The last surviving veteran of any particular war, upon his or her death, marks the end of a historic era. Exactly who is the last surviving veteran is often an issue of contention, especially with records from long-ago wars. The “last man standing” was often very young at the time of enlistment and in many cases had lied about his age to gain entry into the service, which confuses matters further.
There were sometimes incentives for men to lie about their ages after their military service ended. In addition, there were some impostors who claimed to have served but did not (such as Walter Williams, who claimed to be 117 in 1959). For example, many former Confederate States in the South gave pensions to Confederate veterans of the American Civil War. Several men falsified their ages in order to qualify for these pensions, especially during the Great Depression; this makes the question of the identity of the last Confederate veteran especially problematic. The status of the officially recognized “last Confederate veteran” is in dispute.
Albert Woolson of Minnesota was a Union drummer boy who died in 1956, and the Civil War’s last authenticated survivor.
Albert Woolson, a Civil War veteran and a son of a Civil War veteran was made an Honorary Commander-in-Chief of the Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War at the 72nd National Encampment held in Buffalo, New York on August 23 – 27, 1953.
Comrade Woolson was born in the New York farm hamlet of Antwerp, 22 miles northeast of Watertown, on February 11, 1847, the same day that Thomas Alva Edison, the inventor, was born. Willard Woolson, his father, was a carpenter in Watertown and apprenticed his son to the trade. The senior Woolson, however, had a second vocation. He was a musician, and when President Lincoln called for 75,000 volunteers in 1861, he and his fellow musicians enlisted in a body. When his family did not hear from him for more than a year, they traced him through Army records to a hospital in Minnesota suffering from a leg wound received at the battle of Shiloh. Shortly after the family was reunited, his leg had to be amputated and he died. (Please turn page below)