus on the accounts of officers, politicians,
legendary figures and military units with others, such as slaves, blockade
runners, intelligence gatherers and medical staff gaining less attention. Several
nurses did keep diaries or wrote recollections, but their accounts, while
valuable, tend to be about local experiences. Sarah Rockwell does not seem to
feature in any of them. Another problem with primary sources involves
censorship, both of the official kind and self-censorship. Graphic accounts of
the reality of Civil War nursing would have affected recruiting and morale.
Such accounts also went against the idea of what was proper. Similarly, they
Unsigned article, The New London, Conn. Evening Day. Oct 24th 1952 p5.
C. Michael Anderson, e-mail to the author 12th July 2014.
Danbury Obituary Article.
also went against what people did not want to know about. When Mathew
Brady exhibited his photographs of dead Union soldiers in New York after the
initial shock there was an uproar – and for images that were not gory and are
more sad than graphic. As recently as the filming of Lincoln audiences were
disturbed by the hospital scenes, especially when amputated limbs were being
piled up in trenches. Obviously such sights would have been more distressing in
reality, especially for those who had contact with the soldiers. This comment
would apply to Sarah Rockwell. Her family tradition is that she met her fiancé
John McWilliams before the war; he enlisted on the same day as her brother
John and in the same regiment, the 15th Virginia Infantry.287 With two men so
close to her in the fighting, she must have worried that they would have such a
Sarah Rockwell’s early life was definitely not preparation for the horrific
world of nineteenth-century wartime nursing. In old age she stated that she had
always been averse to eating lamb because she believed the poor things
deserved a fuller life. Soon after her mother’s death, years before the war broke
out, she and her sister and brother were sent to a strict seminary school until her
father remarried. They then returned to another school. This cloistered her from
the war until she was seventeen or eighteen, when her life dramatically changed.
Richmond was besieged and the school closed. Although she does not
give a precise date, this was probably in the spring or early summer of 1862,
during the peninsula campaign when the Army of the Potomac tried to capture
Richmond and got within a few miles of the city. If she was eighteen during the
later siege of Richmond in 1864 she must have been born in 1845 or 1846: that
goes against all known evidence. Between July 1862 and May-June 1864
Richmond was not under siege: this was when she was aged between seventeen
and nineteen. The second siege was a siege at Petersburg’s trenches rather than
of Richmond: this started in the summer of 1864. Her descendants support the
October 1844 birthdate with good evidence, so she may have begun nursing in
the middle of 1862, months before turning eighteen that October. This is the
most likely option. The urgent need for nurses in the 1862 siege also suggests
the earlier date.
C. Michael Anderson, e-mail to the author 12th July 2014.
Nursing in Richmond Virginia 1861. This is a very romantic view, yet early in
the war before casualties increased and supplies dwindled, it had a basis in
reality. It could be a scene set in Lily Logan Morrill’s parlour. Due to the war
Richmond had one of the world’s largest hospitals at that time, the Chimborazo,
one of many in the city. This was less than a decade after Florence Nightingale
had started modernising nursing during the Crimean War and while Jean Henri
Durant was forming the Red Cross in Europe.
Before Florence Nightingale revolutionised nursing in the 1850s nurses
were usually either family members looking after a relative, nuns or low life
camp followers. Nightingale has become a controversial figure, but whatever
her real achievements, she did give nurses a new image. One stereotype rapidly
replaced another: nurses rapidly became the saintly, self-sacrificing “angel of
the battlefield.” This romantic cultural image of military nursing still exists.
Sarah Rockwell may have initially believed it. In this stereotypic image stoic,
noble, handsome officers seem incapacitated by wounds that never permanently
incapacitate, facially scar or leave the gallant captain mentally broken. They are
healed by love. He heals under the heroine’s loving care as they share a
peaceful, clean and spacious environment. If Sarah Rockwell had anything to do
with such nursing she did not describe it.
It would be 1929 before Ernest Hemingway’s A Farewell to Arms
revealed the more common realities to an accepting public through his ironic
treatment of a nurse-soldier romance. Even so, the earlier sentimental image had
some elements of truth. It was not so much a fabrication as a presented picture
of the best possible aspects of wartime nursing. Both as a possibility and a
contrast to what is known of her nursing reality this image is worth examining.
Virginian nurse Lily Logan Morrill lived that romantic reality and her
story was retold in 1932 when her daughter edited and introduced her 1890
recollections in My Confederate Girlhood. Her family mansion near Richmond
took wounded Confederates and she was flirtatious with a handsome officer, a
casualty who had an injured arm. Every morning he would lie on the front
parlour lounge basking in the sun, being fanned, while Lily or her mother
rebandaged his arm and fed him delicacies, chatted or read to him. This scenario
was repeated when a Colonel Logan, a man she was already attracted to, was
wounded and she made sure he would survive by getting him out of
Richmond’s hospitals and into her home.
In My Confederate Girlhood her documentation and photographs bear out
a fairy tale. Rich, respected and incredibly handsome, he became one of the
Confederacy’s youngest generals. After their marriage in May 1865 they had a
successful civilian life together lasting almost fifty years. However even in this
seemingly rosy account more distasteful realities briefly emerge. Lily’s brother
Edwin returned home to be nursed – and died a day after Christmas 1861. His
body was laid out in the same parlour where more idyllic images were played
out. Lily was very aware that the men who recovered under her care had much
less chance of recovery in Richmond’s hospitals, where in her accurate view,
there was more suffering and less healing.
Richmond’s hospitals became the world of Sarah Frances Rockwell (nee
Pearce) and Hattie Cook Carter. In a cruel irony Sarah’s conditions and life
were the opposite of those of Lily Logan Morrill. She also intended to marry her
Confederate soldier in the spring of 1865, Corporal McWilliams, but he would
be killed in action.
This photograph was taken at a Union casualty station after the battle of
Savage’s Station in July 1862. It captures the reality of wartime nursing - and
for both sides. The tent was probably set up for operations.
The reality of home nursing also had another side: colloquially,
Hemingway got it right. By the autumn of 1861 so many soldiers who were
given home nursing had deserted that President Davis wanted to legally end
private hospitals.288
Early in the war, just before Sarah began nursing, Confederate Vice
President Alexander Stephens tried organising medical services and in February
1862 he got a requested report on their state in Virginia. This individual who
reported, Mary H. Johnstone, told him that the sudden and massive medical
needs were hitting a society where people had little of the necessary experience
and this was causing massive disruption. More practically, she told him that
tented hospitals were inadequate for recovery, surgeons should be competent
and temperate (probably meaning sober, but possibly just good-tempered) and
Rebecca Beatrice Brooks, “Captain Sally Tompkins: Nurse and Officer in the Confederate
Army” Civil War Saga A Blog of the American Civil War. Posted June 11th 2013. pp1-2.
that the soldiers deserved better treatment than they were getting from people
owing their positions to friendly contacts, not ability.289
A realistic view of a Confederate nurse
at more common work.
Sarah Rockwell did not give a detailed description of her conditions in
Richmond, but Nurse Constance Cary was there at the same time. She has left a
vivid eyewitness account of Richmond at the beginning of June 1862, in the
medical aftermath of the battle of Seven Pines. This was probably around the
time Sarah Rockwell became a nurse and Cary was in almost exactly the same
situation as regards class, age, attitude and locale. Although she describes a
specific 1862 battle the situation in the city would have been much the same in
the 1864 siege battles, when Sarah Rockwell was definitely there. Richmond in
1862 was a city of approximately over eighty thousand residents, perhaps many
more, as it had rapidly more than doubled in size due to the war.290 In early June
1862 it was suddenly overwhelmed by massive numbers of wounded, as
thousands were brought back and needed urgent medical attention. Many were
suddenly deposited in disused buildings. Others went to homes and Cary
Mary H. Johnstone, “Personal Observations at some of the Camps and Hospitals.” Feb 3rd
1862. In Heroines of Dixie: Confederate Women Tell Their Story of the War. By Katherine
M. Jones. 1955. New York: Smithmark, 1995. pp75-77.
Nelson Langford, Richmond Burning. p19.
describes how “the streets were one vast hospital.”291 She saw that in one hotel
the wounded lay on boards with only blankets or haversacks for pillows, while
churches supplied pew cushions sown together for mattresses. Women’s groups
sewed pallets and mattresses together as fast as possible. Cary and another
young woman, also apparently with no previous medical experience, finding
themselves standing in front of fifteen wounded soldiers, volunteered to
surgeons to serve as nurses and were accepted immediately “as responsible
nurses under direction of an older and more experienced woman.”292 This is
ambiguous. It suggests as they were working with surgeons, they may have
assisted in operations without prior training. This is apparently one of the very
few (perhaps the only) detailed accounts of a Confederate Richmond nurse’s
career starting and there was no enlistment for her or any suggestion that this
ever happened.
War’s traumas comes across clearly in her account as Cary describes
herself and others searching among the dead and dying for loved ones and of
fathers riding beside dying sons carried in carts and litters. She also describes
the situation with funerals. So many died of wounds that funerals were also
conducted at night, often to bands playing the Dead March. This was a city
almost overwhelmed by casualties – in what was not one of the largest battles.
At Seven Pines the Confederacy lost nearly six thousand in dead and wounded:
a month later in the seven days battles Richmond would have to deal with over
three times that many casualties.293
The more genteel and lucrative positions were reserved for upper and
middle class ladies.294 Even so, many of them like Cary and Rockwell did not
shirk from what could legitimately be called the horrors of nursing. The
combined stench of gangrene, gastric infections, and rooms packed with old,
bloodied and puss infested bandages and unwashed men was often so powerful
as to make healthy men faint.295 Some nurses found the stench so bad that they
would plug their noses with camphor soaked cotton balls. Disease was so
common in hospitals that some nurses died.296
Cary in Heroines of Dixie. p146.
Ibid, p147.
John Macdonald, Great Battles of the American Civil War. London: Guild Publishing,
1988. p39, p47.
Catherine M. Wright, “Women During the Civil War.” Encyclopedia Virginia.
Maggie Mclean, “Nursing in the Civil War South.” Civil War Women posted 17th
November 2006. civilwar womenblog.nursing-in-the-civil-war-south.
The calico dress of a Union Civil War nurse. Human bloodstains remain.
This is likely to be typical of nurse’s clothing until later in the war when
uniforms with aprons were common. The Civil War era nurse’s kit was
extremely simple, gauze, scissors, bandages, a sewing kit, tweezers and a knife
Confederate armies forbade women enlisting, although some paid women
were listed as nurses in some set locales. Nurses were rarely enrolled, the
regulars at Chimborazo were – and Sarah’s name does not appear in documents,
but then few do. Among those few enrolled anywhere was Sally Tompkins, one
of Richmond’s highest placed hospital matrons. Jefferson Davis gave her the
rank of Captain and as head of the Robertson Hospital, which she established
and made one of Richmond’s best, she gained fame. 297 The Confederacy’s
youngest known nurse, Delity Powell Kelly and her mother were enrolled – as
Unsigned blog, “Captain Sally Tompkins Defends Top Civil War Hospital” History
Engine Tools For Collaborative Education and Research.
auxiliaries to a Florida Artillery company where they even had their own
uniform – gray homespun dresses with red trim, red being the artillery uniform
trim. They often accompanied their unit on its campaigns.298 How unusual this
was remains uncertain, but from other accounts it seems that Confederate nurses
were not usually enlisted, given ranks, or gained notice, let alone uniforms or
This makes tracing Sarah Rockwell’s service through official documents
close to impossible: searching for evidence through computerised records by
this writer has not found any existing record. In an introduction to Confederate
Medical Personnel which is a compilation of recently computerised records
listing known medical staff and other information, DeAnne Blanton has written
of the difficulties associated with the records of medical staff.299 She also
mentions Richmond’s burnt records in April 1865 and the frequent Confederate
tactic of burning their records as the war ended. Extant records are almost
exclusively concerned with paid staff and she writes that it seems the
Confederate government did not document work by medical volunteers.300
Attempts by this writer to find mention of Sarah Rockwell or Hattie Cook
Carter through these sources led myself and then the archivists nowhere. Even
so, some mention of either nurse might still exist somewhere.
Richmond’s Chimborazo Hospital was the world’s largest at that time, so
although many of the nurses were men, Sarah Rockwell perhaps worked there
to some extent, but Chimborazo was more of a convalescent hospital than a
casualty ward and she stated that she worked at improvised hospitals; these
were often homes or unused buildings. According to Margaret Mitchell’s
research, unmarried women were often used to write letters home, read stories,
and give religious consolation and to provide gifts such as clothing and food.
This was also essentially the situation at Chimborazo.301 The more distasteful
roles such as treating wounds, or anything involving revealed flesh were usually
left to widows and married women or males. Slaves, the poor or lower class
women were usually used for such tasks as cooking, washing, changing
mattresses or the more grisly work.302
Hoar, Vol. III pp1803-1807. In 1929 and 1930 her service was sworn to under oath, by
herself and four veterans who were eyewitnesses.
Confederate Medical Personnel Spring 1994, Vol. 26 No 1. p1.
Unsigned Introduction Chimborazo Hospital. Internet Site.
Wright, “Women During the Civil War.”
Even so, what Sarah briefly recounted to family members suggests that
many of her experiences differed from the genteel image and the easier work as
most of her time went into the urgent casualty wards. As Cary’s account
suggests, the staid and protective conventions must have withered quickly under
the massive influx of casualties from the spring of 1862 onwards, about the time
her nursing career probably began. Sarah Rockwell recalled how the groans of
wounded prisoners haunted those seeking to give comfort. She saw sufferings
that stayed with her all her life.303
With Grant’s onslaughts against Richmond in 1864 Sarah and her mother
spent long hours attending to the scores of casualties who kept pouring into the
city after each battle. Rather than the occasional idyllic image Lily Logan
Morrill gave or the idealised painted image presented in this segment, the
Atlanta hospital scenes from Gone with the Wind must be closer to her reality.
Some scenes show upper class women writing letters for illiterate soldiers,
others show bloody bandages being rewashed and rows of filthy, suffering men
in ragged uniforms crowded into large rooms. In the most graphic scene a
screaming man begs not to have his leg removed – and it is, without anaesthetic.
William J. Bush, who was in Georgia in 1864, said the film was like being
there. Few images as realistic as that film emerged from the war. Civil War era
photographs of hospitals usually give us neat, orderly rows of hospital beds,
clean floors and passive patients. It was an image governments wanted
preserved and seventy years later they still did. So as not to affect recruiting
Gone With the Wind’s hospital scenes were censored out in some British
Commonwealth countries with the film’s release early in World War II.
Sarah did not try to evade service: she went beyond probable
expectations. Between battles she would bathe and feed Union prisoners
crowded into Richmond’s Libby prison. In March 1865, the Pearce family fled
Richmond to the safety of Lynchburg. Three weeks later her fiancé Corporal
John McWilliams, was killed at the battle of Five Forks, two weeks before their
After the war her family returned to Richmond to find their home
devastated and that Richmond had little need for her father’s profession, a
hatter. They eked out a living there for nearly four years, selling their remaining
furniture. As her brother, a former Confederate soldier, had already found work
in Bethel years before, the family joined him and according to a census, she
worked as a dressmaker.
Danbury Obituary Article.
As these photographs show, tents could be poor protection from weather, being
cluttered and cramped. Such conditions lead to the spread of diseases such as
typhus, dysentery, diarrhoea, cholera, typhoid, pneumonia, malaria and
influenza. Disease killed almost twice as many soldiers as the battles. Note how
few women are in the caring groups.
A Confederate field hospital at Antietam. Realistic images such as this of
the often pitiful and makeshift hospitals were rare. The Union hospital pictured
below was well behind the battle lines, intended for convalescents. This was
probably as good as it got for casualties.
Sarah Rockwell at the family
burial plot in September 1946.
She married Charles Jay Rockwell, a blacksmith in April 1873. He gave
her the nickname “Fannie” and it stuck. From 1875 onwards they spent much of
her life in Danbury Connecticut.
She did return to Richmond briefly in 1909, but found the city so changed
and so few old friends and acquaintances were left that she was disappointed
and returned north. She preferring her memories of Richmond in the antebellum
days. Although she claimed to hold no bitterness over the war, she did say that
the fact that her husband was a wartime civilian with sympathy to the South
made their marriage easier. Their happy marriage lasted over forty-five years,
until his death from a stroke in August 1918. Her life was centred on her family,
her two daughters and their children and then grandchildren. Family
recollections recall her tolerance and good humour, her love of cooking and
family get togethers, her courtesy and cheer. Sarah Rockwell was a person of
tremendous resilience, and lived in good physical and mental health for most of
her life. Only in her last years when she had problems with her hearing and her
sight did her body start to fail, but as the 1952 interview and her family’s
recollections both show, her mind stayed sharp. Almost certainly the media
coverage of the Korean War recalled for her the horrors of her Civil War days
as she fervently hoped she would live to see it end. She died four months after
the July 1953 truce.
The ‘Fakers’ article, (printed in a flying saucer and other paranormal
events magazine) says that Rockwell and William J. Bush were fakes as they
were only fifteen the summer the war ended.304 This supposed age is very
emphatically stated but is unlikely, but even if this is so (and detailed evidence
apart from contradictory and unreliable censuses is needed) a fifteen year old
could still nurse and several very young women did. Perhaps the youngest two,
one on each side, Susan Haines Clayton of Indiana and Delity Powell Kelly of
Florida, both professionally trained by their mothers and working with them,
nursed soldiers from the age of ten onwards.305 Their longevity, making them
among the last survivors, may be the reason that this is known. Sarah Rockwell
has been put into the “too young to serve” category like so many others because
of a highly selective use of censuses. How could she have been born in 1850 if
the census of 1850 shows her as aged six? Once again this idea of the censuses
is disproved by examples and information from censuses and from other
primary sources.
Like Loudermilk there was confusion over her age and also in relation to
her first wartime service. Like Loudermilk she had no enlistment documents.
However they differ in other aspects that get Rockwell over the line in
verification, but just stop him. She was accepted by the Daughters of the
Confederacy as genuine: he was rejected. She had no motive to fake: he did. He
had so many relatives and namesakes who muddle his account, she did not.
Sarah Rockwell’s accounts are creditable, she seems a strong character
and had no Civil War pension, did not seek power or publicity and had no
reason to deceive. Professor Hoar spoke strongly in her favour and referred to
factual evidence which is presented here.306 We have census documents for her
age, family records and documentation, marriage documents, interviews,
photographs, and a traceable life. No evidence goes against her statements. She
made no outrageous or suspicious claims. No evidence of destroyed or missing
‘Fakers’ previous citation.
Jay S. Hoar Callow Brave and True: A Gospel of Civil War Youth. pp203-204 and Vol. III
The South’s last Boys in Gray. pp1803-1807.
See Hoar, Vol. III. The South’s Last Boys in Gray. pp 1704-1709.
documentation appears because almost certainly, none exists. She was a
Frank H. Mayer
Result: His Union Service is accepted √
Date of Birth: May 28th 1850.
Date of Death: 12th February 1954.
Age at enlistment: thirteen.
Rank: Private.
Unit: 27th Regiment Pennsylvania Infantry Emergency Militia 1863.
Perhaps others.
Service: Drummer boy and bugler for the Militia and perhaps the
Combat Experience: He claimed that he was too young to fight. He also
claimed to having been present at some battles, but this could have meant
as an observer or as a musician, who while involved in unit movements,
did not actually fight.
Length of service: uncertain.
