Last surviving Confederate veterans

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In Lee's Last Retreat: The Flight to Appomattox,[1] historian William Marvel identified Private Pleasant Riggs Crump, of Talladega County, Alabama, who died December 31, 1951, as the last confirmed surviving veteran of the Confederate States Army.[2] Citing English professor and biographical researcher Jay S. Hoar,[3] Marvel states that after Crump's death a dozen other men claimed to have been Confederate soldiers, but military, pension and especially Census records prove they were imposters.[4] Marvel further wrote that the names of two other supposed Confederate survivors alive in April 1950, according to Hoar, are not on the Appomattox parole lists and one, perhaps both, of their Confederate service claims were faked.[4][5]

Following the entry in the table below for Pleasant Crump is a list of possible, discredited or unproven Confederate veteran claimants and also several who had verified enlisted documents: Patrick O'Leary, William Joshua Bush, Daniel Townsend, Arnold Murray and William Albert Kiney. Like the others, these five lived on after Crump's death and are ordered chronologically by their exact date of death.[6]

Name Claimed birth date Believed birth date Death date
Pleasant Riggs Crump 23 December 1847 23 December 1847 31 December 1951
Felix M. Witkoski[7][8][9] 5 January 1850 ? 3 February 1952
Thomas Edwin Ross 19 July 1850 19 July 1850 27 March 1952
Patrick O'Leary 8 August 1840 ? 29 August 1952[10]
Richard William Cumpston 23 May 1841 ? 5 September 1952
William Murphy Loudermilk 23 October 1847[11] April 1851[12] 18 September 1952
William Joshua Uncle Josh Bush 10 July 1845 10 July 1850 11 November 1952
Arnold Murray 10 June 1846 10 June 1846 25 November 1952
William Daniel Uncle Eli Townsend 12 April 1846 12 April 1845 22 February 1953
William Albert Kiney 10 February 1843 10 February 1846 23 June 1953
James Elbert Erwin[13] 7 February 1851 7 February 1851 15 November 1953
Sarah Frances Fannie Rockwell[14] 25 October 1844 25 October 1843 24 November 1953
William Wallace Alexander 20 July 1856[15] 20 July 1849 or 1856[16] 16 February 1954
Thomas Evans Riddle 16 April 1846 ? 2 April 1954
Hattie Cook Carter August 1834[17] August 1852[18] 9 January 1956
Maude Nicholls Jones Martin 25 March 1848 25 March 1880 13 May 1957
William Allen Uncle Bill Lundy 18 January 1848 May 1859[19] 1 September 1957
John B. Salling 15 May 1846 15 May 1856[19] 16 March 1959
Walter Washington Green Williams 14 November 1842 14 November 1854 19 December 1959

On December 19, 1959,[20] Walter Washington Williams (sometimes referred to as Walter G. Williams[21]), reputed near the time of his death to be the last surviving veteran of the Confederate States Army, died in Houston, Texas. Williams's status as the last Confederate veteran already had been debunked by a September 3, 1959 story in the New York Times by Lloyd K. Bridwell.[22][23] In his 1991 article in Blue and Gray magazine entitled The Great Imposters, William Marvel gave further details concerning Williams birth, including census records from before his 1932 Confederate pension application, as having occurred between October 1854 and April 1855 in Itawamba County, Mississippi. Those records showed he was too young to have served in the Confederate Army. Also, he did not identify himself as a Confederate veteran in the 1910 census which included a question about whether a person had that status.[24][25] Nonetheless, since all the other claimants were dead, Williams was celebrated as the last Confederate veteran after his death on December 19, 1959.[26]

