Last surviving United States war veterans

Last surviving United States war veterans

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.

American Revolutionary War

There are several candidates for the claim of last surviving veteran of the American Revolutionary War:
* Lemuel Cook (1759-1866)
* John Gray (1764-1868)
* Daniel F. Bakeman (1759-1869)
* George Fruits (fl.1779-1876)

According to data from the Daughters of the American Revolution, George Fruits died in 1876 at age 114. However, Fruits was never on a pension roll. Fruits's birthdate was more likely 1779 than 1762, as indicated in recent studies. The last surviving veteran may have been Daniel F. Bakeman, who was placed on the pension rolls by an act of U.S. Congress and is listed as the last survivor of the military conflict by the United States Department of Veterans' Affairs.

War of 1812

* Hiram Cronk (1800-1905)

Mexican-American War

* Owen Thomas Edgar (1831-1929)

American Civil War


The last surviving Union veteran is considered to be Albert Woolson (1847?-1956), alleged to have been 109. Census research by William Marvel in 1991 indicated that Woolson was 108 years old. However, in 2006 the 1850 census was located, which indicated that he was in fact 106 years old (being the oldest document, it is the most reliable).

The next-to-the last Union veteran was James Albert Hard of New York. He died March 12, 1953, at the claimed age of 111. However, census research indicates that he was probably a year or two younger as well and may have inflated his age to gain service. He is recorded as having joined the Union army May 14, 1861, aged '19.' However, the 1850, 1910 and 1920 censuses indicate that he was born in 1843, 1842 and 1842, respectively. Again, the oldest document is the most reliable one, indicating that he was in fact 109 years old. [ [ The Last Surviving Veterans of America's Wars - Obituaries, Biographies, Pictures and other Data ] ] [ [ James A. Hard Obituary ] ] [The Chicago Tribune, March 12, 1953, transcribed by K. Torp for [ genealogytrails] .]

William Allen Magee died January 23, 1953 in Long Beach, California, at age 106. He is listed as enlisting as a bugler on October 20, 1863, at age 18 (a 2-year age exaggeration) in Company M, 12th Cavalry Regiment Ohio, so he was a veteran regardless of age.

The last surviving Civil War general was Brevet-Brigadier General Aaron S. Daggett of Maine, who died in 1938 at age 100. However, others who served in the war and were later promoted to General survived into the 1940s.


Candidates include:
* Pleasant Crump (December 23, 1847-December 31, 1951) of Alabama (verifiable)
* Felix M. Witkoski (c.January 5, 1850-February 3, 1952) of California
* Thomas Edwin Ross (c.July 19, 1850-March 27, 1952) of California
* William Loudermilk (c.October 23, 1848-September 18, 1952) of Arkansas
* William Jordan Bush (c.July 10, 1845-November 11, 1952) of Georgia
* Arnold Murray (soldier) (c.June 10, 1846-November 26, 1952) of South Carolina
* William Townsend (c.April 12, 1846-February 22, 1953) of Louisiana
* William Albert Kiney (February 10, claimed 1843, census suggests 1861-June 23, 1953) of Indiana
* Richard William Cumpston (May 23, 1841-September 5, 1952), of Virginia
* Thomas Riddle (soldier) (c.April 16, 1846-April 2, 1954) of Tennessee
* William Lundy (January 18, 1848?-September 1, 1957) of Alabama/Florida
* John B. Salling (May 15, 1846?-March 16, 1959) of Virginia
* Walter Williams (November 14, 1842?-December 19, 1959) of Mississippi/Texas (debunked)

Most cases are questionable, though it should be remembered that many Confederate records were destroyed or lost to history. Unlike the U.S. military archives, the Confederate records had no official archive system after the war. However, for most of the cases investigated, the ages of the claimants alone were enough to prove their claim was false.

Walter Williams was generally acknowledged as the "last Confederate veteran" in 1950s newspapers. However, in 1959 an exposé by "The New York Times" revealed that he was in fact born in 1854 in Itawamba County, Mississippi, and not 1842 as claimed. Still, since John Salling and all the other "last claimants" were dead, Walter Williams was mythically celebrated as the "last Confederate veteran" in December 1959 and January 1960. Even the president joined in.

Salling's own status is disputed. In 1991, William Marvel examined the claims of Salling and several other "last Civil War veterans" for a piece in the Civil War history magazine "Blue & Gray". Marvel found census data that indicated Salling was born in 1858, not 1846. In the same piece, Marvel confirmed Woolson's claim to be the last surviving Union veteran and asserted that Woolson was the last genuine Civil War veteran on either side. However, Marvel did not present research establishing who, among the several other Confederate claims from the 1950s, some of which appear to be genuine, was the real last Confederate veteran.

Although in 1900 Salling supplied a birthdate of March 1858, he appears to have been born around 1856, still too late to have served in the Confederate Army. The 1860 census lists him as four years old, and the 1870 census as fourteen.Fact|date=February 2007

William J. Bush is listed as born July 1846 in the 1900 census, and aged 65 in the April 1910 census (suggesting a birthdate of 1844). This suggests that he was at least 106 and did not add years to his age because of a pension-fraud motivation. The Civil War Soldiers and Sailors system lists two persons named William J. Bush, one of which served as a Private, Co B, in the 14th Georgia Infantry, and the other one as a Private, Co D, in the 66th Georgia Infantry.Fact|date=May 2008

Indian Wars

* Fredrak Fraske (1872-1973)
* John Daw (1870-1965)

Spanish-American War

Candidates include:
* Nathan E. Cook (1885-1992)
* Jones Morgan (c.1882-1993)

World War I

* Frank Woodruff Buckles (born in 1901) Female:
* Charlotte Louise Berry Winters (1897-2007), one of the first women to enlist in the US Navy, and served as a Yeoman (F) Second Class clerk at the Naval Gun Factory at the Washington Navy Yard.

ee also

* List of notable last events
* Surviving veterans of World War I


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