Evidence of Service apart from his own accounts. He is listed in Official
Records, once as Franklin Mayer in the militia and then almost certainly as
Frankel Mayer in the 27th Regiment Pennsylvania Infantry. However the given
age cannot be right and was probably faked. Other enlistments for privates titled
Frank Mayer also exist, but cannot be stated to be him with certainty. His Civil
War service contains much that is uncertain. The Pennsylvania State archives
contains his militia enrolment.
Frank Mayer’s parents were European migrants. He was born in New
Orleans in 1850, but his parents moved to Ashland Pennsylvania to be nearer to
relatives in 1855.307 As a child he loved fishing, hunting and guns and these
loves never left him. 308
Mayer gets continual references by those writing about him as a teller of
tall tales concerning himself. Apart from his accounts, evidence for much of
what he says looks thin or cannot be. He does not seem to have filled out a
census until 1900 or 1920 and few records of his early life survive. However his
very few and very brief references to Civil War service are not tall tales. One of
his early stories can only be obviously false and others are unlikely, although
much of his life was extraordinary.
The obviously false tall tale was that he would claim that as a Colorado
sheriff he was in love with the dancer named Silverheels and that with her
nursing and financial donations for medical aid, together they stopped a
smallpox epidemic in the mining town of Buckskin Joe, Colorado. Out of
gratitude the residents named a mountain town after her, but she left with his
love unrequited, perhaps because smallpox had scarred her face, but then Mayer
being eleven years old at the time may have had something to do with it. The
epidemic, Silverheels and her charitable role and the naming of the mountain
are all verified, but this happened in 1861.309 Precocious as Mayer was, eleven
year olds are not elected sheriffs or romance grown dance hall girls. Really
being married at seventeen was precocious enough and Mrs Mayer’s name was
not Silverheels.
A dubious claim concerns his rank. Mayer claimed to be a colonel, but in
what? He may have been a militia colonel in some Wild West militia, or some
such unit raised for the suddenly erupted Spanish-American War, when such
Hoar, Frank H. Mayer: Last of the Buffalo Hunters. Excerpted from Professor Jay S.
Hoar’s Civil War Trilogy Sunset And Dusk of the Blue and the Gray (2006-2010) Temple,
Maine: Bo Ink-um Press, 2012. p881.
Ibid, p881.
“Silverheels.” By Adam James Jones. Rocky Mountain Legends. Posted May 4th 2011.
units as the Rough Riders did emerge and where it is claimed he served.310 He
could have been a colonel of scouts or given the honorary title by some state,
territory or organisation, but where is the evidence? He told his friend Lucy
Tarbell Roth that he “felt he was not a real soldier, having no gun, wounds or
lengthy service.”311 This also suggests that his emergency militia service may
have been his total record. What he could not have been was a regular U.S.
army colonel serving (as one encyclopaedia claims) for thirty five years,
although he was titled Colonel in many documents. 312 He was known to be a
buffalo hunter through much of the 1870s and a Colorado sheriff after that.
Either occupation would preclude him from holding a simultaneous U.S. Army
Colonel’s rank.
Should such stories put his few believable statements about Civil War
service in doubt? Bush and Woolson also told some impossible ones, and about
their time in the Civil War, yet their service is beyond doubt. Who alive has not
told a tall tale or said something preposterous as a joke? Should their service in
organisations then be discounted?
What cannot be a tall story is that Mayer appears in the Official Records
as enlisted in the 27th Regiment Pennsylvania Infantry Emergency Militia 1863.
This unit was rapidly raised to help counter Lee’s invasion. Mayer’s enlistment
dates from June 22nd 1863 until presumably July 31st of that year, when the
whole unit was mustered out.313 They retreated in one skirmish where they took
twenty-three casualties, but burned bridges across the Susquehanna River and
by doing so protected Harrisburg, Pennsylvania’s capitol from falling to a rear
attack. At this time Pennsylvania was already demoralised and the loss of its
capitol could have led to a collapse of its war effort. This in turn could have had
a domino effect on other northern states, then war weary and demoralised after
the defeats at Fredericksburg and Chancellorsville. Instead of this possibility the
destruction of these bridges shaped Lee’s movements, leading him to
Gettysburg.314 That skirmish could make Mayer the last Civil War veteran to be
in combat. Both that and his being in the unit that changed the course of history
were both things to boast about, but apparently if Mayer ever did boast of it, this
remains unknown. Like Kiney, another likely last Civil War survivor, his
actions and his usual silence means that he apparently did not want the
‘Frank Mayer.’ (Colorado) Wikipedia
Hoar, Vol. II p885.
‘“Frank Mayer.’ (Colorado) Wikipedia.
Hoar, Vol. II p882.,
Ibid, p882.
possibility of being the last survivor. Also like Kiney, his accounts of his war
service were brief, believable and free of bluff and bull.
A Franklin Mayer who appeared in this unit has his first name spelled a
little differently and has a written down age of twenty-three. This age factor
remains the major barrier to Mayer’s verification, but it becomes weak upon
examination. It does create the possibility that it was someone else, possibly a
relative as they lived around Ashland, where this unit was recruited. It may also
be that Mayer was as precocious in his appearance as he was in his words and
deeds. Pennsylvania was facing invasion and niceties about age were
evaporating under the pressure. Another possibility which could mix with the
first is that the enlisting officer needed every volunteer he could get fast for
what was labelled the emergency unit and to boot Mayer was a crack shot.
Official Records has a Private Frank Mayer in the 7th New Jersey Infantry, a
unit that served at Gettysburg and Appomattox. This could be Mayer serving
on. Whoever he was, he must have enlisted after the regiment was reformed in
time for Gettysburg or perhaps just after - after the militia disbanded. The
timing fits Mayer’s possibly continued service.
Probably one man named Frank/Franklin/Frankel Mayer, existed, but
possibly three did. Like many runaways or young volunteers Mayer may have
changed his name slightly to avoid detection. Official Records lists nine Union
soldiers named Frank Mayer. All nine were privates, but none are listed as a
musician. Only one of these, an 1861 Indiana enlistee, definitely cannot be
Frank H. Mayer (1850-1954) although the Private Mayer serving in a Minnesota
unit must be unlikely as he never mentioned artillery service and Minnesota was
a long way from home. So was the impossible Missouri namesake, listed among
those named Frank Mayer in Fold 3. He was an officer in his forties born in
Prussia.315 Others were involved with the Army of Ohio, and so are less likely
than those in the Army of the Potomac. Even so preliminary investigations
reveal no facts for excluding all but two of these ten from being Frank H. Mayer
(1850-1954). He said that he had served as a bugler and a drummer, being too
young to fight.316 This seems likely: he also said that after war service he was
like so many others still restless so he moved west, being part of the winning of
the west.317
Fold 3 Civil War Service Entry: ‘Frank Mayer.’
Hoar quoting Mayer p883. The quotes come from The Buffalo Harvest a book Mayer
wrote and his friend Charles B. Roth, it was edited and had published in 1958.
Frank H. Mayer aged 100.
That restlessness that never left him.
In his biography Professor Hoar summarises Mayer’s post-war career. As
mentioned in the 1870s he was a buffalo hunter and then a Colorado mining
town sheriff. He must have been an Indian fighter at some stage, because aged
97, he finally had an imbedded arrowhead removed. The two bullets left in him
around 1883 apparently stayed. They may have been from his years as a sheriff.
Like James Erwin he travelled and worked extensively overseas in the years
after the war, and doing similar work. He hunted in Alaska, built railways in
Brazil and dug for diamonds in Australia. He claimed to have survived the great
Chicago fire and the 1906 San Francisco earthquake, three shipwrecks, two
avalanches and again like Erwin, survived being hit by a truck in old age. His
occupations included being a rancher, a teacher, a surveyor and a mining
Frank Mayer in his cowboy days
The 1920 census listed his occupation as journalist and he did write three books
and many articles. He retired in 1942 and the 1953 truck accident finally slowed
him down, he became bedfast. He had his recollections taped late that year and
died early in 1954, being very probably the second last Union veteran.
Annoyingly his unneeded tall stories detracted from his extraordinary
achievements rather than enhanced them. He was probably indulging in bull
sessions meant to amuse and amaze. In this situation insiders are knowing while
outsiders are tested for gullibility or good humour. Those stories should have
been labelled as such and published. He lived a life which gives the impression
that giving it in full detail would be a life’s work.
W.W. Alexander
Result: Possible. The problem is not so much his age, or a lack of evidence but
clarity, as there are many Confederates from the Carolinas with an identical
surname and initials and probably at least one with the same full name.
Date of Birth: possibly 1849 but probably 20th July 1856.
Date of Death: 16th February 1954.
Age at enlistment: He was most likely aged nearing nine at the war’s end.
The South Carolina claimed service suggests that he was aged sixteen
when actively serving.
Rank: private.
Unit: 13th North Carolina Infantry Company B. (?) Other North Carolina
units are possible. Another possibility is the 16th South Carolina Infantry
Company B.
Service: musician, (?) flag bearer (?) soldier (?) home guard
Combat Experience: possible but unlikely.
Length of service: uncertain.
As this book was in the last proofreadings, two vital pieces of information
came through two different enlistments. Martha Cross Mordecai, a
correspondent, reported her find of two enlistment documents which are
included in the section below. Inspired and chastened by my not finding them, I
searched again and found the third, Wilson Watson Alexander. So how was this
vital information missed? I had searched Official Records, Moore’s multi
volume work listing all the Confederate soldiers of North Carolina,
communicated to assorted veteran’s groups, papers, and Civil War groups,
investigated every W.W. Alexander and William Wallace Alexander seemingly
findable on the net, thoroughly investigated William Wilson Alexander from
Mecklenburg County, (who was enlisted in the 15th North Carolina Infantry
1861-1865) and then went through all the lists of those named William
Alexander born 1856 in North Carolina in This was exhausting
and looks exhaustive, but it clearly was not. If I had used different search
words, William W. Alexander, would the answer have been different? The final
reason for giving up and assuming that he was not likely to be a Civil War
participant was W.W. Alexander’s answer in the 1930 census that he was not a
veteran. Let us not trust censuses, even when they are clear, even when
evidence or apparent lack of it seems to back them.
The second correspondent Thomas P. Cole, a Mecklenburg librarian, sent
requested clippings which had statements from W.W. Alexander about his war
service. These accounts while brief, state his version. He did not claim to serve
in Virginia, but in South Carolina late in the war.318 Thomas P. Cole quite
rightly communicates the possibility that there were two males named William
Wallace Alexander born about seven years apart in the same area and also refers
to the confusion of information over similarly named individuals.319
If it can be proved that William Watson Alexander is William Wallace
Alexander (1849? 1856?-1954) it shows how wrong researched conclusions can
go. It also shows how difficult and easily prone to error Civil War research and
reliance on the internet can be. The North Carolina enlistment will be dealt with
first, the South Carolina enlistment second.
At this stage investigating W.W. Alexander begins to look like a parody of the
work done so far. Both (or more) men named William Wallace Alexander were
from Mecklenburg County and both may have served in the Civil War. There is
also a William Wilson Alexander (1839-1909) who was definitely a
Confederate veteran and from the same county and several others titled W.W.
Alexander on various muster rolls. Far from complicating matters I have
Thomas P. Cole, e-mail 17th October 2014.
excluded those with this name who are obviously unlikely. However I must
include some who may or may not exist as they might be William Wallace
Evidence Against Verification: He was not included in the 1949 Life story
on surviving Civil War veterans, or the 1951 syndicated Associated Press story.
In his Volume III Professor Hoar writes of Alexander’s charm, his lovableness
and loyalty, but he describes his evidence as less than solid, but does raise the
possibility that he may have served in some juvenile capacity, similar to several
possibilities that has been listed in this article.320 Then there are Alexander’s
records. In the 1910 census he left the Civil War veteran’s question blank. In the
1930 census question he answered “no.” His death certificate also leaves the
military service question blank. Faced with the question he probably realised
that whatever he had done in the war years did not make him a warrior/veteran
by the military standards of Confederate armies. Frank Mayer in a similar
position, had a similar attitude. Age is the big question. While not conclusive,
the most reliable evidence puts his birthdate as 20th July 1856. He claimed to be
sixteen when he served.
The first possible verification is for a William W. Alexander who lived in
and enlisted in Mecklenburg County. His military service began on January
22nd 1864 when he was enrolled in Company B “the Mecklenburg County
Company” of the 13th North Carolina Infantry. Interestingly he was ranked as a
musician. A second reference to this same individual is in the Appomattox
Parole List where only one difference becomes clear. His name is given as
William Watson Alexander. Just to confuse a historian’s life further a Wilson
Watson Alexander was also enlisted in the 13th North Carolina Infantry as a
musician. This may be a re-enlistment using a slightly different alias. In the
muster roll their names are together, relatives? This initially looks like two
confused double enlistments, one each for each man! However this second
enlistment for musician Wilson Watson Alexander is undated, the locale is
Charlotte and his name does not appear again. This may or may not be the
W.W. Alexander who was born around 1849. The man who claimed to have
served in South Carolina when Sherman invaded did not mention serving in
Virginia and did not have the middle name Watson.
To make matters worse, another Private William W. Alexander was
enrolled in the 12th North Carolina Regiment, another W.W. Alexander in the
76th and a third in the 18th South Carolina, which served in Virginia. After
thinning out the unlikely, those from other states, officers, sappers, general staff
members and one in Thomas’s Legion, there are still four more enlisted North
Carolinians named William Alexander (no middle initial or name) without
attached information that could preclude them from being William Wallace
Alexander (1849 or 1856-1954). All of these North Carolinians surnamed
Alexander appear in U.S. Civil War Soldier Records and Profiles 1861-1865.
Not one appears in Official Records.
Thomas P. Cole also refers to the confusion over similarly named
individuals.321 One of these William Wallace Alexanders, by the obituary
photograph the man who lived until 1954, was a boy witnessing the Union army
entering Charlottesburg.322 Annoyingly his obituary article also states that “he
was able to recount numerous stories of the war” but does not give details. His
stories could have been further civilian observations - or of his militia service.
Civil War service is not mentioned in the article and his age at death is given as
This man’s leaving of the 1910 Civil War service question blank and the
answer “no” to the 1930 veteran’s question can be less damaging than it seems.
Did the census takers assume after getting Alexander’s age that he could not
possibly be a veteran and write “no” without asking him? Did former
Confederates feel uneasy about admitting military opposition to a representative
of the government they opposed? Did W.W. Alexander feel that being an eight
year old musician or a home guardsman who did not fight mean that he was not
a veteran? They are all possibilities.
The more this is pondered on, the more likely it seems that W.W.
Alexander’s regular involvement in veteran’s activities is based not in a love of
reunions, or incorrectly seeing himself as a veteran warrior, but because he was
a young participant in the Confederate war effort in some way. These assorted
enlistments for someone with slight variations on his name come tantalisingly
close to verifying that: tantalisingly. The 1949 recollections of being in South
Carolina are strong evidence against his being at the Appomattox surrender.
This W.W. Alexander recalled in 1949 that he served as a private near his home
at Rock Hill, South Carolina. He talked of how he helped bury gold and other
valuables so that “the Yankees would not find them.” He also mentioned
guarding a local bridge from an approaching attack as Sherman’s army came
No writer credited, Charlottesburg Observer ‘Rites Tomorrow for 97-year old.’ No date
or page given. Probably dated February 1954.
into South Carolina and that both of these activities were successful.324 In the
same article he mentions that he never killed anybody but he “saw plenty.” Like
those he served with, he had no uniforms. All this is in line with what usually
happened amongst home guard units in the war’s last months, when children
frequently replaced adults needed in the regular army. These prosaic and
common recollections have a ring of truth. What W.W. Alexander said in
conclusion was somewhat unusual and leaves no doubt about his continuing
loyalty to the Confederacy: “If we had this here atom bomb then we sure would
have splattered Sherman all over Georgia.”325
The article gives only a few lines to his war record and it does contain
errors that might be typos. Sherman in South Carolina must be in 1865, not
1863 as given and unless the evidence for his birth in 1856 is wrong,
Alexander’s age cannot have been 102 in 1949 or sixteen at the time he said he
served. However some tentative evidence that he did remember his age and
service date rightly emerges. A private W.W. Alexander enlisted in the 16th
South Carolina Infantry in 1863.326 While this was not a home guard unit, being
sent to Mississippi in May 1863, it did serve in the Army of Tennessee, and so
was in South Carolina towards the war’s end. A 1947 newspaper account of his
being at a Chattanooga reunion gives his age then as 97, while a similar 1946
story gives his age as 98.327 That 1856 date may well be wrong and he may be
the Charlotte man born in 1849 and listed in records, as his death certificate
shows.328 Did he give the interviewer the 1863 date? If so this might be a sign of
a faltering memory ninety years on and probably reflects the same thing
happening with his memories of his age, he did die with a combination of
pneumonia and a cerebral haemorrhage.329 It may also be that he correctly
remembering the year of his enlistment in the 16th South Carolina and then
skipping ahead to the war’s last months. The confusion over his age is the major
block for full verification.
William W. Alexander was born into a farming family living near Sharon
in Mecklenburg County, North Carolina. Four censuses, between 1880 and
1920, give him a birth year of 1858 or 1857, but censuses have little credibility
William R. Nunn, ‘Veteran and his Party En Route to Encampment at Little Rock.’
Memphis Press-Scimitar October 10th 1949. n.p.
Fold 3. ‘Confederates’ ‘W.W. Alexander.’
Tom Cole, e-mail to the author, 17th October 2013. Tom Cole is a researcher and librarian
with the Mecklenberg Library.
328 Death Certificate of William Wallace Alexander dated 18th February 1954. Charlotte
Mecklenburg County North Carolina
in this work. Professor Hoar gives him a more precise and more probable
birthdate, 20th July 1856.330 This date is also given in his newspaper obituary, in
the family Bible and on his tombstone.331 Family Bibles are unlikely to be
wrong, being original documents, being considered sacred by those who wrote
them and unlikely to contain falsehoods as the Bible was considered sacred. If
the 1856 date is correct then he was at the most nearing nine at the war’s end.
However even his death certificate, becomes part of the confusion. This gives
his birth year being given as “184 ” the day and month as July 20th - but his age
as 97 in 1954.332 Newspaper stories also give birthdates in the later 1840s.
Reunion photographs create an impression that he was at the least a very
experienced adult military man. This image clearly does not match his age.
However after reading of Virginian “infantryman” Alex Gillenwater, aged
seven on enlistment, and also of others eleven or younger serving as conscripted
Confederate combatants, W.W. Alexander serving as an enlisted child soldier in
the desperate last months of the war sounds very possible. One possibility from
tradition is that he may have been a flag bearer.333 The flag bearer was
supposedly the best soldier and was the most prominent soldier in the unit. This
does fit in with his enthusiasm and prominence at events in old age. It would
have also stopped disputes in a unit over who had this honoured, coveted and
often disputed position. Who would take that honour from a child? Given his
age, he may not have carried the flag into battle, but would do so on marches,
while drilling and on ceremonial occasions. What was more common for boys
so young is that they served the army in some supporting capacity. This would
include being musicians, ostlers, messengers, kitchen hands, sutler’s assistants,
shoeshine boys and foragers for food and fuel. Thousands served on both sides
in such capacities. Others were enrolled in home guard units to free adults there
for service at the front. Home front groups would provide protective guards,
accommodation for convalescents, weave bandages, make blankets and
homespun clothing, carry supplies to training camps and the front and also
scour the land for lead and brass for conversion to ammunition. They were
important for the war effort and those involved rightly saw themselves that way.