When Williams's status was disproved, attention turned to the alleged second longest surviving Confederate veteran, John B. Salling of Slant in Scott County, Virginia. Marvel also showed that Salling had been too young to have served in the Confederate Army. In a post on the Library of Virginia blog on October 6, 2010, Craig Moore, Virginia State Records Appraisal Archivist, wrote that when Salling applied for a pension in 1933, Pension Clerk John H. Johnson could not find a war record for Salling at the Virginia State Library, which held the records of the Department of Confederate Military Records.[27] Salling received a pension after providing a notarized statement attesting to his service.[27] Moore wrote that Marvel had found census records which put Salling's birth date in 1858.[27] After stating Marvel's finding, Moore concluded that although existing Confederate pension records do not confirm or deny Salling's claim, the Commonwealth of Virginia accepted his claimed status.[27]

In the Blue & Gray article, Marvel wrote, "Every one of the last dozen recognized Confederates was bogus. Thomas Riddle was only five when the Confederacy collapsed, and Arnold Murray only nine. William Loudermilk, who insisted he fought through the Atlanta Campaign at 16, did not turn 14 until after Appomattox. William Bush and a reputed Confederate nurse named Sarah Rockwell were not 20 years old in the summer of 1865, but 15."[28]

The motive for fabrications of Confederate Army service almost always was to support a claim for a veteran's pension during the hard times of the Great Depression.[27][29]

In his 1991 article in Blue & Gray magazine, Marvel confirmed Albert Woolson's (February 11, 1850 – August 2, 1956) claim to be the last surviving Union Army veteran and asserted that Woolson was the last genuine surviving American Civil War veteran from either side.[24] Woolson was a drummer whose company did not see combat. Union Army veteran James Albert Hard (July 15, 1843 – March 12, 1953) was the last verified surviving American Civil War veteran who was in combat. Later research, however, identified Kiney as the last surviving combat veteran, and also authenticated many of the last claimants. Louis Nicholas Baker (1845?-1957),[30] Chief Red Cloud (1842?-1962), Sylvester Magee (1841?-1971),[31] and Charlie Smith (1842?/1879-1979) all claimed to be Union veterans and outlived Woolson, but Smith has been debunked.


