Albert Henry Woolson
Portrait c. 1953
|Born||February 11, 1850|
Antwerp, New York, U.S.
|Died||August 2, 1956 (aged 106)|
Duluth, Minnesota, U.S.
Park Hill Cemetery, Duluth, Minnesota
|Years of service||1864–65|
|Unit||1st Minnesota Heavy Artillery Regiment|
|Battles/wars||American Civil War|
|Memorials||Monument at Gettysburg|
|Other work||carpenter and member of the Grand Army of the Republic|
Albert Henry Woolson (February 11, 1850 – August 2, 1956) was the last surviving member of the Union Army who served in the American Civil War. He was also the last surviving Civil War veteran on either side whose status is undisputed. At least three men who followed him in death claimed to be Confederate veterans, but one has been debunked and the other two are unverified. The last surviving Union soldier to see combat was James Hard (1841–1953).
Woolson was born in Antwerp, New York, to Willard P. Woolson (1811–1862) and Caroline Baldwin (ca. 1822–unknown). He claimed to be born on February 11, 1847, but his entry in the 1850 United States Census lists him as born in 1850. Entries in the later census records and in the 1905 Minnesota State Census support the conclusion that he was born in 1850.
His father, Willard Woolson, enlisted in the Union Army. Willard was wounded at the Battle of Shiloh and was transported to an Army hospital in Windom, Minnesota, where he would die of his wounds. Albert and his mother moved to Windom to accompany Willard. Albert enlisted as a drummer boy in Company C, 1st Minnesota Heavy Artillery Regiment on October 10, 1864, becoming the company's drummer. However, the company never saw action, and Albert Woolson was discharged on September 7, 1865.
Woolson returned to Minnesota, where he lived the rest of his life. He was a carpenter and later a member of the Grand Army of the Republic (G.A.R.), a powerful political organization made up of Civil War veterans where he became senior vice commander in chief in 1953.
In his final days, he lived at 215 East Fifth Street in Duluth, Minnesota. Woolson died at St. Luke's Hospital in Duluth on August 2, 1956, at what was then thought to be the age of 109, of a "recurring lung congestion condition". He was twice widowed and was survived by six daughters and two sons. Woolson was buried with full military honors by the National Guard at Park Hill Cemetery.
The American people have lost the last personal link with the Union Army ... His passing brings sorrow to the hearts of all of us who cherished the memory of the brave men on both sides of the War Between the States.
Woolson and fellow drummer-boy Frank Mayer marched together, both aged 99, in the Memorial Day Parade in May 1949, to lay a wreath at the tomb of General Grant in New York City.
Life magazine ran a seven-page article upon the death of Albert Woolson, in the August 20, 1956, issue. The article included much information about the G.A.R., with pictures or drawings of several encampments (conventions). Also included are photos of the last three living Confederate soldiers (status and age disputed): William Lundy, 108; Walter Williams, 113; and John Salling, 110.
In mid-2006, new census research indicated that Albert Woolson was actually only 106 years old, being listed as less than one year old in the 1850 census. Previous research in 1991 had suggested he was only a year younger than claimed (108 instead of 109), although this does not affect his veteran status.
After his death, the Grand Army of the Republic was dissolved because Woolson was its last surviving member.
The 2011–12 Minnesota Legislative Manual was dedicated to him.
- File:1850UnitedStatesFederalCensus 312130447.jpg
- Some references still use the self-reported 1847 birth year.
- For example, 1860 Census for town of Antwerp, Jefferson County, NY lists him as age 11. The 1910 census for Duluth, St. Louis County, Minnesota, Enumeration District 180, list him as age 60, and the 1905 Minnesota State Census for the town of Winnebago, in Faribault County, lists him as age 56.
- "Woolson, Last Union Veteran, Is Buried After Military Rites". The New York Times. United Press. August 7, 1956. Retrieved 2012-08-30.
Albert Woolson, the 109-year old [sic] Civil War Union Army veteran who outlived all of his comrades, went to his grave today as a soldier.
- "Last 24 Hours". St. Petersburg Times. 3 August 1956. Retrieved 6 July 2012.
- "The Death of the Last Union Soldier and of an Era". Life Magazine. 1956-08-20.
- Ritchie, Mark (2011). "Dedication of Blue Book". In Minnesota Office of Secretary of State. 2011–12 Minnesota Legislative Manual. Minnesota Office of Secretary of State. pp. ii–iii. ISSN 1524-8038.
- Bert Woolson collection on Albert Woolson at the Whitman College and Northwest Archives, Whitman College.
- Albert Woolson image at Corbis
- Sons of Union Veterans biography
- Photographs of Memorial
- "Bust of Albert Woolson Given To GAR Museum" Article in the Civil War News.
- "Depot salutes last Union vet" Article in the Duluth News Tribune, June 10, 2004.
- Albert Woolson at Find a Grave