Alexander’s brief statements which suggest normal home guard service neither
exclude nor prove these other possibilities.
Hoar, Vol. III p1657. p1714 note.
Find A Grave ‘William Wallace Alexander 1856-1954.’
Death Certificate of William Wallace Alexander Unfortunately the faded handwriting
does not reproduce well.
This idea was given in an e-mail which contained much census information about W.W.
Alexander 23/8/2014. Sender Martha Cross Mordecai.
W.W. Alexander is the second man on the left, the only one with a beard.
This is the 1944 reunion in Montgomery Alabama, the last to be held in that
state. The man sitting in the center is Doctor Gwynne, the only Black veteran to
A third W.W. Alexander outside of Official Records may possibly be an
uncle or a cousin, coming from neighbouring Union County. Name and locale
would not be the only reason for confusion. William Wilson Alexander, (18391909) was in Company B of the 15th North Carolina Infantry from May 1861
until he surrendered at Appomattox.334 This W.W. Alexander also liked
attending commemorative events, making it difficult to resolve which of them
was where. This senior man was at the 1879 plans for a Confederate reunion in
Union County.335 His name or possibly that of his namesake W.W. Alexander,
then approaching fifty, was placed on the Tyrell monument in 1902.336 W.W.
Alexander was among the surviving veterans listed in the May 1951 Virginia
reunion program, but did not attend.337 By then he spent much of his life in a
The muster roll for Company B 15th North Carolina Infantry. Computerised version.
Unsigned, “Plans For a Confederate Reunion in Union County 1879. In The Monroe
Enquirer Saturday August 9th 1879. The roll for Company B 15TH North Carolina Infantry
also mentions this. Computerised version.
Commemorative Landscapes of North Carolina. Tyrrell County Confederate Memorial
Columbia. The website lists all the inscriptions and has photographs.
Mason p8.
He liked commemorative events, attending almost all between 1930 and
1948. He had every right to be there, being literally the son of a Confederate
veteran, he was eligible to be a prominent member of ‘The Sons of Confederate
Veterans.’ Many similar events were also organised by The United Daughters of
the Confederacy. There was no fakery in attending events where so many
attending were relatives of veterans who could remember the war without being
in war zones. In a broader sense all Southerners experienced the war’s effects.
No evidence has emerged of deliberate fraud from or about W.W. Alexander in
this investigation.
Although the computerisation of North Carolina’s Confederate pensions
remains incomplete and many of the records in South Carolina have been
destroyed, from the evidence available he does not seem to have ever applied
for a veteran’s pension and he had a respectable reputation. He also did not
indulge in attention seeking behaviour or tall stories, so no apparent motive
exists for false identity or false claims emerge.
This at present, is the evidence for service.
This photograph was taken at a 1945 reunion. Alexander is sitting among the
most prominent people in the veteran’s organisations. Mercer Buck, only four
years older, than Alexander, was a scout and an auxiliary, but he went on to
become president of the U.C.V. Photo Courtesy of Jay S. Hoar
Hoar, Vol. III p1657n.
Some years after the war he became a housepainter and a sometime paper
hanger. He married Susan Alderson in the later 1870s and after the birth of their
first child, they went to live in York, South Carolina. This was almost certainly
because his bride came from there. They had six children. Sometime between
1900 and 1910 they returned to Mecklenburg and the family lived a quiet life.
Their marriage lasted over sixty years until his wife died in the late 1930s.
Apparently the only unusual thing in Alexander’s life was his attendance
at the veteran’s reunions. Being wheelchair bound in the late 1940s made
attendance difficult, although he still managed to attend the 1949 Memphis
veteran’s reunion where he did get some media coverage, but usually the
publicity that came to the others in the early 1950s seemed to miss him. Even at
the time of his death when only four other Confederates were believed to be left
alive, his passing seemed little noticed. Perhaps he wanted it that way.
Thomas Evan Riddle
Result: possible.
Despite all the confusion Riddle caused, the service of a Thomas Evans
Riddle must be genuine - but is he the same man with that name who lived to be
Date of Birth: disputed: 1845 April 1846, 1847, 1848, 1853, 1858, April
1860, 1862, 1864 and 1868 are all stated.
Date of Death: 2nd April 1954
Age at enlistment: disputed, probably fifteen or sixteen.
Rank: private (claimed)
Unit: confused, several possibilities emerge, but the 22nd Virginia
Infantry (1st Kanawa Regiment) has him enlisted under his full name and he
claimed service in the 33rd Virginia Infantry. Transfer among units could be
Combat Experience: Plenty, both the 22nd and the 33rd Virginia were in
heavy fighting.
Service: in the infantry uncertain: 1861 to 1865 in one account, eighteen
months in another and from early in the war till after Gettysburg in
Evidence for service: He had a census reference from showing him to be
born where and when he said he was with a birthdate in April 1846. That listing
gave him an age creditable for war service. Seventy years later he correctly
remembered within one letter the rank and details of the man who enlisted him,
Captain W.P. Sampler of Company I 22nd Virginia. His name was actually
William P. Samples. 339 This obscure piece of information was unlikely to be
known unless he was there. His supposed lieutenant while named, remains
unknown. While not using his exact full name except in one enlistment, that of
the 22nd Virginia, several men called Thomas Riddle are recorded in units where
he said he was enlisted. A Thomas Riddle also appears by name in an excerpt
from an 1863 diary written by a soldier in his company in the 33rd Virginia. He
may also possibly be the Confederate veteran identified in the 1913 reunion
photo as Thomas E. Riddle.
No other Thomas Evans Riddle appears in records to show that the man
who served and the man who lived to 1954 are two different people, although
that is possible. Another Thomas E. Riddle did serve the Confederacy. This man
was Doctor Thomas Elam Riddle (1838-1934) He was a sergeant in the Texan
Cavalry and had a traceable life. He was also originally from Tennessee but was
a long term resident of Rockdale, Texas.340 A photograph shows some physical
resemblance to Thomas Evans Riddle. Given their shared state of origin, they
may have been related.
Evidence against service: His own outrageously impossible stories,
claims by descendants that he was too young to have been in the war, the
opinion of the writer of his regimental history and some very contradictory
censuses, genealogical charts, written facts, documents and his death certificate
records are all strong negative evidence.
David Autry working from research by Margret Gilbreath. Our Family 2/8/2008.
http:/Roots/web Project Our Family / The Last Civil War Vets. Our Family p2.
Find A Grave ‘Thomas Elam Riddle.’
Riddle can only be the most curious case amongst those who lived into
the 1950s or beyond. He has more evidence in his favour than several who are
verified, but they do not have such strong evidence against their claim. Like
Hard, Mayer, Woolson and Bush, he told tall stories, but he pushed them into
the ridiculous and unlike the other three did not know when to stop and to start
balancing those stories with real experiences. Like the others, in fact, like
almost all of the twenty nine in this study, his birthdate remains uncertain and
mixed in contradictions. Unlike most of the others, many of his supposed
birthdates means that he was too young to have served in the war, even as a
child soldier. Contradictory information from Riddle family sources and
government agencies means that while his claims cannot be disproved, they
block him from being verified.
After reading the devastating assorted pieces that make up evidence
against his service it seemed charitable to keep his status “as possible/confusing
evidence.” All this negative evidence exists here for those who wish to follow it
after I establishing why he stays listed as a possibility, but cannot go beyond
that. The last paragraph summarises his importance. Not one document that is
evidence for Civil War service comes from Riddle.
The first primary source is the 1850 census where he is listed as being
four years old, born in Blount, Tennessee in April 1846.
The second find and its assessment is largely due to the efforts of John
McClure of the Virginia Historical Society. After checking for Riddle in the
Tennessee regiments where Riddle claimed to be first, and not finding him
enlisted, I believed the account by descendants who had stated that although he
said he enlisted with the Tennesseans there was no record of him there. They
said the same about his enlistment on the 22nd Virginia muster roll, so who was
the Thomas Riddle there and in the 33rd and the 53rd ? My double check with Mr
McClure got a prompt response. He found a Thomas Evans Riddle was indeed
mentioned, as enrolled in the 22nd Regiment Company I under his full name and
1846 was given there as his date of birth. However as Mr McClure pointed out,
the author’s note to Riddle’s name stated that he probably did not serve there.341
Riddle’s full name did not show up in the 22nd Virginia’s computerised muster
rolls used until then so this important clue was nearly missed. As subsequent
pages show, the author of the note had a point about distrusting Riddle, but the
fact remains - how many soldiers named Thomas Evans Riddle exist in the
muster rolls? Only one has been found after a thorough investigation.
Terry D. Lowry, excerpt from his book. e-mail from John McClure 16th April 2014.
To remake the previously mentioned point from Part One about muster
rolls once again, they do not contain full conclusive proof, are full of
unacknowledged double entries for individuals and have omissions for both
basic information and for individuals who served. Even so, this book shows
them to be much more reliable than the American censuses.
The 22nd Virginia served in the unsuccessful 1861 campaign to reclaim
West Virginia where many of the regiment’s soldiers were from, although some
were from Riddle’s home state of Tennessee. In early 1862 they moved towards
the front, forming in North-East Virginia. Lowry states that Riddle claimed to
have enlisted in the 33rd Virginia Infantry in 1863, a unit recruited mainly
around Rockingham County. This regiment was part of the famed Stonewall
Brigade. This meant it would be in all the war’s major eastern battles until
Spotsylvania 1864, when it had taken so many casualties that it was merged into
other units. While approximately 6,000 soldiers served in the brigade, only 210
surrendered at Appomattox; their reputation was so high that they led the last
parade at the surrender.342 Riddle’s name was not among the unit’s names listed
Riddle’s claimed service gains more credibility by the third piece of
evidence. This was found by this writer as an entry in a serialised diary where
nothing was made of it. His move from the 22nd to the 33rd, was perhaps to be
with probable relatives James and Harrison Riddle. John B. Sheets, (also of
Company I) kept a diary in which Riddle appears with Harrison. In February
1863 they were apparently absent without leave and returned to camp in chains.
Riddle slipped out of the chains but returned voluntarily only to be locked up.
Considering that Sheets records deserters being shot in this week Riddle was
lucky to be alive.343 Sheets also records the aftermath of Gettysburg and the
sheer dreariness of war.
It is a long way from Riddle’s account of getting presents from his
relative Robert E. Lee while they amiably chat on the Riddle family farm, being
relatives and pals. The last piece of evidence is the 1913 Reunion photo, already
mentioned and dealt with in detail on the section on Arnold Murray.
If the writing here seems convoluted, pedantic and a morass, please reflect on
Patrick Hook & Steve Smith, The Stonewall Brigade in the Civil War. London: Zenith
Press, 2008. p101 p123.
John B. Sheets, The Diary of John B. Sheets. Transcribed by Dale Harter, HRHS
Archivist. Harrisonburg – Rockingham Historical Society. Volume 30. No1. p7 entry for Feb
26th 1863.
the way that I am investigating a man who managed to have nine different birth
date years, be born in both Tennessee and Kentucky, have at least two military
records and possibly more to come, had no fathers in his first census, had
perhaps other parents in two sets and indulged to the full an outrageous and
hilarious propensity for telling impossible stories. Even dead he confused to an
impossible maximum, gaining two disagreeing death certificates and two
disagreeing tombstones. Presumably some merciful archivist buried him under
one of them, but after researching him, don’t count on it.
LBJ (pictured here) got us into one wartime morass in Vietnam. Riddle
(pictured here) got us into another wartime morass closer to home.
Senator Lyndon Baines Johnson meets with Riddle in the 1950s. Ironically
Johnson would be accused of getting voter’s names off tombstones. Riddle looks
like an honest man here.
Why couldn’t the aptly named Pleasant Crump have outlived the aptly
named Riddle? Anybody else in the over one million serving in Confederate
ranks should have lived longer. Riddle may have been the last living
Confederate soldier, but he is also the most confusing. Even the Loudermilks or
the censuses cause less confusion.
My account initially followed what unbelieving relatives wrote on the
website ‘Our Family.’ They stated that in 1931 Riddle tried to get a Confederate
pension and to do so initially stated he was in the 12th Tennessee Infantry
which was soon merged, then he was in the 22nd Tennessee Infantry - and that
enlistment still appears on some websites. As late as 1951 he claimed to have
served in the 12th at Gettysburg.344 In 1931 the War Department could find
nothing either. To that point I agreed with their sceptical outlook as I had
checked and also found no reference to him there. Other Tennessee units were
mentioned by Riddle, but then his descendants said he claimed confusion and to
have served in Virginian units.345
He presented a memorandum that he said had been written up by his wife
about twenty-five years before about his enlistment in the 22nd and said that he
remembered he had served in the 33rd Virginia. By their account he got his
enrolling captain’s surname right within one letter seventy years on, but the
authorities of the 1930s did not know of his named lieutenant, Glarpie
Sentendem.346 Nobody knew anything of that supposed officer back then and
nobody does now. Professor Hoar’s doubts about the existence of Riddle’s place
of enlistment, Verna, Virginia are borne out by an internet search.347 In 1932
Government workers then told him that they could find no record of him in the
22nd Virginia, but did find him listed in the 33rd Virginia, so he was granted his
pension.348 A Thomas Riddle is listed there in Company I.349 If he was a faker
after a pension, how did he know the enlisting Captain’s name and task? How
did he know that there was indeed a Thomas Evans Riddle enlisted in the 22nd
Virginia when initially the officials did not? Like the 22nd’s muster rolls, the
memorandum has since tied in with the other evidence that does not come from
him. In his 22nd Virginia Infantry Terry D. Lowry writes that Riddle claimed to
be in various Tennessee units, but finally settled on the 22nd Virginia, but this
claim was probably not so.350 Lowry does however state that the Thomas Evans
Riddle was born on April 16th 1846 near Nashville, and so links him to the man
who died in 1954 and he gives us Riddle’s dubious claim of enlisting in 1863
and serving to the war’s end.351 He does not show up on the Appomattox Parole
Associated Press, May 1951 Story
Our Family p2.
Hoar, Affidavit of Thomas Riddle of Feb.24th reduced in part Vol. III p1711.
Hoar, Vol. III p1711; My search for Verna, Virginia went on long after anything remotely
possible was coming up. It was a wild goose chase.
Our Family.
Official Records http://www. Nps. Gov/civil war/search –
soldiers.html?submitted+1&SDfName+Thomas+&S; John W. Wayland, Muster Rolls of
Confederate Soldiers. This is a developed excerpt from his History of Rockingham County.
Excerpt sent by John McClure, e-mail 16th April 2014. Unfortunately Lowry’s history is
now out of print and the last copy traceable apparently sold for $1000 recently.
list. Ancestry .com does list him in the 22nd Virginia, Company I, but the
Official Records does not, but does list him in the 33rd Company I.
There was another (?) private, Thomas E. Riddle, who also turned out
to be Thomas C. Riddle served in Company I 53rd Virginia Infantry. Like the
33rd, this unit was at Gettysburg and the company identifying letter is the same
with numbers easily confused, so perhaps he finally ended up here –or perhaps
there were three Thomas Riddles in the Army of Northern Virginia.
His potential enrolments look like this:
12th Tennessee Infantry (merged) (claimed without evidence)
22nd Tennessee Infantry (unlisted) (claimed without evidence)
Other Tennessee Units (unknown) (claimed without evidence)
Company I 22nd Virginia Infantry (possible)
Company I of the 33rd Virginia Regiment (proven for a Thomas Evans
Riddle on muster roll evidence)
Company I 53rd Virginia Infantry (unlikely. The Thomas Riddle here
to be someone else)
The writers of “Our Family” faced with all this and without the evidence we
now have, were quite right then to be sceptical about Riddle’s military life, but
the census morass gets Riddle’s descendants and genealogists saying there is
“no way” that Thomas Evans Riddle could have served in the Civil War. This
sounds a bit too certain, but while much of the evidence appears muddled,
ambiguous, contradictory and uncertain, enough remains to cause even the most
ardent defender serious doubts about Riddle’s claims.
The morass caused by army rolls appears difficult to beat, but the
birthdate documents for Riddle manage to be worse. It is important to remember
that not one of these birthdates has been backed by reference to a birth
certificate. No birth
certificate, baptismal record or date of birth from a marriage licence can be
found on a computer website for Thomas Evans Riddle to the best of my
knowledge. The source of evidence, the censuses and his death certificates are
full of multiple contradictions, ambiguities and uncertainties, are often
incomplete and are difficult to decipher. Even some among those working with
the Riddle records frequently admit to these factors.
If the genealogists and the census takers had stuck with one date within
the range this would have made for a stronger case, either for credibility or
disbelief, but all this confusion does is to lower the credibility of the census
records. He was born again and again and again and again and again and again
and again and again and again if we believe censuses. I am not joking: we are
offered nine birth dates. How can anyone take such evidence seriously?
Some researchers write that they have found original documents that
prove that he was born on April 16th 1846.352 Perhaps this refers to the 1850
census, but could be something else. This census clearly shows a Thomas (no
middle name) Riddle was born in Blount, Blount County Tennessee, when and
where he said he born. His father’s name is not shown and the head of the
household is Lucy Riddle, aged forty. While it is possible she is an older sister
or half-sister, the age range of over thirty-five years for the listed siblings make
this unlikely. She is more likely to be an aunt or their mother. A Thomas Riddle
did marry a Lucy Johnston in Virginia in June 1821, but a marriage to a bride of
about eleven? Good as this evidence is for Riddle, it shows him as perhaps
wrong about his supposed mother’s name at least – surely something people
never forget. This census birth year would go into many documents, but not
Thomas and Lucy as his parents.353 He never named them as such, perhaps
because they were not his parents. Oddly a fraud with half a brain would have
stuck to the same parent as is named on the census, not name people as parents
who were not on it, but did he see the document or just know of it? The census
document does make him the right age for soldiering. While men called Thomas
Riddle abound in the censuses after 1850 and in Civil War records, only one
Thomas Evans Riddle shows up in censuses, death certificates and pensions –
the man who died in Houston in 1954.
This census also lists two men with what some descendants claim was his
father’s name, Elias. The first, born in 1805, married twenty years later, the
other was born in 1834. The family tree claims the younger Elias as his father.
Put together in 2013, it does seem to rely on the 1954 death certificate and
census data as it reproduces the 1870 and 1880 censuses. These give a Thomas
Riddle (no middle name) contradictory ages of ten in the first and eighteen in
Judith McGuiness, “Riddle Wrapped in an Enigma: Civil War Veteran Buried in Burknett
Cemetery Lived Extraordinary Life’ Times Record News. Wichita Falls, Texas. August 16th
2008. http://www. Times record aug16/riddle-wrapped-enigma/? Print 1.
McGuiness does say that these 1840s documents “supposedly attest” to Riddle’s birth. Lowry
also accepts this birthdate, see Citation 107.
Texas Death Certificates 1890-1976. Texas Confederate Home for Men. Austin. Family
History and Message Board. p4.
Jane Stewart, Ancestry ® Official Site
the second. This site does reproduce all the usual dates, so Thomas Evans
Riddle lives from 1858 to 1954. However it also seemingly lists Elias and
Mahala (Mahalia elsewhere in censuses) as his parents and they are listed as
being born in 1834 (Mahalia about 1835 elsewhere in censuses) and then list
Thomas Evans Riddle’s marriages and children accurately. Elias married in
1852, but after being widowed he married his sister in law in 1868. While the
usual census birthdate confusion appears there, the 1870 census does list
Thomas as a child of Elias and Mahalia and in 1880 TER is listed with the
widowed Mahalia’s children. This cannot be a mistake. What is clear is that the
man born in 1846 could not be the child of parents born in 1834, nor did he
claim these parents, although the wives and children shown on the genealogical
tree agree with one of the death certificates. This comes close to what another
family tree shows; but this gives his birth year as 1860. This difference in
birthdates between 1858 and 1860 might be explained by the census last
birthday rule.
