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 the discredited or unproven Confederate veteran claimants who died after Crump's death.[6]

Name Claimed birth date Believed birth date Death date
Pleasant Crump December 23, 1847 December 31, 1951
Felix M. Witkoski 5 January 1850 October 1854 3 February 1952
Thomas Edwin Ross 19 July 1850 27 March 1952
Richard William Cumpston 23 May 1841 5 September 1952
William Loudermilk 23 October 1848 April 1851[7] 18 September 1952
William Jordan Bush 10 July 1845 July 1846 11 November 1952
Arnold Murray 10 June 1846 1854/1855 26 November 1952
William Townsend 12 April 1846 22 February 1953
William Albert Kinney 10 February 1843 10 February 1861 23 June 1953
Thomas Riddle 16 April 1846 1862[8] 2 April 1954
William Lundy 18 January 1848 May 1860 1 September 1957
John B. Salling 15 May 1846 15 May 1856[9] 16 March 1959
Walter Williams 14 November 1842 14 November 1854 19 December 1959

On December 19, 1959,[10] Walter Washington Williams (sometimes referred to as Walter G. Williams[11]), 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.[12][13] 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.[14][15] Nonetheless, since all the other claimants were dead, Williams was celebrated as the last Confederate veteran after his death on December 19, 1959.[16]

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.[17] Salling received a pension after providing a notarized statement attesting to his service.[17] Moore wrote that Marvel had found census records which put Salling's birth date in 1858.[17] 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.[17]

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."[18]

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.[17][19]

In his 1991 article in Blue & Gray magazine, Marvel confirmed Albert Woolson's (February 11, 1847(?), or 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.[14] 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.


  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. ^ 1900 US Census gives age as 49
  8. ^ 1910 Census gives age as 48
  9. ^ Marvel, William (1991). The great imposters VIII (3). Columbus: Blue and Gray. pp. 32–33. 
  10. ^ 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)
  11. ^ August 31, 2014 Kevin Randle Blog: A Different Perspective FAKERS! September 08, 2007. Retrieved September 28, 2014.
  12. ^ Texan's Civil War Role in Doubt As Records Indicate Age Is 104, New York Times, September 3, 1959
  13. ^ Associated Press. 'Civil War Veteran's Claim Disputed', published in Spokane Daily Chronicle, September 2, 1959. Retrieved September 28, 2014.
  14. ^ a b Marvel, William (1991). The Great Impostors. Blue and Gray, Vol VIII, Issue 3. pp. 32–33.
  15. ^ 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.
  16. ^ 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.
  17. ^ 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.
  18. ^ Quoted by Kevin Randle in FAKERS! "A Different Perspective", September 8, 2007. Retrieved August 31, 2014.
  19. ^ Randle quoting Marvel, "The Great Imposters".