  1. ^ Marvel, William. Lee's Last Retreat: The Flight to Appomattox. Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press, 2002. ISBN 978-0-8078-5703-8. p. 198.  – via Questia (subscription required)
  2. ^ In a 2000 work, A Place Called Appomattox, Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press, 2000, page 264, ISBN 978-0-8078-2568-6, Marvel supports Crump's service with a citation to Compiled Service Records of Confederate Soldiers Who Served in Organizations from the State of Alabama, M-311, RG 109.
  3. ^ Hoar, Jay S. The South's Last Boys in Gray. Bowling Green, Ohio: Bowling Green State University Popular Press, 1986. ISBN 978-0-87972-358-3. pp. 463–516.
  4. ^ a b Marvel, 2002, p. 280, citing Marvel, William (1991). The Great Impostors. Blue and Gray, Vol VIII, Issue 3. pp. 32–33.
  5. ^ Marvel's conclusions were supported by a later book: Serrano, Richard A. Last of the Blue and Gray: Old Men, Stolen Glory, and the Mystery that Outlived the Civil War. Washington, DC: Smithsonian Books, 2013. ISBN 978-1-58834-395-6. 'The Civil War Monitor'. Retrieved October 2, 2014.
  6. ^ Marvel's statements are unambiguous. Yet, some of the claims of these claimants may not be confirmed due to lack of conclusive evidence rather than due to debunking. In 'Last Surviving Veterans', Genealogy Trails, a volunteer-run web site, retrieved October 14, 2014, the author (Kim Torp is the name at the bottom of the page; also shown as the person who maintains the main page) states that "Marvel did not present his research on several other Confederate claims from the 1950's, some of which appear to be genuine." The page cites an earlier version of this article as one of its sources.
  7. ^ Sons of Confederate Veterans (1989). "Confederate Veteran". Columbia, TN: Sons of Confederate Veterans (Organization); Military Order of the Stars and Bars. Retrieved December 8, 2015. 
  8. ^ United Daughters of the Confederacy (1952). "The United Daughters of the Confederacy Magazine". 15-17. Confederate States of America: 67. Retrieved December 8, 2015. 
  9. ^ "The Last Veterans Biographies and Obituaries". Genealogy Trails. Retrieved December 8, 2015. 
  10. ^ Enlisted 11th Georgia Battalion March 4th 1862. Incorporated into the Company A 27th Georgia Infantry June 1862. Enlistment details are in U.S. Civil War Soldier Records and Profiles 1861-1865. His details are under his name and show that this is the same man who migrated to Australia and died in Sydney in 1952. Volume 5 of Lillian Henderson's Roster of the Confederate Soldiers of Georgia pp. 4-12 mentions O'Leary's company and three lines refer to him, but his name is misspelled as "O'Learcy". Fold3 has a photograph of his enlistment document.
  11. ^ 1930 Census gives age as 82
  12. ^ 1900 Census gives age as 49
  13. ^ "Confederate Vet is Killed by Car". Spokane Daily Chronicle. 17 November 1953. Retrieved 23 February 2016. 
  14. ^ "Sarah Frances "Fannie" Pearce Rockwell (1843-1953)". Find a Grave. Retrieved 23 February 2016. 
  15. ^ This age is given in the family bible and is on his tombstone, but there are some doubts.
  16. ^ Even on his death certificate filled out by his son there are doubts about his birth year. Although his age at death is written as 97 his birth year is given as 184_. Death Certificate of William Wallace Alexander. 18th February 1954. Charlotte Mecklenburg County North Carolina. Ages given at 1940s reunions and enlistment documents for a W.W.Alexander in his hometown support the 1849 birth year, while a local newspaper obituary, the family bible and his tombstone support the 1856 birthdate. There may have been namesakes in the county.
  17. ^ Hoar, Jay S. (2010). The South's Last Boys in Gray. pp. 1715–1716. 
  18. ^ "1880 census gives age as 27". Retrieved 7 March 2016. 
  19. ^ a b Marvel, William (1991). The great imposters. VIII. Columbus: Blue and Gray. pp. 32–33. 
  20. ^ Carroll, H. Bailey. Texas Collection, in Texas State Historical Association, 'The Southwestern Historical Quarterly' Vol. 63, No. 4, Apr., 1960, p. 602. Retrieved September 29, 2014.  – via JSTOR (subscription required)
  21. ^ August 31, 2014 Kevin Randle Blog: A Different Perspective FAKERS! September 08, 2007. Retrieved September 28, 2014.
  22. ^ Texan's Civil War Role in Doubt As Records Indicate Age Is 104, New York Times, September 3, 1959
  23. ^ Associated Press. 'Civil War Veteran's Claim Disputed', published in Spokane Daily Chronicle, September 2, 1959. Retrieved September 28, 2014.
  24. ^ a b Marvel, William (1991). The Great Impostors. Blue and Gray, Vol VIII, Issue 3. pp. 32–33.
  25. ^ If Williams had lived to be 117 years old as claimed, he would have been older than the oldest man confirmed ever to have lived, Jiroemon Kimura.
  26. ^ Associated Press. 'Reputed Last Civil War Veteran Dies in Texas After Long Illness: Walter Williams Put His Age at 117 – Tributes Note the End of an Era'. The New York Times. December 20, 1959. Retrieved November 7, 2010.
  27. ^ a b c d e Moore, Craig, Virginia State Records Appraisal Archivist. Virginia Memory, Library of Virginia, Out of the Box ""General" John Salling: Virginia’s Last Confederate Veteran?" October 6, 2010. Retrieved October 13, 2014.
  28. ^ Quoted by Kevin Randle in FAKERS! "A Different Perspective", September 8, 2007. Retrieved August 31, 2014.
  29. ^ Randle quoting Marvel, "The Great Imposters".
  30. ^ "Another Union Veteran Turns Up in Oklahoma". St. Petersburg Times. 4 August 1956. p. 3. Retrieved 23 February 2016. 
  31. ^ "Thinks Ex-Slave Only Surviving Civil War Vet". Park City Daily News. 31 May 1965. Retrieved 23 February 2016.