The death certificate issued by the State of Texas in 1954 also accepts
this 1846 date, but another document in the same collection from Wichita Falls
records a birthdate of 1858 with the names of Elias and Mahalia as different
parents to those on the first death certificate!355 If this is not confusing enough,
both sets of the parent’s names have an assonance joined in gender, yet they
might be different. On one death certificate Lyles Riddle and Hailey Brown
were stated as being the parents of the Thomas Evans Riddle born in 1846 in
Blount, Blount County. While several Americans named Lyle Riddle show up
in the antebellum south, not one Lyles Riddle does and no Hailey Brown is
shown married to a Riddle. The same maiden name would be a certain
giveaway were it not so common. Both documents are talking about the same
man as both give the same death date of April 2nd 1954. After nine birthdates
and three sets of possible parents, he would manage two divergent death
certificates, each one containing contradictions. Both also list his children. With
one Cora B. Riddle, they list her father Thomas as born “Apr 1860 TN in
Grayson County. 1900.” These same documents state that Thomas Evans Riddle
was born in Kentucky in 1868 and was living with his daughter Cora, whom
they name correctly.356
One descendant posted an initially devastating blog about Riddle’s
birthdate, quoting the 1860 census document that gave Riddle’s birth year as
1853. They are not certain that his father was Elias and in one brief article they
Ibid, This does mean one entry down.
Ibid, This is on the bottom of page and the top of the next.
also produce different birthdates from the 1860 census for Thomas Riddle, April
11th 1858 and 1853.357 They also apparently do not know about the 1850 census
document, although they do know of his claim to being born in 1846. That
evidence is independent from Riddle’s say so and comes from the time.
To worsen the confusion other Texans named Thomas E. Riddle appear
in the census records and are of the same vintage. The 1920 census gives a
birthdate of about 1864 for one Texan Thomas E. Riddle and “about 1847” for
another, but the wife’s name is different, so neither may be Thomas Evans
Riddle! Yet another Confederate Riddle from Tennessee, resident in Texas at
the time was Doctor Thomas Elam Riddle (1838-1934) who had a wife
supposedly named California in some censuses, but then she - or a later wife, is
named Virginia next time the census taker called! To keep a belief in census
reliability we must believe this Riddle not only had a penchant for changing his
birth year, but he also had a penchant for wives named after American states! Or
to maintain a belief in the marvellous and inviolate reliability of American
censuses, would the believers in censuses have us consider that a Riddle
persuaded his wife (or wives) to change their names to suit some eccentric
marital taste involving states’ rights?
Back in the 1950s somebody apparently just compiled documents relating
to Thomas E. Riddle in a file without trying to make sense of them. They
probably wanted to stay sane.
What Riddle, (like Loudermilk and Murray) unintentionally does prove
without a doubt is the ridiculous ways and general unreliability of censuses.
Stronger evidence against Riddle comes from Riddle himself. The 1910
census lists Thomas E. Riddle in Clay County Texas and correctly lists his five
children and place of birth. It gives his age as 48 and his estimated birth year as
1862. This matches the age of eighteen on the 1880 census record, even if they
disagree with all the other documents. The column asking for yes or no for Civil
War service stays blank. In the 1930 census in the column concerning military
service Riddle has written “no” and left the involvement in conflicts column
The recently discovered May 1913 Chattanooga United Confederate
Veterans reunion group photograph could be good evidence for Riddle. Writing
on the back gives several names, but the Thomas E. Riddle of Texas identified
here looks more like the Doctor Thomas Elam Riddle, he served in the Texan
Cavalry. A portrait and his details are available under his name in a Find a
Our Family. Previous Citation.
Grave entry. However enough of a similarity in face and build exists so that
Thomas Evans Riddle cannot be discounted or is this the other Texan, Thomas
E. Riddle?
If any record of Thomas Evans Riddle being born at any other date exists
it should be computerised. Perhaps Lucy Riddle on the 1846 census was not his
mother. Were it not for the censuses and the information about Elias and
Mahalia with Thomas listed as their child, Riddle would be listed as a probable
Civil War veteran and the last fighting man, but they do exist and in some
detail, and so unless he was born in one of the other claimed years before 1853,
he cannot be both their child and a Civil War veteran.
Pleasant Crump, Thomas E. Riddle,(?) Renes Lee, Unknown, Unknown, Arnold Murray
Riddle did not need bureaucracies, family members or anybody else to
lower his credibility. His tall stories included knowing the James Brothers and
knowing that Jesse was not shot dead in 1882 but with Frank, took on a secret
identity near Riddle’s home.358 His Civil War anecdotes include being given a
birthday gift of a pistol by Robert E. Lee while the general and his army camped
out on the Riddle’s Tennessee farm – not that Lee ever really took his army into
Tennessee.359 Riddle also claimed that before enlisting he “worked as a stone
and brick mason around General Rob Lee’s camp.”360 Other tall ones were
being oblivious to five bullets in the side until a General told him, being related
McGinnis, quoting Riddle, p2.
Hoar, Vol. III p1712 quoting Riddle.
to Robert E. Lee and about burying Gettysburg’s fatalities, all thirteen of them!
Thomas Riddle lived in the Houston Veteran’s home from January 1950
Among his other acquaintances were Lincoln, whom Riddle “knew until
he died” surely a unique claim for one supposedly serving in the Stonewall
Was he just joshing his visitors and merely wanted to stir them up and
get some laughs? Or were these stories to cover the horrors of war and his less
McGuiness p2; Unsigned article, “86 Years After Civil War Only 19 Veterans Remain.”
Denver Post 19th June 1951. n.p. This article seems to be an updated version of the May 1951
Associated Press Article Thomas Evans Riddle Collection. See also Hoar Vol.
III p1712.
Ibid, This one made the New York Times on April 3rd 1954.
than glorious attempt to escape from it? Or were they a way of communicating
that his whole claim was all bull?
Only Riddle really knew the answers.
He certainly was a colourful character who loved to spin stories for guests
as he spent his last years as the last Confederate in a Houston veteran’s home.
His large room was decorated with a battle flag and a portrait of Lee. He died on
April 2nd 1954, just days before what was perhaps his 108th birthday.
Riddle needs more research, especially reliable information about his
wartime service. Getting evidence for who his parents were will be crucial. The
perhaps parents born in 1834 cannot be discounted without evidence. Much of
the evidence that goes against his claims comes from him.
He was perhaps the last Civil War combatant. Four pieces of strong
evidence do indicate that. The 1850 census record, Sheets diary, the 33rd
enrolment and knowing of the enrolling officer are all strong evidence. Thomas
Riddle being in the 22rd Virginia backs this. The 1913 photo remains possibly
strong evidence. No other Thomas Evans Riddle has ever been revealed to
explain these obviously genuine references away. Maybe one will turn up. Were
it not for the censuses, the death certificates, the family trees and his stories this
would be ample to verify him. He has internet supporters, but no historian can
be definite about believing him. Most rightly mix caution and curiosity and at
this point, he can only be listed as a strong, controversial and important
Even in death there are two of them, ensuring that the controversy stays
written in stone, the disagreement going on into eternity.
Hattie Cook Carter
Result: possible/probable.
Date of Birth: uncertain: 1834 to early 1836.
Date of Death: 9th January 1956.
Age at enlistment: uncertain, probably in her later twenties to early
thirties. There may be no official enlistment, although she almost
certainly served.
Rank: nurse and paramilitary.
Unit: she does not seem to have a designated unit.
Service: nursing, cooking and paramilitary field work.
Combat Experience: uncertain. She probably came under fire but did not
shoot back.
Length of service: 1861-1865.
At this stage very little is apparently known about Hattie Cook Carter,
although she may have been the last surviving person to have served the
Confederate cause and was at the least, very probably among the final four.
What has already been mentioned in the section on Sarah Rockwell about the
paucity of primary source material concerning Richmond’s medical workers
also applies even more strongly to Hattie Cook Carter. What facts do emerge
comes from two sources. The first is a brief Richmond obituary preserved
among a computerised list of facts for the day January 11th 1956. A more
extensive account of her life can be found in in Professor Jay S. Hoar’s The
South’s Last Boys in Gray (pp1715-1716) Volume III of his trilogy.
She was born a slave and during the Civil War worked at many tasks
around Richmond, where she lived. Professor Hoar describes her as staunchly
Confederate. During the sieges of Richmond and Petersburg she was involved
in carrying food and ammunition to the front lines. Sniping, artillery barrages
and sudden enemy offensives made this obviously dangerous work. More
insidiously the trenches and hospitals were incubation centres for the deadly
diseases that killed more than the battles: nurses were known to die from
infections caught during their work. She was also working at washing, bedding
and clothing and serving meals at Richmond’s Chimborazo Hospital, the
world’s largest military hospital, at that time. One of her odder tasks was
looking after two white children abandoned by their parents. She was among
thousands of Black women, North and South, who had a large part in Civil War
nursing. Her account matches what was written in the section on Sarah
Rockwell: Blacks, slaves and the poor had the worst jobs in nursing. A search
through recently computerised files did not reveal her name, but unpaid workers
and slaves were apparently not recorded; even for those who were paid the files
are incomplete.
According to the newspaper clipping her husband of sixty years was a
Confederate soldier, but this can only be unlikely and confusing her two
marriages. This may be a reference to her first husband, believed to have the
surname Cook. One of her children, Fred Cook was born in 1869-1870. His age
of eighty in 1950 tends to confirm hers. At the very least, having a child born in
1869 or 1870 means that Hattie Cook Carter was born no later than 1855/1856,
old enough for her wartime stories to be true as there were ten year old nurses.
Her lack of documentation and professed age of 120 years or more must cause
doubt: the oldest woman in the world with undisputed proof lived to 122: only a
handful who have any creditability have lived beyond 120 but only one has
achieved this by the rules of accepted proof from the decider, The Guinness
Book of Records. Their accepted evidence being birth certificates and census
records - which few slaves had.
Sometime after the war, she remarried a former Union soldier John
Carter. They moved north to his hometown in the town of Freedom
Pennsylvania. She lived there the rest of her life, often telling relatives stories of
her time in the war and enjoying good health until her final week.
In terms of the creditability of her accounts Hattie Cook Carter should
rate highly. Her prosaic stories of wartime service did not gain her money,
benefits or attention. They were told to her family: what gain could stories of
serving the Confederacy bring to a Black woman living in a Northern state?
Like her wartime record, her age cannot be proved or disproved without
more evidence. Unlike Sarah Rockwell, she did not have a life traceable through
documents, family links and photographs. These would have been at best rare
for someone who lived her first three decades as a slave and her next in the
devastation of war and reconstruction. Given the lack of documentation for
people doing the types of work she did, verification remains unlikely.
A working woman’s clothes from the 1860s: once hospital staff were organised
nurses into units they would have worn clothes very similar to this recreation.
“Aftermath” by Martin Pate. One common task for medical staff was to search
battlefields for those who were badly wounded or unconscious. It is likely that
as a paramilitary close to the front lines Hattie Carter Cook took part in such
Freed Blacks stand amidst Richmond’s ruins, a colourised image.
Technology changes our concepts. Frequently used as an image of
antebellum slavery, the colourised and uncropped image shows a young man in
what is almost certainly a Union blue soldier’s jacket and cap. The man on the
left wears what looks like a Confederate cap. Were they once enemy soldiers
now reconciled or do we note that they are seated far apart and perceive this as
an uneasy tolerance or hostility? Or were they civilian friends who had just
found different stacks of discarded army clothes? This is the more likely
probability as these people are escaped slaves, photographed behind Union
lines in Virginia in 1862, so they are unlikely to have fought in the war, but may
have been auxiliaries.
Albert Woolson
Result: his service record is accepted√
Date of Birth: disputed. February 11th 1847 is generally accepted, but
1848 or 1850 have also been claimed, probably incorrectly.
Date of Death: 2nd August 1956.
Age at enlistment: disputed, but probably seventeen.
Rank: private.
Unit: 1st Minnesota Heavy Artillery.
Service: bugler and drummer.
Combat Experience: none.
Length of service: October 1864 to October 1865.
Since the early 1960s most commentators credit Albert Woolson with being the
last certain Civil War survivor. In his last years he was honoured for his work in
veteran’s affairs and for being the last Union veteran. However as William A.
Lundy, John Salling and Walter Williams outlived him and had credibility as
Civil War veterans for years after he died, he was not honoured as the last Civil
War veteran until decades after his death. Even now many (including this
writer) do not believe that to be a certainty. Two good accounts of his life are
by Serrano and Hoar. Professor Hoar did this in his fifteen page segment in The
North’s Last Boys in Blue Volume II. In his notes to Last of the Blue and the
Gray Richard A. Serrano lists several reliable sources for Woolson’s service
record and tells his story.363
Like James Albert Hard, Woolson was born in upstate New York. The
Woolson’s moved to Minnesota between the late 1850s and 1861. Just before
leaving New York State Woolson could recall going to a meeting with his father
to hear Abraham Lincoln.364 In Minnesota the Woolsons were so close to the
Sioux uprising of 1862 that he could see their destructive fires. His father was
an early volunteer for the Union but was badly injured, either in a riverboat
accident or in battle at Shiloh. After a leg amputation he was invalided out of
service.365 When Lincoln called for 1500 volunteers from Minnesota for
garrison duty in Tennessee Woolson volunteered.366 Woolson felt that he should
take his father’s place and enlisted in October 1864, serving for a year on
garrison duty at Chattanooga. He had enlisted hoping to serve as an
infantryman, developing his shooting skills, so as to become one, but because of
his age he was made a musician, enlisting in the band of a Minnesota Artillery
unit where he played drums and the bugle. Music was a love that never left him.
Serrano, pp199-200.
Hoar, Vol. II p891. Woolson quoted.
Serrano mentions the riverboat accident version p46; Rebecca Beatrice Brooks mentions
the Shiloh version. ‘Albert Woolson : The Last Civil War Veteran’ Civil War Saga: A Blog
about the Civil War. Posted Dec.13th 2011. –in-the-civilwar.p1; Hoar mentions the battle of Corinth. Vol. II p891.
Hoar, Vol. II p893. Woolson’s 1949 recollections are quoted.
Later in life he concluded that there was no glory in that war as they were
brothers fighting each other.367 Although he never fought, he could recall
playing taps for the dead. He had a few odd and tall stories to tell, such as being
in a group of privates served lemonade by General Thomas, commander of the
Army of the Cumberland. That one could be true, but being at Ford’s Theatre
Washington, a week before Lincoln’s shooting, accompanied by his father, this
certainly cannot be as Woolson was serving at Chattanooga. This is
misremembering, not lying, as he said he was nine at the time.368 Clearly this
cannot be either possible or a deliberate attempt to delude.
After military service he returned home in October 1865 to find his father
dying. Soon after he began a career as a wood turner and pattern designer in a
furniture factory and stayed there sixteen years. At the same time he began
playing instruments in a band. He married Fannie Belle Rye in 1868 and they
had ten children. After her death in 1901 he spent three years away in Michigan
logging camps and then married again in 1904, having four daughters from his
second marriage.
Woolson is quoted by Brooks, ‘Albert Woolson: The Last Civil War Veteran’ p2.
Ibid; Serrano p121.
Woolson celebrating a birthday. This original photo is the gift of Jay S. Hoar.
He worked at several different places, usually in manufacturing and
engineering. In old age he lived in Duluth and became involved in veteran’s
affairs. He enjoyed being a celebrity, but did not go into the extreme behaviour
some other aged veterans indulged in, although sometimes he told tall tales on
radio shows. He would obligingly sign autographs and often answered his fan
mail, although not for all those letters that arrived on his 106th birthday- over
eight thousand of them!369 As an invited guest he talked to schoolchildren, often
about the virtues of thrift, often about the war. One wonders if one of those
Duluth school children was Bob Dylan.
As late as 1955 his health was so good that he was still shovelling snow,
but in May 1956 with his health deteriorating he was hospitalised. He went into
a coma in late July and died a few days later. His death was worldwide news
and his funeral was massive.
His life, except for its length, and the fact that he was the last survivor of
such a great event was so ordinary, but in that ordinariness it had much about it
Hoar, Vol II Photographic evidence and caption p892.
that typified the best in the common American - and their virtues of selfsacrifice, stoicism, good humour, thrift, hard work, loyalty and modesty.
He seems to have been mourned as much for his likeable personality as
for his status as the last living link to Lincoln’s cause.
Woolson’s love of music and children combine in these photos from his
old age. The girl is his granddaughter Frances Anne Kobus, aged four.
Woolson’s funeral: Nearly three thousand people lined the streets or took part.
He was buried with full military honours. President Eisenhower, Chief of Staff
General Maxwell Taylor and many other prominent Americans made official
statements. Across America days of mourning and flags at half-mast marked his
death. Several weeks after his death a memorial was unveiled for him at
Gettysburg. Another would be set up in Duluth.
The memorial to Albert Woolson, two views
The Duluth Monument: the meek do inherit the earth. The photo below
shows part of the same monument that can be seen below left.
Louis Nicholas Baker
Result: his service record cannot be authenticated.
This account is based on Serrano’s in Last of the blue and the Gray.
Baker is also briefly mentioned in Hoar’s Volume II on page 1001
When Albert Woolson died in August 1956 the townspeople of Guthrie
Oklahoma heard that one of their senior citizens was suddenly claiming to be
the last Union Civil War veteran. He was Louis Nicholas Baker and he
supplied many details. His name came close to that of Louis I. Baker, a proven
veteran and perhaps a relative who may have told him stories in youth which he
recalled in old age.
Louis Nicholas Baker had given unusual personal and military details of
service very similar to those of Louis I. Baker – but these were the details of a
man who died in 1909. There were too many coinciding odd facts in the records
for there to be two different men with the same record, but they could not have
been the same man. In 1956 Louis Nicholas Baker also claimed to be 103, while
Louis I. Baker, long dead, would have been 124.
Louis Nicholas Baker died on 17th January 1957.
Maud Nicholls Jones (legendary) aka Maude
Result: garbled legends/ impossible unless a namesake exists.
Date of Birth: 1848 in the legend, but documentation makes that date
impossible. She was probably born years after the Civil War ended.
Date of Death: May 1957 in reality. According to a false aspect in the
legend she lived until 1962.
Age at enlistment: not enlisted.
Rank: none.
Unit: in the legend medical services and an apothecary’s store.
Service: in the legend preparing and delivering medicine?
Combat Experience: none in the legend/ non-existent.
Length of service: non-existent.
Evidence from her husband’s 1930s Confederate veteran’s pension application,
her 1941 widow’s pension application and Gilchrist County Birth Certificates
reveals the reality behind a legend that supports some aspects of what is claimed
in the legend, albeit only in a vague way that precludes her being involved in
the Civil War.
Before examining the reality the legend should be told: it is a worthwhile
exercise in how stories grow and get garbled and distorted in the process.
The Legend: Maud Nicholls Jones was married to Burton Jones, a
Confederate soldier who ran an apothecary’s shop for the soldiery at Fort
Christmas. This fort still exists as a rebuilt museum and is located a few miles
inland from Florida’s east coast on the way to Orlando. It was built in 1837, one
of many constructed during the Seminole Wars and then abandoned afterwards.
The Confederates supposedly adapted it and according to legend Maud Nicholls
Jones sometimes travelled with her husband when he did his rounds in his
apothecary wagon, a virtual mobile shop which supplied vital medical supplies
and cures. His route was along the Saint John’s River to Sanford, Fort Mellon
and back to Fort Christmas. His wife was sometimes working as a nurse on
these trips. She died near Fort Christmas in 1962 aged 114 years. So goes the
Professor Hoar in Volume II summarises it as such and then comments
that no evidence was found, only hearsay.370 Despite several attempts at
verification he sees it is probably a stretching of the truth. Two Confederate
soldiers named Burton Jones do appear, a Tennessean and a South Carolinian,
but they are not in Florida units or anywhere nearby.
So far even the existence of Fort Christmas as a functioning Confederate
military installation remains at best, unlikely. Historians and curators there
communicate that the fort had been abandoned in 1837 and that there was little
of it left in 1862. They mention that few people were in the area during the Civil
War, not even enough for a proper town with an apothecary’s shop. Garrisons
around the area were unlikely. Those Confederates in the area were involved in
herding cattle north. Travel in the area was more likely to be by boat than
wagon. In addition to giving this information the staff at the Fort Christmas
museum had never heard of Maud Nicholls Jones.371 Investigating tombstones
in old nearby cemeteries and requests for information from local papers and
bureaucracies revealed no knowledge of such a person.
Checking the Florida pensions records revealed that Maud Jones did
indeed exist, albeit with several differences to the legend. She lived until May
1957, not 1962. No husband named Burton Jones emerges, Fort Christmas was
not nearby and instead of the wagon we have a ferry and a future husband who
did support the Confederacy on the home front in Florida.
The Gilchrist County Site has a list of birth certificates which contains
information about Maud, her husband and their two children. Florida Memory
State Library & Archives of Florida contains the state’s Confederate Pensions
Records. This section has an eight page file on Maud Jones and her husband
George Asberry Chappell Martin and that file will open on entering her name.
The information includes the husband’s attempts to get the pension, sworn
statements of those who witnessed his Civil War actions, a sworn statement
about their marriage, the granting of the pension, a July 1941 application for a
Florida Widow’s Pension and letters concerning Maud’s death and her bequests.
What follows next is a summary of those sources. In the last two years of
the war G.A.C. Martin aged around sixteen, operated a ferry on the Suwannee
River, near Fayetteville. He was sometimes helped by his brother Robert.
Although he was technically in the Home Guard and came under officer’s
orders, he was exempt from active service. He aided the army by transporting
Hoar, Vol. II p996 p998. Also repeated in a personal phone call early 2015.
Cheryl Wasserman, e-mail ‘Fort Christmas’ 3 September 2014. All the information on
Fort Christmas is contained in this e-mail.
their troops and cavalry. He was also well thought of by the locals as he aided
them in ways not specified, apart from free ferry rides and “being an aid to the
wifes of soldiers” (sic). This could have meant delivering medical supplies as in
the legend. His service was attested to not by Maud, but by other women who
had known him since childhood. No mention of Maud appears in these
She was originally from Fayetteville North Carolina, so with the two
towns having the same name, somebody may have assumed she was part of her
future husband’s Civil War activities. She only took up residence in Florida in
1893.372 They were married in 1897 and she gave her maiden name as Jones.
She lived sixty years beyond her marriage, so she was probably quite old when
she died in May 1957. No mention is made of her age, but she could not have
even been born before the Civil War, as her last child was born in 1916.373
The basis of the legend is that her husband worked in Florida transport
for the Confederacy and was supplying some form of aid to local people are
both true… but the rest? Is must be impossible that this woman was married to
Burton Jones and rode around in a wagon near Fort Christmas during the Civil
War, doing what the legend described. Maud Jones’s wartime activities can
only be possible if a namesake with very different documentation turns up.
Entry ‘Maude Jones. Florida Memory State Library & Archives of Florida. The
application is available in both original form and a verbatim transcript.
The Official FLGenWEB. Gilchrist County GenWeb. Delayed Birth Certificates.
Transcribed by Myrtice Scarborozi.
William Allen Lundy
Result: some of the first sections of his claimed service record sounds
possible, but other sections remain extremely dubious and unlikely.
Date of Birth: disputed. January or April 1848, 1853 and May 1860.
Date of Death: 1st September 1957.
Age at enlistment: he claimed fourteen.
Rank: private.
Unit: Two units were claimed by Lundy for his service ‘The Coffee
County Guards’ and ‘Brown’s Company D 4th Alabama Cavalry.’
Service: (claimed) home guard and cavalry.
Combat Experience: he said there was none.
Length of service: March 1864 to May 1865 - if the statements are true.
Evidence for his war record apart from his account: He knew some details
about the units he claimed to have served in. He knew the last name of an
officer in one of the units and did not tell tall tales. His account of what he did
sounds very believable. The point about not being on the muster rolls is
explainable with the home guards; they were written up before he said he joined
in 1864 and going by the dates added to by those already enlisted, little was
added to the rolls after New Year’s Day 1864. Two men signed affidavits that
he served.374 He gave very detailed information about his birth and his units.
Obviously this makes tracing easy, so a fraud is unlikely to do this. Professor
Hoar states that Florida’s Home Guard had hundreds of youngsters in their
ranks as replacements for adults who could join and gives examples.375 Lundy’s
age in itself for this type of service is not the problem.
Evidence Against: The earlier census rolls show that he was too young,
but do they refer to the right person? He said that his original surname was
spelled Lunday, but he changed it because his school teacher was always at him
to spell it correctly. Anybody called Lunday in Alabama or Florida at this time
does not turn up on census documents. He stated exactly where he served, but in
both of those units where he said he was, no record of himself or the two men
who swore that he was there with them exists. He did not affirm Civil war
service to either the 1910 or 1930 census questions.376
William “Uncle Bill” Lundy, who died in September 1957, was credited
for years as the third last Confederate survivor: now in several different
accounts he gets the label of fraud. Birth and census records reveal that he gave
different birthdates. The earliest was 18th January 1848; others were in 1853 and
May 1860.377 The same source that gives this information states he never
claimed to be born in 1848 until he applied for the Confederate pension in the
1930s and the census records bear this out. He had trouble getting that pension.
His claimed service in the Coffee County Guards was for spending most of his
time guarding the never attacked courthouse. He called one unit he supposedly
served in “Brown’s Company D 4th Alabama Cavalry” but Brown was not there,
it was just Company D.
Lundy claimed that he came close to fighting near the war’s end at Selma
and expressed regret for not killing a Yankee, but he obeyed an officer’s orders
who told him not to shoot.378 Lundy’s description of this reads oddly, as if he
The account of Lundy closely follows Serrano pp126-133; Brian Hughes Previous
Citation; Official Records; William Lundy U-Tube; Hoar, Vol. III pp1717-1720 and Janet
Steadham, Civil War Pension APP. ‘William Allen Lundy’ Okaloosa Co. Florida. This totals
nineteen pages of correspondence between the bureaucracies, Lundy and involved people. It
starts in 1931 and continues to 1965.
Hoar, Vol. III. p1610.
Serrano, p132. A check in the censuses by this writer bears this out.
Serrano p132; Checking census records also bears this out.
Serrano, p128 p129.
never reflected perceptively on why his officer would order him to do this, but
still found it puzzling. It seems a story told by a man who knows less than he
Lundy on his 1955 tour of a jet base. From a youth of hunting deer with a
musket in wilderness to Cold War firepower in old age. His comment while here
was to delight in the possibilities if Lee had been given jets.
tells, which gives it a sense of veracity. Did the officer want to stop young
Lundy from becoming a killer? Or to stop Lundy getting himself killed in
retaliation? Or to save the life of a Union soldier now that the war was almost
over? This incident sounds real, and his absence from one roll can be explained,
but the traceable evidence remains murky and the censuses, muster rolls and
birth claims must raise strong suspicions.
The 1930s officials who checked the records he mentioned tried to be
helpful with what must have been an extensive search. They came to the
conclusion he was not listed anywhere in any Confederate unit designated by a
4th or a Company D.379 Checks for this book also reveal him as unlisted in the
muster rolls of any likely unit. These include the Coffee County Guards,
Captain J.C Brown’s Coffee County Volunteers, Company D of Roddy’s 4th
Alabama Cavalry, Lowes 4th Alabama Cavalry Battalion, or Russell’s 4th
Alabama Cavalry.
These rolls are not always strong proof. The Coffee County muster rolls
were made up before Lundy said he joined. There was also the problem of
quarterly enlistments. If Lundy joined the 4th in late 1864 or early 1865 the war
could have ended before he officially signed up. Captain Brown did exist in
Lundy’s area and in command of the militia as Lundy stated, but Brown did not
go with the unit to serve with the regular army as Lundy also stated.
Two Alabama militia units were commanded by Captains named Brown,
one in Talladega County (Brown’s Talladega County Reserves) and the other in
Coffee County. The witnesses and supposed fellow soldiers John Q. Adams and
Henry M. Mason, are not on that roll. Given the prominence of Captain Brown
in the militia unit, the unit’s name change and the dating of the rolls, Lundy
now starts to gain some creditability, albeit with considerable caution, but that
credibility soon reaches limits.
The roll he should be on is Roddy’s 4th Alabama Cavalry in Company D.
This was added to in September 1864 and contains many details, but he is not
listed anywhere in this regiment when he said he was there.380 It was written up
seven months before the surrender so the quarterly waiting period possibility
does not apply. What applies to him applies to his comrades and witnesses to
his service, none of them were where they swore they were. Three different
enlistments for men or a man named John Q. Adams appear in other Alabama
units, but Henry M. Mason does not appear in any Confederate unit. Given the
frequently scrappy nature of Confederate rolls some allowance could be made.
However if one man was off one roll credibility could be offered for
reasons, but three men being off both rolls? However one thing here does
support Lundy; Company D is listed as a new replacement unit. It was formed
as a militia in 1860 as the Coffee County Volunteers and renamed Captain John
Steadman quoting a letter by James F. McKinley, Major General and Adjutant General for
the War Department, October 23rd 1933. p7.
George B. Wright, Roddey’s Fourth Alabama Cavalry Confederate States of America.
1987. This is compiled from records in the
National Archives. Another version was used for a second checking Roddey’s 4th Alabama
Cavalry. This also contained the Rolls for Russell’s and Lowe’s units. Northwest Alabama
Genealogy webpage.
Uncle Bill Lundy
Brown’s Company Barbiere’s Battalion of Alabama Cavalry.381 A hint exists in
one of Lundy’s depositions that this could have become part of the 4th Alabama
when he describes it as “Company D. Coffee County Regiment Alabama 4th
Cavalry.” 382 One of Lundy’s witnesses called it “Brown’s Regiment.” 383
However Brown had bought his way out with a substitute in September 1863
and so does not appear on any new roll.384
It is interesting to note that his witnesses Mason and Adams give
different names to Lundy’s supposed unit, He is right about where the 4 th
Alabama regiment ended up at the war’s end and knowing about a local Captain
named Brown, but the census birthdates, no avowed Confederate service and
the non-existence of himself and his witnesses on Roddy’s rolls or anywhere
else likely are strong evidence against him. Official Records show eighteen men
named William Lundy served the Confederacy. One was in the 41st Alabama
Infantry, but that regiment served in Virginia, as did a South Carolina Regiment
that had a William A. Lundy on its roll.
His finest moments came after his second marriage. He became a
successful farmer and parent. He joked about his wives’ maiden names that “Ah
Dennis Partridge, Alabama Civil War Rosters Access Genealogy. A Free Genealogy
Resource. www.acess
Steadman, Lundy’s March 1931 deposition. p3.
John Q. Adams, Ibid, p2.
Dennis Partridge, The US Gen Web Project ‘Coffee County Military Records.’ Coffee
County Volunteers. (muster roll)
married a short and she didn’t last long … Ah married a Lassiter an’ she
lasted.”385 Indeed, Mary Jane Lassiter lived until 1940 and nine of their ten
children were noted for their longevity, being alive when Professor Hoar stayed
with many of the Lundy family members in 1984.386 Their ages then ranged
from 82 to 98. Lundy families were based on farms around Crestview in
Northern Florida. Lundy and his wife had moved there in the early 1890s.
His life resembled those of several others among the last veterans. Like
John Salling he had a humorous optimism mixed with folksy humour that could
often reveal a tremendous resilience and generous spirit. In modern parlance
nothing could get him down. Like Loudermilk, Broadsword, Crump and Arnold
Murray, hard work made his farm a success. The berry and fruit trees he planted
were still there in the 1980s. Like Arnold Murray he was still hunting at well
past a hundred and lived with his children around him. At one stage he declared
his love for everybody (“even Yankees”) and in another affirmed that he was
glad slavery was over as nobody should be enslaved. This was a courageous
thing to say in the Deep South in the 1950s.387 Like Townsend, Sarah Rockwell
and Bush he loved town socials, family get-togethers and picnics. His birthday
celebrations recalls those for Riddle, Woolson and Williams as they were big
events. His popularity was such that his birthdays became country-wide affairs.
The last was attended by two thousand well-wishers and was complete with
serenades from the local high school band. At the last of these he declared that
“We have done all the hating we ought to do.”388
Like almost all the others there was no prolonged final illness lasting
years. His health started declining after a gall bladder operation in March 1957,
but he was well enough to walk to hospital just hours before he died. The next
year a personal memorial was opened in the Crestview’s Confederate Park in
his honour. Over fifty years later it would become the scene of a political
correctness battle as Confederate flags flew there.
Uncle Bill Lundy comes across as a likeable, lively old scamp, full of
inspiring laughter, generosity and energy. Verifying him would be pleasing, but
while ultimately remaining uncertain, at present the strongest evidence goes
against him. Hopefully something like the recently revealed and totally
unexpected photos of Arnold Murray and William J. Bush will appear.
Hoar, Vol. III. p1718. The quote is from Annie Jane L. Anderson, one of Lundy’s
Hoar’s section about Lundy Vol. III pp1717-1720.
Serrano, p127; Hoar, previous citation.
Hoar, Vol. III p1720.
William Allan Lundy. While usually cheerful, energetic and optimistic, in this
1955 photo he looks tired and his mood seems pensive.
What the South was fighting for. Few had homes this grand but
many lived in hope of getting one. The house shows obvious signs of being
modern or of being modernised, the dream has not died.
The image of Southerners as rustics is overdone. Towns such as this river port
and capitol were vital to the South and contained much of her population. New
Orleans was one of the great a commercial hubs in America.
Lee, Joe Johnston, Longstreet, Bragg, A.P. Hill, Jackson and other generals of
the Confederacy. They make for a strong contrast to Salling in raggedy clothes
scrounging for the saltpetre they so desperately needed.
Muskets such as this devoured great amounts of saltpetre and until rifles
became more common later in the war, saltpetre was a dire necessity.
John B. Sallings aka as John Salling
Result: possible.
Date of Birth: disputed: 1843, May 1846 about 1852, 1856, 1858, 1859
and May 1860.
Date of Death: 17th March 1959.
Age at enlistment: he claimed about thirteen or fourteen and then sixteen
or seventeen.
Rank: private. (claimed)
Unit: Company D 25th Virginia Infantry (claimed)
Service: scouring for saltpetre. (claimed)
Combat Experience: he said there was none.
Length of service: Salling stated about a year, but perhaps it was around
The controversy over John Salling started in 1933 when he was initially refused
a veteran’s pension. The reason given was that he was not listed in the unit he
said he served in, Company D 25th Virginia Regiment. Since then the
controversy goes on and will probably always go on over the man who may
have been among the last five people to serve the Confederacy and the last
seven to have had some role in the war. He was given his pension because a
James Salling vouched for him.389 J.W. Salling is listed in Official Records as
serving in the 27th Virginia Infantry and this is probably the same witness
named as John in Salling’s recollections. John Salling also gave the name and
title of his commander as Captain James Collins. This was close to the correct
name and rank of the man in charge, Captain John Collings. A February 2014
posting to John B. Salling Find A Grave concerning investigations into the Scott
County militia by “SixDogTeam” stated that Salling knew the names of six
people concerned with the 27th infantry’s saltpetre mining. One of the officials,
Monroe J. McConnell, was slightly muddled in his affidavit as J. Monroe
McConnel and he knew two others by their first names when they were
officially identified by initials. It is unclear if four of these men were soldiers or
Salling’s less than glorious accounts record that he had no uniform and
spent his hours scouring saltpetre under floors. This sound honest. He also has
the long, thin build of someone who would be given that task. This is the
evidence in his favour.
Against this is another morass of census claims and those using them to
discredit have a strong if at times muddled case. In 1910 when he was supposed
to answer yes or no to the explicit question about Civil War service he chose to
leave this a blank. This was repeated with the less explicit 1930 question about
wartime service.
Most doubts refer to Salling’s statements about his age. Those who
debunk him point out that in different documents he gives himself ten differing
birth dates between 1843 and 1860. Virtually every source about him mentions
this and then the birthdate he gave as May 1846. They then state this proves
Salling was a fraud or leave the matter blank with the implications there.
The question here should be why a fraud who is not imbecilic or senile
should give the government census people ten different dates? His application
form stated that fraud was punishable. False dates were clearly evidence of
fraud: so why do this when doing so could start an investigation leading to his
prosecution? Senility and imbecility are not the answers. He sounds lucid in the
interview which he gave that now exists on u-tube and imbeciles do not survive
as household heads in Appalachia for decades. The probable clue that provides a
more plausible answer appears in his pension application. The handwriting
appears the same as the clerk’s and Salling signed with an x, the accepted form
Serrano, pp136-137.
for illiterates390 Although he frequently described himself as illiterate in the
censuses, Professor Hoar states that he had a little learning.391 Perhaps Salling
incorrectly thought he knew his numbers better than his letters.
An unsigned passage in “John B. Salling’ also suggests that literacy was
the problem and gives a hint about different ages: “John filed for a Confederate
pension with the Commonwealth of Virginia in 1933 stating that he was 84
years of age.” 392 (my emphasis) Stating is of course ambiguous: it could mean
written, spoken or taken down by a literate person. Less chance of an error
emerges that way than in the census with two out of three of these ways. There
are other reasons for giving this date of 1848/1849 as his likely birth year.
This also fits to his statement that he was thirteen or fourteen when he
spent a year scouring saltpetre under floors as his Confederate service after
enlistment.393 That age range puts him into credibly serving in the war years.
Unfortunately Salling himself knocks this theory askew in an interview,
now on u tube. The interviewer does not lead him into answers, but does gently
try to clarify with questions. He treats him respectfully, relieving the pressure of
war talk with songs that they sing together. When asked if he was conscripted
he affirms and he says that he enlisted. When asked if he was sixteen then he
pauses and says seventeen clearly, but his tone sounds as if he tries to remember
and he sounds a little uncertain. That makes the May 1848 birth dubious as it
would make him seventeen a month after Appomattox. In that same interview
he says that he was born in 1846. If he really was born then he turned seventeen
during the war years.
The Guinness book of Records once listed him as one of the oldest men to have
ever lived. They also made a birth date error, mixing up March with his birth
month of May. This error went around the world for several years in their
bestselling publication and was still there in the 1970s. The only evidence that
he was not 112 at his death comes from Salling’s contradictory statements.
However he lacks enlistment papers or his name on the muster roll. These
factors are not answerable with anything but conjectures, but are not good
grounds for labelling his stories false either.
Pension Application for a Disabled Confederate Soldier March 11th 1933. Court of Scott
County Virginia.
Hoar, Vol. III p1721.
‘John B. Salling 1846-1959’ unsigned. Find A Grave Memorial http:/www.findagrave.
com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page+gr& Grid+49607043
Ibid, p135.
Salling on the veranda of his mountain home in Slant Virginia. In his
printed comments and recorded interviews he sounds a naturally happy and
kindly person.
Salling assisting Bush at the 1951 Richmond Reunion. Although the
people around them look happy the veterans do not.
The terrain where Salling lived and perhaps worked in the saltpetre mine.
Captain Collings may not have wanted to see a boy of thirteen enlisted in
case the company were called to battle service, a real possibility with Virginia
invaded and facing a manpower shortage - or perhaps he thought boys that
young doing that work were unimportant. To an officer they may not have been
real soldiers. Collings would have had a point. They had no known real military
training, no weapons or uniforms and they were not even militia. Another
possibility is that perhaps an embarrassed Salling hid his illiteracy by not
technically enlisting by writing, instead taking a verbal oath. Perhaps he was not
enlisted at all.
Despite the u-tube interview and against majority opinion I rate Salling’s
service, such as it was, as possible.
Walter Washington Williams aka as Walter Green Williams
Result: possible but extremely dubious, at least in the form usually given
by others who present him as an adult cavalryman. His first claims to being a
boy forager late in the war are likely.
Date of Birth: disputed. The now discredited date of 14th November 1842
has been replaced by 14th November 1854.
Date of Death: 17th December 1959.
Age at enlistment: probably not enlisted, but he probably served aged nine
or ten.
Rank: forager.
Unit: Company C 5th regiment of Hood’s Texas Brigade (claimed by
others) Other enlistments are possible.
Service: He foraged for food and supposedly rode with Quantrill’s
guerrillas but this is extremely unlikely.
Combat Experience: He said there was none, then he said there was.
Length of service: he claimed about eleven months.
Summary: Walter Williams remains the most controversial of the last
twenty nine claimants to Civil War service. He was probably a boy forager for
Confederate units near his home in Mississippi. He probably was shot at once
while eating breakfast. This might make him the last Civil War participant to
come under enemy fire.
Others claimed for Williams that he was a Texan cavalryman, a veteran
of John Bell Hood’s famed Texan Brigade. This was one of the best regarded
units in the highly regarded Army of Northern Virginia and that he was the last
survivor of the Civil War. He or others speaking for him claimed that he was
one of Quantrill’s guerrillas.
Walter Williams may or may not have been the last Civil War survivor,
but he was certainly the world’s most glorified cattle thief. 394 Williams himself
described his service as stealing food.395 In the 1950s celebratory dinners,
parades, the honorary rank of colonel from President Eisenhower, a five star
general’s ranking which promoted him above Lee, commander of all
Williams described himself in an interview later printed as part of an unsigned, undated
obituary article reproduced on the website The Last Surviving Soldier: Walter Washington
Williams. The Last Soldier HTML; Also Blitz 1; Serrano, pp6568 pp145-146 pp168-169 p175; Hoar, Vol. III pp1810-1813.
Ibid, See all previous citations.
Confederate forces, a general’s uniform, birthday greetings from the president’s
wife, and bedside serenades from Johnny Horton and also from veterans groups
were all given to him.396 This glorification did not stop with his death. A
proclaimed national day of mourning by President Eisenhower and regretful
statements were matched by five days of mourning in Houston and a lavish
Williams being entertained
The Last Surviving Soldier: Walter Washington Williams; Nellie Taylor, The Last
Confederate. 1963.
After his death his biography was published and like Woolson, he even
had a statue erected at Gettysburg ‘The Walter Williams Memorial’397 Like
Woolson he had never been there in the Civil War. Although photographs of
Williams show a short, wiry man with a puckish grin and a wide mouth, the
bronze nineteen feet three inches high statue shows a strong jawed, regular
featured banner man with the earnest face and physique of an Olympic athlete
as he charges forward. While not explicitly a portrayal of Williams, it gives that
impression by the inscription about Williams and his longevity being on the
other side.398 The Front is inscribed as a general memorial.
He resembles several other veterans in his physical toughness and good
humour, and farming, hunting and riding well into old age, but he differs from
them in that his health slowly declined over years and in that he received much
hospital attention from the early 1950s until his death at the end of the decade.
Until September 1959 Williams was acclaimed as the Civil War’s last
survivor. That month an investigation was published. Initially based on town
gossip, investigating censuses revealed that he was born in Itawamba County
Mississippi. The 1860 census age given there meant he was born about
1854/1855.399 The 1870 census shows the Williams family were in Texas where
his age is sixteen. Many in Franklin, Texas where he lived for many years, said
that he was an imposter.400 Louis Bridwell, the reporter who exposed him on
allegations coming out of the town, commented that the unit he claimed to have
served in had disbanded before he supposedly joined it.401 Bridwell had
searched for evidence of Williams’s war service but had not found “a scrap.” 402
In J.B. Polley’s History of Hood’s Texas Brigade the muster roll for his
supposed unit was reproduced, but Walter W. Williams did not appear listed,
although there were three men with the surname of Williams there, one with
initials W.K.403 In his 1910 census record, the column for designating Civil War
veterans was blank.404
After claiming never to have killed anyone Williams also claimed to have
served in Quantrill’s guerrillas and told a tale of an ambush where they killed a
Walter Williams Memorial Gettysburg, PA Specific Veteran Memorials on
“Monument to the Soldiers and Sailors of the Confederacy.”
Serrano, p155.
Ibid, pp155-156.
Serrano quoting Louis K. Bridwell pp156-157.
Mark Blitz, ‘The Last veteran of the Civil War.’p1 Posted April 19th 2013. Website entry.
Serrano, pp147-148 quoting Cooper K. Ragan.
Randle, p4; Serrano, p159. Checking Williams’s original census documents bears this out.
hundred Union men.405 He may also have written up something like this in his
application as he appears in two computerised lists of Missouri’s guerrillas.
Both lists include Williams with some caution as one of Quantrill’s guerrillas,
but they are not always using the same sources. Both entries make it clear that
there can be no identity confusion. Both state where he was recruited as being
inl Texas and according to his pension record he was transferred five months
later into Quantrill’s Brigade.406 When his family asked for precise details of his
service the state could not find any.407
He had a way of changing the subject when people asked for precise
details of his service.408 He preferred talking about his days as an 1870s cowboy
on the Chisolm Trail, an interesting period and place in American history. By
the middle 1950s the great cattle drives were sixty years past, so cowboys from
the old Wild West were rare, but it was the Civil War people wanted to hear of.
To what extent Williams was agreeing with his admirers outside the family and
giving them what they wanted to hear is not always clear. It does seem that
many people put words into his mouth, or putting things down on paper he may
not have said clearly or understood: he was nearly deaf.
Like others, Williams could not have known where getting the pension
would lead him. On his death certificate his doctor wrote that sometimes his
middle name was Washington, and at other times Green.409 The use of G as a
middle initial dates from his earlier days. After the exposé several assumed that
this change was to match an enlistment in Hood’s brigade. Actually others had
insisted on this claimed enlistment, putting pressure on Williams to agree to
For once the census records are consistent. Up to 1880 his census record
presents the same problem as Arnold Murray’s with recorded birth years, but
with Murray the census confusion rapidly becomes evident and later censuses
support his age claims. No confusion exists in William’s case, no early claim to
Confederate service and no later change of birthdates exist. Starting from the
1860 census and then going through those of 1870, 1880, 1900, 1910 and 1930,
Serrano, p159.
Pennington, Entry for Walter Williams p15; Unsigned, The Missouri Partisan Ranger
Quantrell. Roster of Known Members. Entry for Walter Williams.
Serrano, p63. Quoting Williams and again on p159.
Serrano, pp150-160; I have also heard an interview on a vanished website where his
response to Civil War questions was to sing and play a harmonica and the interview suddenly
Reynda, ‘Walter Williams, Last Civil War Vet’ p3. Originally an obituary in the
Sacramento Bee California. 20th December 1959. http://genforum. /civilwar/messages/15941.html
Hoar, Vol. III pp1810-1811 and n p1810.
they repeatedly show the same information about Walter William’s age and
place of birth. He was born in Mississippi in either late 1854 or early 1855.
Although as previously mentioned Quantrill had fourteen or fifteen year old
Riley Crawford with him, Williams’s age almost certainly excludes raiding with
In 1930 he answered no to military American enlistment again and left the
involvement in conflicts column blank, just two years before applying for a
veteran’s pension.
This is the evidence for fraud which now leads to him being labelled as
Evidence also exists that Williams was to some extent genuine should be
assessed. Much of it is given by Richard A. Serrano who concludes that the
other side has the stronger case. The evidence he gives for Williams being a
Civil War survivor is strong, but that evidence is not for being a regular adult
Texan soldier. Serrano stated that all Williams claimed was to be a forager
when Hood’s brigade passed through Mississippi on their way to Texas.411
Professor Hoar said the same years earlier. He had substantial contact with
members of Williams’s family and had gained information from them. He stated
that Williams probably did not leave his county in Mississippi, if he did he
would not have gone far and that as the leader of a group of foraging boys for
the Confederates, he was a master forager.412 Williams said much the same in
the 1951 Associated Press article and local units like this did exist in the
Confederacy to serve its armies.
Williams’s youngest daughter quite reasonably pointed out that if the
census records were correct then her father fathered a child at thirteen.413 The
Jackson Mississippi archive contains a Private Walter W. Williams as listed in
Company O 5th Mississippi Cavalry.414 The service branch, native state and
number of the regiment all fit the man and the comments of Hoar and Serrano
about foraging in Mississippi. Another Private Walter Williams of Company F.
5th Virginia Cavalry might be a possibility. Either man could have been
Williams. Eleven other Confederates called Walter Williams are listed in
Official Records, but only one has a G. after his name and none a W.. Serrano
mentions a W.W. Williams who enlisted in Houston in July 1861, but he also
says that his residence and dates of service do not match the stories Williams
Two men had been willing to swear affidavits to his service, some
people in Franklin had reasons for believing him. Mrs G.W. Chambers of Dallas
recalled her father talking about how he and Williams had served together in
Hood’s brigade in the war and seemed close friends.416 This may have referred
to one of his older brothers. When the 1959 controversy started Ethel Everitt,
head of the Confederate Pension Fund, recalled that when he applied for his
pension in 1932, two officials examined his record closely and examined
documents at the state library to check if he had served and were satisfied.
Serrano, p63.
Hoar, Vol. III p1811; Phone conversations with Jay. S .Hoar, July and August 2014.
Serrano, p157.
Blitz, p1.
Serrano, p165.
Serrano, p164.
Perhaps the book they found was the one later found by a district attorney, an
old history of Hood’s Brigade that that listed a W. Williams in Company C of
the 5th Regiment of Hood’s Brigade, which was where Williams said he was.417
The same man stated that as Hood’s brigade records had been lost after the fall
of Richmond full proof was lacking. Another W.W. Williams of Hood’s
Brigade was found to be discharged for being under-aged, which might explain
a lot. He served in Company D of the 4th Regiment.418 Had Williams
misremembered his unit designation?
In 1959 in what is probably close to the truth Hoar and Serrano would
later separately express, Colonel Warfield W. Dorsey said boy foragers like
Williams were common. They were usually unlisted and without uniforms and
rounded up stray cattle, dug up turnips and took whatever they could find. They
often went home undischarged.419
Perhaps a nine or ten year old boy, born in 1854 and eager to be with his
brothers or perhaps just hungry, briefly worked as a forager before some official
found him and dismissed him. In a world where seventeen year olds were
conscripted and fourteen year olds serving were common, how young does a
boy have to be before being discharged for being under aged? Nine or ten
The problem with Walter Williams is not in the military records:
historians have an abundance of men who could be him based on written
military words. The problems are threefold. His claimed age of 117, if verified
with documentary evidence, would make him among the oldest men to have
ever lived with documentation to prove it. This cannot be. For once census
evidence stays consistent and his changes in his story make that clear. His own
tall stories cause doubts. He may have used stories from his brothers and added
in Quantrill’s raider’s deeds – and may not have known his real age.
Service as a child forager is very likely, not the claims connected to
serving with Quantrill or to being an adult veteran soldier. He may still be the
last or second last participant to have served the Confederacy, but not as many
Perhaps he served as he said he did. Perhaps he was one of the other
Confederates named Walter Williams and people wanted to big note him by
tying his service to the legendary Hood’s Brigade. Like many of the other
Serrano, quoting the district attorney. 164-165.
Ibid, p165.
Serrano quoting Dorsey, p163.
veterans he seems likeable, lively and full of fun, but as with so many others
evidence stops verification. Too much evidence against him exists to accept his
claims, but enough remains in his favour to stop continual references to fakery.
He has gone from reverence in 1959 to uncritical calumny and contempt.
Neither are deserved.
Chisolm Trail cowboys. This is apparently what Williams wanted to remember.
The Gettysburg Memorial
Chief Red Cloud
Result: probable, but more evidence is needed
Date of Birth: 15th March 1842.
Date of Death: 4th October 1962
Age at enlistment: There was no formal enlistment. He was nineteen
when the war started and twenty-three when it ended.
Rank: none known, probably none was given
Unit: unknown, he may have served as an individual
Service: peacekeeper, messenger and errand carrier for the Union.
Combat Experience: he denied ever being a warrior.
Length of service: Uncertain.
Information and Photographs for the section on Red Cloud was provided by Jay
S. Hoar, Find A Grave, Charles Green of Stuebenville’s Historic Society and in
the most detail by Ernest L. Plunkett, brother in law to Chief Red Cloud, son of
Joseph A. Plunkett. This information and all illustrations used here were
compiled and sent by Joyce Milhorn Plunkett.
The usual problems with those who lived to a great age does not apply to Red
Cloud; he has verification for his birth accepted by two government departments, the
Bureau of Indian Affairs and Ohio’s Social Security. This makes him the oldest
person in that state to ever receive government benefits.420 The 1940 census gives an
unreliable age and his 1916 marriage certificate gives his birth year as 1846, but this
disagrees with his birth certificate, his 1935 marriage certificate and all other
documents and unsyndicated newspaper reports, all of which give 1842 as his birth
year. Disagreement emerges over the place of birth. Except for one account Red
Cloud was born in Tulsa in what was then the Indian Territory on March 15th
1842.421 In comments on his birth certificate it is stated that he was born in about
1842 in Montana.422 This birthdate means that he was in the age group that actively
participated in the Civil War. Even if the dissenting 1846 census birthdate gets
hypothetical credibility, this does not preclude his Civil War service.
His father was a Chief of the Chickawaka branch of the Sioux. Red Cloud and
his family lived in what is now Oklahoma and was then known as the Indian
Professor Hoar describes Red Cloud’s role as not being enlisted and not being
a veteran, but carrying out errands for the Union as a peacekeeper.423 This matches
what Red Cloud stated in an interview of about 1952, when he said he was never a
warrior and had no part in the Indian wars.424 His burial documents also leave the
Unsigned Obituary Article, ‘Chief Red Cloud Succumbs At 120’ The Herald Star. October
1962; ‘Chief Red Cloud’ Find A. Grave. Created by Mary Nagy.
Union Cemetery Association Department Directory: ‘Chief Red Cloud’ Find A. Grave.
Created by Mary Nagy.
Birth Certificate “Red Cloud 1842-1962” Ancestry .com ; Union Cemetery Association
Department Directory.
Hoar, Vol. II. p914.
The Herald Star. October 1962.
details for a veteran section a blank. With what are his traceable statements so far, he
seems to have said little about his early life.
Red Cloud and his wife and family.
Documents reveal that he went to school until Grade 5, but a massive time gap
appears his early life when in an interview aged 111, he recalled that at the start of
the Civil War he was working for a slave owner in South Carolina.425 This does not
preclude working for the Union. He said he fled North along with everybody else,
but does not put a date to it. Many fled north from the time of succession until the
war’s end. As early as the first week of November 1861 the Union had seized Port
Royal and some surrounding territory south of Charleston, so hundreds of civilians
fled while the Union prepared the area for defence and seized slaves and agricultural
W.H. McWilliams, ‘Connorsville Indian Now 111.’ p1 p17. No newspaper credited. No
specific date is given but this report probably dates from March 1953.
products. 426 Red Cloud could have been among those fleeing then. He mentions his
marriage to a slave, either in 1861 or 1863. As marriage between slave and free was
legally and socially disallowed in the Confederacy he must have been somewhere
behind Union lines at the time. By September 1863 when Union forces attacked
Charleston, other sections of the nearby coast were briefly occupied. Wherever they
occupied the Union forces needed locals to liaison with, for intelligence information,
supplies, scouting and for negotiations to relieve civilian/military tensions. For the
first four months of 1865 Union forces were either fighting in South Carolina or
occupying it. In either situation Red Cloud could have worked as a messenger, errand
taker or a peacekeeper. Large numbers of freed slaves followed the Union armies or
escaped to plunder. Large numbers of deserters also roamed the devastated land; he
may plausibly have had some role in restoring the peace with the displaced or sullen
civilians living under Union occupation who preferred not to be dealing directly with
the Union military.
Other possibilities include negotiating with bandits, establishing trade and
conveying messages about approaching Union soldiers and what they expected. As
an American Indian he would have had affinities and perhaps linguistic abilities with
the Cherokee and Catawba of South Carolina and therefore would have been well
suited to work with them as a peace keeper. Going by Indian locales in South
Carolina being far inland, this would have been in the war’s last months if it
happened. Both sides often used Indians as messengers, scouts and diplomats dealing
with other Indians. Often they were used to enlist other Indians, but frequently they
were also used to negotiate so as to keep them at peace. 427
His brief statements about the Civil War era gives one date. He married in the
year Lincoln freed the slaves, which means either 1861 or 1863. As he said he
married aged eighteen this suggests the earlier date. He said that as everybody was
going to Washington he also went but does not give a date. This is an apt description
of Washington being flooded with those refugees fleeing the war to the South. He
may have been evacuated from Port Royal in late 1861, from around Charleston in
the middle of 1863 or during Sherman’s invasion in early 1865 or as the war ended.
His stated that he was married by Abraham Lincoln, but the statement reads
ambiguously and perhaps contains an ellipsis. Did he mean that he was personally
married by Abraham Lincoln as the reporter took it - or that he was married by
Lincoln’s laws that had just freed the slaves and so made marriage to a former slave
Catton p171 p478. Both sources use maps. John S. Bowman, The Civil War Almanac.
Boston; G.K. Hall &Co./A Bison Book, 1992. pp86-87 p91.
Lawrence M. Hauptman, Between Two Fires: American Indians in the Civil War. New
York: the Free Press, 1995. This book provides a wide ranging view of Amerindian
legal? He could also have worked as a messenger, errand carrier and peacekeeper
working between the refugees and the army and government in Washington. If he
left South Carolina for Washington early in the war his services may have been used
elsewhere, but this is hypothetical.
This wedding certificate helps verify Red Cloud’s advanced age
After the Civil War he considered joining Sitting Bull to fight in the Indian
Wars but decided to stay out of it.428 He must have returned to living around Tulsa
because he moved from there when he was about forty, when he moved to Wyoming
and Nebraska and later became one of the Indians in Buffalo Bill’s Wild West
Show.429 He stayed there for about eleven years before working with The Robison
Show, Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Bailey.430
Mc Williams, Red Cloud quoted, previous citation .
Obituary Article, Herald-Star.
Nagy; Obituary Article, Herald-Star.
He took up doctoring horses and then around the end of the nineteenth century
he lived in Pittsburgh where he ran a successful herbalist’s shop with a high
reputation for effectiveness. He sometimes travelling around by horse and wagon,
before moving to Ohio.431 He was many decades ahead of his time with his practices
and ideas, advocating eating smaller portions for longevity and focusing on fresh
vegetables as a dietary staple to achieve health. In 1918 he started his own show
which toured extensively in small town Ohio and he must have got memorable
publicity driving in his decorated T-Ford – decorated with a five foot long dead
blacksnake!432 In the 1950s he did not retire but did settle in Ohio. While living there
he stayed active as a herbalist, a medicine man, philosopher and storyteller and
driving in a car similarly decorated to his circus vehicle.433
In his personal life he married four times between the first marriage at
eighteen and the last at ninety-two in early 1935. This last marriage was to Alice
Loretta Plunkett and they had twenty nine years together, having four children. Aged
111, a reporter found him living alone in an out of town cabin where he was
successfully battling pneumonia.
He was certainly among the last Americans who could even remember the
Civil War, let alone have some role in the conflict. Like Thomas Ross, James Erwin
and Sylvester Magee, little information is known at this stage about his early life.
Like them his probable experiences in the war are believable. He has their points for
verification. He had a reputation for honesty, did not tell inflated stories about his
war service or apparently try to claim a veteran’s pension, but unfortunately as with
so many others, more detail and original materials are needed for full verification.
Micael Shenern, ‘Chief Deserves A Better Place to Rest’ Herald-Star April 26th 1978.
Robert H. Richardson, A Time and Place in Ohio: A Chronological Account of Certain
Historical and Genealogical Miscellany in Eastern Ohio. n.p. Exposition Press, 1983. pp220221.
Nagy, eyewitness account.
Owning large numbers of slaves was rare in the Antebellum south. Perhaps six
thousand families owned great plantations with large numbers of slaves.
Around 80% of Confederate soldiers did not own a slave. A few Union officers
and politicians from the Border States were slave owners. This is a 1903
reunion photo of the Thomas Legion. Most of these men are Cherokees from
Western Tennessee and some may be Choctaws and Catalpas. Few among
them, if any would have been slave owners, yet they were amongst the last
Confederates to surrender.
Sylvester Magee
Result: possible/probable but more evidence is needed.
Date of Birth: 29th May 1841 claimed. By documentation he was alive in
Date of Death: 15th October 1971.
Age at enlistment: uncertain, in his early twenties.
Rank: messenger/servant for his Confederate master / soldier/labourer for
the Union. Perhaps he served as a cook and a scout after July 1863.
Unit: unknown.
Service: Both Union and Confederate.
Combat Experience: He claimed to have been wounded at the battle of
Champion Hill and then at the siege of Vicksburg.
Length of service: Uncertain.
Of all the people in this book, Sylvester Magee must be the first choice for a
biography. His extraordinary life extended from being a plantation slave to
seeing the victories of the Civil Rights movement, from seeing the patriotism
and the glorification of war in the 1860s to the anti-war movement of the 1960s.
He worked with mule driven ploughs and lived to see massive combine
harvesters. From the days when controlled flight seemed utopian to the era of
jets and rockets, from the era of cheap telescopes barely able to reveal the
moon’s surface, he lived beyond the moon landings. He saw changes few of his
contemporaries even dreamed of.
What is certain about Magee’s early life is that he was alive in 1859,
when his name appears on an official record, in a will in which he is mentioned
and bequeathed as property, along with his father Ephraim.434 What his age was
then remains unclear, but he always insisted he was born on 29th May 1841.
Originally from North Carolina, he was sold to the Magee family in Mississippi
just before the Civil War and apparently accompanied his young master to the
war. His master, Dickson Magee, was an officer in the 46th Mississippi
Infantry.435 Magee served him as his arms bearer, cook, and a go-between
messenger between his master and the family plantation. He also became a
shared valet for a group of Confederates and was used to run messages between
Union and Confederate soldiers.436 This was nothing unusual: at night enemies
would trade tobacco for coffee, newspapers were exchanged and with families
Leahmon L. Reid & Bobie E. Barbee, ‘Why 125 year old Husband Sues for Divorce.” Jet
30th March 1967. p49. Apparently virtually every account of his life mentions this document.
The documentation is in the probate division in the Court of Chancery in Covington County
in the State of Mississippi and is dated February 1859.
Ben Magee, ‘Sylvester Magee in Columbia MS’ Genforum. Posted July 7th 2000.
Hoar, Vol. II p999.
and friends divided, messages across the lines were common. Perhaps over
30,000 Blacks served as valets for the South; they were usually chosen for being
trained as house slaves who were noted for fitness and loyalty. 437
This technically made him a Confederate, however reluctant.438 Given
that the Confederacy enforced conscription for whites in 1862 and forced blacks
to work as auxiliaries, Magee’s type of service was nothing unusual.
Contributions to the questions concerning Magee on Genforum bring up
some interesting facts as these contributions are by people who knew Magee.
They are predominantly descendants, with others including one interviewer and
acquaintances. Most of the information would have come directly from him or
were passed on family memories. While repeating much that has been already
stated, they also state that Magee was freed after the surrender of Vicksburg and
some claim that he was then offered a chance to enlist in the Union army,
serving as a cook and a scout.439
In media stories he stated he could remember burying dead Confederates
at Vicksburg, but he did not say which side he was working for.440 He
mentioned the Vicksburg campaign, were he was wounded twice, once at the
Battle of Champion’s Hill and once at Vicksburg.441 These battles were before
Vicksburg’s fall, so this contradicts what was said in Genforum. He referred to
being in a unit that carried long rifles, a unit of 500 whites and 382 blacks
where he comforted a weeping white boy.442
How many Blacks serving with the Confederates were unwilling, how
many went north towards the battlefields with plans to run off and how many
were loyal volunteers, remains a controversial, unresolvable point. As the three
reproduced photos (which are not the only ones existent) shown below there
were Black Confederates accepted with some level of equality into Confederate
service. The segmenting of motives and attitudes along racial lines must always
Hoar, ’Forgotten Confederates.’ From An Anthology About Black Southerners Compiled
& Edited by Charles Kelly Barrow, J.H. Segars & R.B. Rosenburg. Journal of Confederate
History Series. Vol. XIV.
Look Around Mississippi. A Television Current Affairs program. 25th January 2012: Ben
Magee, ‘Sylvester Magee in Columbia MS’ Genforum. Posted July 7th 2000.
‘Sylvester Magee in Columbia MS’ Under this heading several contributions made over
years appear. The interviewer is Bennet Strange. Ben Magee is descended from the white
slave owner. Other contributors include Sylvester Magee’s family members. Genforum
‘Sylvester Magee’ ‘The Civil War Parlor’ in Tumblr This segment on the website contains
two previously posted articles, videotaped interviews and the 1970 filming of Magee and
photographs. See uncredited text, front page; Hoar, Vol. II p999
Wikipedia ‘Sylvester Magee.’
Roadside America 3rd May 2012 A news website.
be simplistic. Eighteen year old slave Henry Comer saved his wounded master’s
life by dragging and carrying him five miles.
Sylvester Magee’s Confederate service would have been something like this
photo suggests – or seems to. Master relaxes in a self-confident, self-absorbed
pose while his slave awaits a change of whim. This slave is Henry Comer. For
a short statured man to carry the wounded taller man five miles must have been
Similarly William Faulkner in his short story ‘Mountain Victory’ (1932)
gives an ironic portrait of two men joined not so much by the bond of slave and
master, but by liking and a need for each other to survive. The master, a
Mississippi Major and his slave/manservant are going home after Appomattox,
but in the mountain cold the major cuts up his fine fur cape so that the slave will
have footwear. The slave looks after and protects the major and the two men
have to face the fury of Southern Unionist ruffians who not only despise
masters of slaves and slavery, but also slaves. Faulkner makes it all believable
and sometimes it probably happened that way, but another reality should not be
forgotten, the take no black prisoners order of the Confederate government
which was sometimes carried out, the massacres of Black civilians, lynching’s
and home burnings. The intimidation and degradation of Blacks which began in
the Civil War did not end with it, but in the Reconstruction years increased. All
these atrocities, while becoming rarer after Reconstruction ended, did not die
out until the 1960s.
The Black Confederates numbered in the thousands, but the runaways,
the freed and those Blacks already in the North, all Union supporters, numbered
in the tens of thousands. Around 187,000 on a lower estimate and perhaps
243,000 on the higher actively served the Union cause and in the slave states
many waited for freedom. Like many slaves and freed blacks in that situation,
perhaps Sylvester Magee ran off to join the Union forces or joined when offered
a chance. The wounds he suffered were offered as evidence of service. One
wound was to his right arm, the other to his hip exiting through his abdomen;
Magee would show the arm scar late in life.443 The round small scar looked like
what a minnie ball would do.
Apart from his scar, other evidence in Magee’s favour was that when he
was interviewed by historian A.P. Andrews, Magee impressed with his
knowledge of the war’s minor details and of the way he knew officer’s names
and their minor details.444 He recalled the Union crossing of the Big Black River
in strong detail.445As this complicated manoeuvre occurred before Vicksburg
fell this suggests that Magee’s account of fighting in the Union army in the
Vicksburg campaign is the correct version.
Andrews concluded that it would have been impossible for an illiterate
man to have such detailed knowledge of such events unless he had actually been
there.446 He could also identify his former owner Hugh Magee from a
photograph.447 Others were impressed with Sylvester Magee’s modesty and a
Hoar, Vol. II, p999. This wounding is also mentioned in both the text and the Mike
Mulhern interview and filming of Sylvester Magee, made in the summer of 1970. ‘Sylvester
Magee’ ‘The Civil War Parlor’ in Tumblr This segment on the website contains two
previously posted articles, videotaped interviews and the 1970 filming of Magee and
The UTube film is available from the Timblr website as well as others.
Uncredited obituary article Jet November 4th 1971. p10. Andrews Quoted; Uncredited
article Headed ‘Sylvester Magee’ ‘The Civil War Parlor’ in Tumblr
Trimblr, “The Civil War Parlour’ uncredited text, front page.
Jet previous citation.
Hoar, Vol. II p1000.
general sense of veracity. Unfortunately he does not seem to have recalled his
unit’s designation. At this time black soldiers were just beginning to be
accepted for combat roles and may not have been enlisted in regiments or even
barred from them; the issue of coloured regiments or integrated regiments was
unresolved until later in 1863. Amazingly the Confederates did not have an
official segregation policy. The American Army would not integrate until the
Korean War.
Although the Union navy was never segregated it would be over eighty years
before similar images to this Confederate portrait were repeated in the Army.
On the negative side for Magee’s verification there are the
differing Genforum descriptions of what happened in July 1863 when he was
liberated by Union soldiers and offered enlistment. If accurate this makes both
his earlier enlistment and woundings in the previous Vicksburg campaign
untenable. The only Sylvester Magee to appear in Mississippi in censuses did so
in 1920 aged around thirty. Jet also noted his claimed fatherhood aged 109 in
1950 and also published a statement stating that Magee claimed that Abraham
Lincoln released him from the Union Army.448 Did he mean personally or by his
policies? If Magee was a father at 109 that goes seventeen years beyond the
verified world record for the oldest father.449 There is also no primary source
documentation, but then for Blacks in 1863 there would have been little, if any
written evidence. This led to his application for a Federal Civil War Pension
being rejected in 1969, surely he was the last applicant!
Leahmon L. Reid & Bobie E. Barbee. This statement is in the caption to the photograph of
Magee looking at a wax dummy of Lincoln. p49.
Guinness World Records Website. ‘World’s Oldest Father.’ 2015.
In 1970 historian Mike Mulhern interviewed and filmed Magee. Here
Magee shows him his battle scar from being in action. The small circle does
look like what a Minnie ball would do.
Like breaking the record for aged fatherhood, his age remains a big question. If
true it would make him one of the oldest men to have ever lived, fourteen years
beyond the oldest male fully verified by the rigorous documentation rules of
possessing a birth certificate and two official documents issued within twenty
years of birth.450 Few slaves however had even a single document proving their
age. The precedent of Charlie Smith once accepted, now causes scepticism. This
might be unfair to Magee to judge his case by another, but Smith’s example
does demonstrate a need for caution with claims. There is also a massive time
gap before Magee emerged as a veteran in the 1960s, but then what black would
boast of serving the Union while living in Mississippi before the middle 1960s?
After the war Magee worked in sawmills, and at farming. He moved to
Hattiesburg Mississippi in 1904. Sometimes he lived alone, sometimes with his
daughter. He began to gain attention when he was interviewed about his Civil
war service in 1962 by Professor Andrews. Two years later when neighbours
had a birthday celebration for his 124th he began to get state, then federal and
ultimately global attention. He divorced in 1967 and then spent his last years in
a veteran’s nursing home in Mississippi.
These are the rules established by The Guinness Book of Records and now used by much of the world.
He was amongst America’s last people born into slavery and among the
last who could even remember the Civil war, let alone participate in that
conflict. He remains an enigma, and an ironic one, personifying very literally
both the division of Unionist and Confederate in the 1860s, their current unity
and what the war achieved, born a slave, he lived and died free.
J.B. White and his black staff member Terrill, a former slave. His frock coat,
sleeves, shoulder tabs and sleeve braid denote an officer. He has a medal, rare
in the Confederate army. Very few Blacks became officers in either army. These
men were in the 6th Tennessee Cavalry, one of Nathan Bedford Forrest’s units.
At the time Sylvester Magee claimed to be fighting at Champion Hill
Black units were just starting to be organised as well as this recruiting
poster and this photograph both suggest.
While the poster above appealed to team spirit and presented an almost idyllic
picture of military life, this poster was more ideological.
Francis Healey
Result: unauthenticated. His service is very unlikely on age and apart from a
mention of increasing his age so as to enlist, no evidence on any point
concerning service has been given yet.
As previously stated, if they claim Civil War service or have that claimed for
them they are investigated. On a recent website giving answers to the question
“Who was the Last Surviving Civil War veteran?” One contributor stated that
his great great grandfather, Francis Healey was. He also stated that this man
was a Confederate and had died in 1977 and had pushed up his age to join up.
Investigating this led to a second website saying exactly the same - except
that there was a question mark after “died in 1977” and the above photograph
without a caption, although he also appears on the internet in ‘Images of Francis
Healey.’ This sounds like a family legend, where over time dates become
confused. A similar case is that of Confederate Private Isaac Brock of Company
H, 19th Texas Infantry. His tombstone and family legends gave him a birthdate
in August 1787 and a death date of September 1909. At 122 he would have been
the world’s oldest male, but differing documents placed his birthdate in 1805
and 1812. 451
Obviously Confederates living into the 1970s strains credibility. Even if
Francis Healey was amongst the very youngest and aged six at the war’s end, he
could have been born no later than 1859. That means if he died in 1977 he
would have been turning at least 118 that year. That makes him one of the
oldest American men to have ever lived. This in itself is not impossible: Red
Cloud, J.A. Hard, Sarah Rockwell, Hattie Carter, William Kiney, Sylvester
Magee and Charlie Smith also claimed great ages, but they did so with some
evidence – and with the latter two with considerable publicity. As with Maud
Nichols Jones, the age question becomes egregious. Perhaps as also with Maud
Nicholls Jones, there is a grain of truth in the claim: she died aged very old in
1957, not in 1962 and not aged 114 years.
Where are the usual media stories and scientific references that follow
someone so old? Nobody by this name appears in the many lists for Americans
over 110. However when Hattie Carter died in January 1956 claiming an age of
122 apparently the only publicity given were a few lines in a Richmond
newspaper. William Kiney was supposedly 109 when interviewed and all he
had in media coverage was the same: one local paper story. In 1962 Red Cloud,
aged 120 was given similar local coverage and only slightly better media
The problem of claimed great age and credibility becomes another
Almost everybody considers The Guinness Book of Records to be the
world’s leading authority on this matter, being much quoted. By their evidence
the oldest living man ever, Jiroemon Kimura of Japan, lived to 116.452 The
oldest accredited American male was a Danish migrant, Christian Mortensen,
who died aged 115 in 1998. 453 While The Guinness Book of Records has
respect as an authority from all around the globe, how accurate are they on this
matter? The previously mentioned cases of John Salling and Charlie Smith
show that they admit that they can get it wrong and they have with other
individuals, so they now have rigorous standards for verification – which would
exclude many among the world’s population. Even in the most technologically
Cindy Gaines, Robert Young, and Louis Epstein, “Mr Isaaac Brock, Alleged to Have
Lived to 122y.o.? during the Civil War Era.” (sic) Posted February 1st 2011. Reprinted on the
website List of Incomplete, Exaggerated or Fraudulent Cases (As of May 18th 2014)
Wikipedia, ‘Oldest People Ever.’
advanced countries in the twenty first century, how many people have a birth
certificate and two separate documents containing precise official information
about their birth date that is issued within twenty years of their birth? Red Cloud
had a birth certificate and a marriage certificate proving that he lived to be 120
and Sylvester Magee’s mention in a will proved that he was at least 112 years
old in 1971, but these men do not make the American longevity lists for those
past 110.
How long can a person live? This topic lays wide open to both fraud and
gullibility as many have stated. It is also open to a narrow minded overdone
scepticism as many have not stated. Brazilian Maria De Geronimo, possibly the
world’s oldest person with documentation, had a baptismal certificate from
1871 and lived a fairly traceable life until her death in June 2000, just after
turning 129. Even so, she was considered to have insufficient proof, not having
a birth certificate.454 The oldest man in the world with birth certificate
documentation might be Jose Aguinelo dos Santos, another Brazilian who has
apparently reached 126. One online newspaper story about him mentions a
recently found birth certificate from 1888 awaiting verification and reproduced
his government issued modern certificate.455 Another online paper wrote
similarly, mentioning the investigating team who were continuing to search for
evidence for his age verification.456 In 2011 media stories appeared about
another Brazilian, Maria Lucimar Pereira. She was investigated after Social
Security staff found a birth certificate for her dated 3rd September 1890.457 The
certificate was approved in 1985 and has since been checked and found to
contain no mistakes.458 They found her in her village where she had lived all her
life surrounded by her family. In August 2014 she celebrated her 124th birthday.
Despite these stories giving good, acceptable evidence that women have lived
beyond their 124th birthday, Calment still holds the record for the longest living
human for living until 122. Many others have claimed (with differing levels of
evidence and credibility) to have lived beyond 120.
Wikipedia, ‘Maria de Carmo Geronimo.’
Peter Henn, “Is This the World’s Oldest Man? Pensioner Found in Brazil that Could Be
126’ (sic) Sunday Express 15th July 2014.
Matt Roper, “Brazilian who Turned 126 Last Week Could Be Oldest Living Person.” The
Telegraph 15th July 2014. www.telegraph. couk/news/world
Mark Johnson. ‘World’s Oldest Person Found in Amazon Preparing for 121st Birthday’
August 31st 2011. Syndicated Article.; ‘Living the Longest: Indigenous Brazilian Woman
Celebrates 121st Birthday.’ August 30th 2011. www.survivalinternational/org/news/7635
The stories of Pereira and Ammash do have a ‘truth is stranger than
fiction’ element to them. This makes the claim about Healey sound less farfetched. The great if vague age claimed for Francis Healey, even going beyond
what The Guinness Book of Records allows, in itself while straining credibility,
does not emerge as the biggest problem. The seemingly bizarre situation of
some very old Confederate veteran living unnoticed long, long after the war
ended is also not the big problem. The case of former Confederate cavalryman
William Albert Kiney, living unnoticed in an Indianapolis nursing home until
his death in June 1953 proves that it can happen. The only reasons he became
known were a 1952 biographical story due to his age and the investigative work
of Professor Hoar. Sylvester Magee seemed little noticed until interviewed in
1962 aged 121. The biggest problem, the biggest elephant in the herd crowding
the credibility waiting room must be the total lack of supporting evidence for
Francis Healey. To quote the recent quote attributed to Abraham Lincoln on a
poster “Do not believe everything you read just because it is on the internet.”
Kiney had good evidence that verified his extraordinary story: Healey has none
so far.
No confederate Civil War soldier named Francis Healey appears in any of
the five major collections: Official Records, U.S. Civil War Soldier Records and
Profiles 1861-1865, Fold3, and the Search for Soldiers
Database, Checking the following more specialised collections included
Paroles of the Army of Northern Virginia, the Vicksburg paroles, Dennis
Partridge’s Alabama Civil War Rosters, The Texas State Library and Archives
Commission, The Florida and Tennessee Civil War pension records,
Pennington’s Muster Rolls for Confederate Guerrillas, Hoar’s Trilogy, Lillian
Henderson’s Roster of the Confederate Soldiers of Georgia or John W. Moore’s
North Carolina Troops in the War Between the States. His name also fails to
appear amongst the massive numbers of child soldiers in Professor Hoar’s work
on the topic. No mention of his locale, unit, type of service, exact age, any
documentation or anything else has been given. Fold3 lists only three people
with the name Francis Healy connected to the 1861-1865 conflict. These are a
Confederate widow, a Union infantryman in the 192nd New York regiment and a
Union naval man aged 24 in 1861. The closest possible match is a Frank Healey
in the Louisiana Heavy Artillery.
Census records reveal four American births between 1850 and 1854 with
the name Francis Healey, two of these were in Northern areas, Brooklyn and
Wisconsin. The others were in the border states of Maryland and Missouri and
so initially give some thin plausibility to the claim. Three American men named
Francis Healey are listed as dying in 1977, but all three were born several
decades after 1865. Keeping a nineteenth century birth out of the records was
common. Keeping a 1977 death out of modern records must be more difficult
and raises the question of why.
After investigating the Maud Nicholls Jones story revealed some grains
of truth, obviously clever comments about Healey are on hold.
For any consideration of Civil War service beyond what is here, evidence
must be presented. Attempts to get that information have so far failed.
Charlie Smith
Result: unauthenticated/very unlikely/Controversial evidence.
Date of Birth: 4th July 1842 claimed. 1874 or 1879 are more likely.
Date of Death: 5th October 1979.
Age at enlistment: unauthenticated and unlikely. He was in his early
twenties if he enlisted.
Rank: unknown and unlikely.
Unit: unknown and unlikely.
Service: unauthenticated and unlikely.
Combat Experience: unauthenticated and unlikely.
Length of service: unauthenticated and unlikely.
Of all twenty nine claimed participants investigated in this work, Charlie Smith
must be the first choice for exclusion. Unfortunately he seems to be the first
name many people would know of in relation to the question of ‘Who was the
last Civil War slave and survivor?’ This recognition cannot be due to commonly
known evidence or great deeds: it is due to his claimed great age and media
publicity. To leave him out of this investigation would be to leave the work
incomplete. This writer has tried to find evidence in his favour, but accounts on
the internet are usually hostile or at best cautious. Some supporting Charlie
Smith are overly selective with his given information.
His account of his life goes like this:
He was born free in Liberia on July 4th 1842 and lived in the town of
Galina where he was named Mitchell Watkins in one account and M’lchi in
another.459 On his twelfth birthday he said he was lured onto a slave ship by the
promise of being able to pick and eat fritters off the trees in America and ended
up in the bottom of a boat which took them to the United States.460 He was
auctioned at the slave markets in New Orleans in 1854 or 1855. He was
purchased there by a Texan, Charlie Smith who had a ranch near Galveston. He
treated the boy so well, like one of the family, that Mitchell/ M’lchi took the
rancher’s name to honour him.461
The January 1st 1863 Emancipation Proclamation freed him. In one of his
versions he stayed on the farm as a cowboy until the honoured owner’s death in
1874.462 In another version he claimed to have been a Union soldier during the
Civil War, to have been at Gettysburg and to have met Lincoln.463 At some
point his accounts merge and he lived a much diversified wild life in the Wild
West. On his Find a Grave entry his occupations include bounty hunter, train
robber, and gambler.464 Wallace and Wallechinsky added the professions of
bootlegger, logger, oil worker, and dance hall proprietor.465 He also claimed he
could remember riding with the James Gang and got into a gunfight with Jesse
himself.466 Like Riddle, he claimed that Jesse survived his supposed murder and
died naturally. Smith stated this after being questioned as to how he could have
worked for a James for fifty years as he claimed, when Jesse James died aged
thirty five.467 In 1881 Smith and his accomplice Billy the Kid apprehended the
For M’lchi Unsigned article, The Schenctady Gazette ‘Oldest living American Bounced
From Record Book 21st March 1979. Computerised pages; For Mitchell Watkins, read David
Wallechinsky & Irving Wallace, Biography of Centenarian Charlie Smith. c1978. -smith.htm 7/092014;
Stephanie Raezler, ‘A Tale of Two Slaves.’ 30th April 2009.
Raezler p2.
The account here follows almost verbatim all accounts of Smith’s life. See for example
Linda Snyder, ‘Meet Former Slave Charlie Smith.’ Genforum May 12 2004.
Wallechinsky & Wallace.
These claims were mentioned in the 1978 film prospectus on his life. The film depicted
him as a Union soldier. See source note 450.
Find A Grave ‘Charlie Smith 1842-1979.’
Wallechinsky & Wallace.
The gunfight with Jesse is mentioned in an unsigned article ‘The World’s Oldest Liar’
March 26th 2006. The Genealogue
This article refers to a screenplay based on Smith’s life. The connections checked out; Radio
Coverage of Smith’s death in Melbourne, October 1979 also mentioned the James gang but
not the supposed gunfight.
Snyder p1.
assassin of President Garfield.468 Yes that Billy the Kid. The one who died in
the same year as Garfield, but who died six months before.
Charlie Smith was married three times and had a son Chester, born in
1904 or 1905.469 During the Spanish-American War Smith had drifted down to
Florida from Georgia and became a fruit picker for fifty years.470 In 1955 he
retired from fruit picking in Florida, went on social security and earned a
meagre living by running a soda pop and candy stall from a rented shack in the
Bartow ghetto. As this was failing he briefly toured with Ripley’s Believe it or
Not Exhibitions where he was billed as the world’s oldest working person.471 In
1963 his recollections were taken down and published as Reminiscences of
Charlie Smith. From 1972 onwards he lived in a convalescent home.472 As his
age increased so did his fame. The media tended to concentrate on his
experiences of slavery and his durability rather than his undetailed Civil war
service or his supposed outlaw days. By the 1970s he had become a media star
due to his age, which made him the oldest living American and a source of
public interest. A play and a television movie were made of his life. The
television movie was an episode in the series Visions and was on the PBS
channel in 1978. Entitled ‘Charlie Smith and the Fritter Tree’ it depicted him
joining the Union army.473 By 1978 tourists were stopping at Bartow to meet
him, coming by the busload.474
Before assessing the documentation found in the late 1970s, the account
just given reveals enough to cause strong doubts about his claims. While not
totally impossible, (except for Garfield and William Bonney) his account goes
against what is known, and what is likely or plausible with undocumented
Impulsively getting on a slave ship to go to America to eat fritters picked
off trees sounds like the ultimate in naivety – until his next version where the
fritters in the trees are covered in syrup! African children would have known to
avoid any such slave ship – if it existed. The British and Mexicans had
abandoned the slave trade by 1833 and the British and French patrolled the
The Genealogue; Raezler p2. In her version the duo merely ride around trying to find the
assassin, who in reality was caught immediately after the shooting.
Wallechinsky & Wallace.
Unsigned Obituary Article, ‘Ex-slave Charlie Smith Nation’s Oldest Resident Dies.’
Sarasota Herald Tribune October 7th 1979. p7. Computerised edition.
unsigned, Wikipedia ‘Charlie Smith (centarian)’
Unsigned story, The Paris News From Paris Texas. September 20th 1978. p26.
West African coast to forcibly stop it. The Americans had banned the imports of
African slaves in 1808 and although some slave ships got through the blockade,
few ever landed in the USA coming from Africa. Long before the 1850s Liberia
had ceased to be a slave trading centre, being an American colony. The
American fleet had devastated the slave trade there in 1823.475 However two
suspected Brazilian slave ships were off nearby coasts in 1843, so just
Some slaves were well treated as part of the family, Smith’s name (or that
of someone with that common name) and his age of twelve were both on an
1855 schedule of slaves, but doubts should arise over Smith’s accounts of
emancipation and being in the Union army.
Galveston was captured by the Union on October 8th 1862 and recaptured
by the Confederates on New Year’s Day 1863, when the city’s Union infantry
garrison of around three hundred were killed or captured and the vessels of the
small fleet were also captured, destroyed or blown up to avoid capture.477
According to Union sources this disaster resulted in “the whole state of Texas
coming into their possession.”478 “Their” here means the Confederates. There
would have been no reading of the Emancipation Proclamation in the middle of
a battle or at any other time before the city and surrounding rural areas
surrendered in June 1865. While located there the small Union garrison at
Galveston would not have spread out from the island to the mainland, so how
did Charlie Smith gain his emancipation? Did a kindly owner read it to him?
Where would he have got the document? Possibly? But then how did he get to
the Union army to join it? It is possible that he somehow joined them during
their brief time in Galveston and then quickly shipped out north or to New
Orleans. If he stayed he would have been executed or resold when the
Confederates recaptured the city.
It is possible that he walked or rode north or towards Union held parts of
Louisiana. Either journey meant going through hundreds of miles of
Confederate territory where patrols watched for people like him. It is possible
that he met Lincoln and ended up in some role in the Union at Gettysburg where
he had what his Hollywood transcript for his life story described as “a brush
with death” although no Black units were in that battle.479 Two Union
Hugh Thomas, The Slave Trade: The History of the Atlantic Slave Trade 1440-1870. New
York: Picador, 1997. p692.
Ibid, p693.
Guernsey and Alden, pp421-423.
Ibid, p423,
The genealogue.
enlistments for a Charlie Smith show up in Official Records. One was in the
134th Pennsylvania Infantry, a unit that was disbanded because their enlistments
expired in May 1863. The other was a ‘coloured man’s unit’ formed in Atlanta
in July 1865. A Charlie Smith, a black was born in Georgia in 1841 and shows
up on the 1920 census, but does not seem to be the same man, he appears to be
settled in Georgia with a large family, not moving around the Wild West.
After the Williams media fiasco the media must have been cautious about
making much of his Civil war claims, it did not appear in many stories. Several
wise mass media omissions involved Smith with Lincoln.
His colourful career in the West sounds possible – until he mentions Jesse
James, Billy the Kid and the assassination of President Garfield. These three
individuals are all well documented and Smith has put himself out of the world
of the possible by putting himself in scenarios involving these people. Instead
he has gained the Thomas Evans Riddle Award for Preposterous Anecdotes
That Damage Credibility. A plausible explanation for Smith’s stories was given
by his friend Loyal Frisbie who said that in Smith’s days in a sideshow the
barker would spruce out the stories and Smith heard them so often that he came
to believe them.480 Unfortunately Frisbie did not specify which stories: they
were probably the ones connected to famous names.
It is important to note that not one eyewitness, muster roll, newspaper
story or anything else corroborates anything except Smith being a slave. The
one piece of evidence in his favour is that his name was found on the old bill of
sale where it should have been.481 Even this has been questioned by the
descendants of Smith’s owner who say the bill was originally dated 1850 and
the document with the 1855 date might be bogus.482 The acceptance by Social
Security (which is his only verification) was much quoted because of this bill.
Social Security records revealed that he had been on their Florida books since
1955, apparently aged 113 when he was still picking citrus fruit for wages. No
Civil War pension, no documents, seventieth, eightieth, ninetieth or one
hundredth birthday celebrations, early newspaper coverage or relatives emerge
to verify anything. Until just months before his death, Charlie Smith was
accepted as America’s oldest man ever, accepted by the public, the media and
Social Security. His name on a sale of slaves was considered sufficient proof.
Doubts should have started earlier.
Sarasota Herald Tribune October 7th 1979. p7 Computerised edition.
Schenectady Gazette. previous citation.
Snyder p1.
In July 1967 Time quoted him as saying that he chose his July 4th
birthdate out of loyalty to America, but then in a 1975 interview he insisted that
this was his real birthday and that he was 144, a year older than previously
claimed.483 In a June 1977 interview ‘Meet Charlie Smith’ he was sure of the
July 4th date but was uncertain if he was 139 or 135.
In March 1979 just six months before his death, The Guinness Book of
Records removed him from the entry that listed him as the world’s oldest man.
They had found his January 1910 marriage certificate, written up in De Soto
County Florida. It gave his age as 35. This removal soon got media coverage
and it was noted that he was also known to refer to one of his wives as Belle,
the bride’s first name on the 1910 certificate.484 Other official documents
suggested 1874 as a birthdate.485 The New York Times retracted their stories
giving him credibility.486 Others soon followed this sceptical attitude, especially
as his birthplace on the marriage certificate was written in as Georgia.487 This
fitted in with the Sarasota Herald Tribune obituary story saying that Smith had
come from Georgia in 1898. As Robert Young rightly states in this same
correspondence, someone should have suspected falsity on the stories of Jesse
James. Like Lincoln and Lee he remains one of those legends that attract those
trying for attention and celebrity connections. Some obituary media reports
mentioned this connection in dubious tones.488
If Smith ever defended himself or denied the marriage, that got
apparently only one piece of media coverage that made it to the internet. This
was when he did state in response that he was not a social security fraud, he did
not even know that it existed until 1915 and the caretaker of his convalescent
home also said that the older documents, such as the slave schedule were the
more reliable.489 And the birth dates? More should have been said in defence,
such as a denial of the census birth dates and the marriage certificate. If he ever
did make a second denial or defence it got no easily found coverage – or for that
The genealogue.; ‘Gerontology Secret of a Long Life.’ Time July 14th 1967 computerised
version. Smith is quoted in both sources.
Schenectady Gazette. previous citation.
Robert Douglas Young, African American Longevity Advantage: Myth or Reality? A
Racial Comparison of Supercentarian Data. Thesis. Georgia State University. 2008.
http//scholarworks.gsu. edu/gerontology
Robert Douglas Young .p53; Schenectady Gazette. previous citation
Letter to the editor of the GRG Supercentarian Website: The American Paradox. February
17 2003. Robert Young in Reply from Atlanta Georgia,
The claim about the James Gang was mentioned in the radio news announcing his death in
1979, but got very little coverage elsewhere.
Schenectady Gazette. previous citation.
matter difficult to find coverage. The exposé story was taken up in 1982 by The
Boston Globe which compiled good reasons for doubts.490 After the marriage
certificate find, more investigations were launched and his 1900 census showed
him as born in 1879. One last time the census conflicts with other evidence, but
even for the censuses, thirty-seven years between claimed and stated birthdates
makes for too big an error to be creditable. Unlike Kiney he could have
explained. Unlike Kiney there seemed no ambiguities or contradictions in the
documents, although he has one of the most common names. The slave sale
document remains just enough to stop the wise from making allegations.
He was the last person to claim to be a Civil War participant.
The genealogue. They quote The Boston Globe article “Eat a Tree but Never a Bicycle’
Feb. 11th 1982.
Who knows what the future holds in history? Lundy, Salling and Williams were
once unquestioningly accepted and revered as the last living contacts to the
Civil War. At the same time Rockwell, Carter, Kiney, Erwin, Mayer, Red Cloud
and Sylvester Magee were little known. Even since the first version of this book
The Controversies Over The Last Civil War Veterans appeared in early 2014
important new information has emerged. The picture changes in unexpected
ways. Somebody may find evidence to discredit someone accepted among the
twenty nine participants investigated here. Somebody else might find a thirtieth.
Just as photographs of Arnold Murray and William J. Bush have become public
during the writing of this book, other evidence for those who still remain
unverified may emerge. Who knows what is in the musty file? Or the
uninvestigated attic, the newly found old diary…
About the Author
The author’s interest in the American Civil War veterans started in junior
primary school days. After careers in heavy industry and politics he abandoned
these disastrous choices and gained a double honours degree (English and
Drama) with Modern History as a third. In 1995, by a fluke he became a tutor
and defacto university lecturer/tutor, being the only person in the city qualified
with a needed highly specialised degree. He then worked in mainstream English
for a term and then in university preparatory courses for indigenous students in
English, Sociology, Education, Critical Literacy and Psychology. After
government retrenchments in 1998 he returned to High School teaching. Since
2008 he has organised and played community radio programs in the Folk and
Celtic genres.
The following works are currently available on PDF at
[email protected]
Heirs to Ahmegodheho (an Australian family saga 1895-2005) novel (2010)
Author’s Note, Maps and Genealogies to Heirs to Ahmegodheho
The Controversies over America’s Last Civil War Veterans. (The e-book
version is free and has illustrations reproduced in colour. The soft bound
printout is available at cost price plus postage. Garryhill7@bigpond com This is
an earlier, shorter, preliminary version of America’s Last Civil War
Participants: An Investigation.
We Are Motivated By Love (1988) play
Australia’s Troubadour: Gary Shearston 1939-2013. (2013) biography
Algernon Swinburne 1837-1909. An Overview of His Life and Poetry. (2013)
Caesar’s Assassination: Who Gained? Who Lost? (2014) history
Akhenaten and Nefertiti (2015) history
Lionheart: The True Story of England’s Crusader King (Review) (2014)
The Culture of the 1920s: A Double Review of One Summer America 1927 and
Constellation of Genius: 1922: Modernism Year One. (2014)
Red Nile: A Biography of the World’s Greatest River (Review)
Last to Join The Fight: The 66th Georgia Infantry (Review)
Rough Riders, (Review)
Ireland in Poetry (Review)
Meetings With Remarkable Trees, (Review)
The Water Diviner (Review)
Callow Brave and True: A Gospel of Civil War Youth. (Review)
Sunset and Dusk of the Blue and the Gray: Last Living Chapter of the American
Civil War. (Review)
Songcatcher, (review)
Old Yellow Moon (review)
The Tournament (review)
Noah (review)
Songs From Ireland (review)
A Million Ways to Die in the West (review)
Kenneth Brannagh’s Hamlet (review)
The Last Pre-Raphelite: Edward Burne-Jones and the Victorian Imagination.
Coming Up on the Website:
Major Dundee. Everyday life in Ancient Greece (Reviews)
Early Days at Ocean Ridge (2011) novel
Four Major Factors in the development of Ancient Greek Civilization (essay)
The Kensington Stone Controversy (2010) history
The Myth of the Prophet: Trotsky and his Followers (serialised in 1985-1986)
Looking Back to Fix the Future: W.B. Yeats and William Morris (1985.
Rhetoric, Romance and Reality: Maude Gonne and William Butler Yeats (1985.
From the 1775 Revolution to the Gulf Wars: Tradition and Change in the
Concept of the American Military Hero 1895-1995 (2006)
Browning and his Poetry
Tennyson and his Poetry
Christina Rossetti and her Poetry
Daphne Du Maurier 1907-1989: Her Life and Work
Harper Lee: Her Life and Work
Why Did the Norse Colony in Greenland Fail?
Why Did Cortez Conquer?