Last of the Blue and Gray: Old Men, Stolen Glory, and the Mystery That Outlived the Civil War

By Richard A. Serrano

Richard Serrano, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist for the Los Angeles Times, pens a narrative of 2 veterans. within the overdue Nineteen Fifties, as the USA ready for the Civil conflict centennial, very outdated males lay demise. Albert Woolson, 109 years previous, slipped out and in of a coma at a Duluth, Minnesota, medical institution, his thoughts as a Yankee drummer boy slowly dimming. Walter Williams, at 117 blind and deaf and bedridden in his daughter's domestic in Houston, Texas, now not may well inform of his time as a accomplice forage grasp. The final of the Blue and the grey have been drifting away; an period used to be finishing.

Unknown to the general public, centennial officers, and the White apartment too, this sort of males used to be certainly a veteran of that terrible clash and one in line with the easiest facts not anything yet a fraud. One used to be a soldier. the opposite have been dwelling an outstanding, massive lie.

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Certainly one of them stated, ‘If the ladies of the USA from the South and the North had mixed and talked this factor over, there may by no means were any Civil conflict. ’ ” while his comrade Clemmons died, Woolson grew to become considered one of simply Union veterans left in Duluth. while Huntley died, he stood by myself. as soon as a solitary guy, he abruptly was once increased to neighborhood famous person, a interest to kids and a hero to their grandparents. He stored on telling the tales of his conflict, although the various stories not tracked or made a lot feel. In a taped interview he claimed that he and his father had visited Ford’s Theatre in Washington every week earlier than Lincoln was once assassinated. yet Woolson had additionally maintained he was once serving in Tennessee whilst the president used to be shot. however, he held to his tale. “Poor outdated Abe,” he lamented. Woolson endured to maintain busy with GAR actions round the kingdom. frequently he dictated letters on stationery from GAR headquarters in St. Paul, addressed to the “family of our overdue comrade” at any time when one other Civil struggle Yankee handed on. “My pricey friends,” he wrote in July 1943 to the kids of Dr. Albert candy, a GAR member in Hopkins, Minnesota. “Please settle for the private sympathy of not just myself yet of the dept of Minnesota Grand military of the Republic additionally, for actually we mourn with you within the lack of our real and constant comrade and the one you love father. … As the celebs gentle God’s heavens, so will He provide you with convenience and energy during this hour of significant sorrow. ” He additionally stored an organization carry on GAR affairs. while renegade member Orrin S. Pierce of Minneapolis was once suspended from an area publish and attempted to wait GAR services besides, Woolson locked him out. A former honor defend in Lincoln’s funeral who now used to be a hundred, Pierce sued. Woolson refused to budge. The case went to the nation ideally suited court docket. The newspapers referred to as it “the conflict of the Centenarians. ” It used to be nonetheless unresolved whilst Pierce died within the Minnesota squaddies’ domestic. quickly Woolson used to be grappling with higher difficulties. The statewide GAR moved in 1947 to disband the total outfit. by way of then basically Woolson and different Civil conflict veterans remained as bona fide contributors in Minnesota. So the trio agreed to give up their constitution to the nationwide GAR association and shut the nation posts. yet first they paraded during the streets of St. Paul for one final time. Bands performed marches, and Woolson rode in a spot of honor, his head held excessive. on the parade’s finish he requested the bugler to blow “Retreat” instead of “Taps. ” “Retreat,” he stated, signs simply that day is completed and evening has fallen. but to all in Minnesota, an period used to be finishing. each person sensed it. “I suppose like I’m going to a funeral,” a urban professional driving within the final vehicle stated. because the final country commander that final day, Woolson wore his blue uniform with all his medals and ribbons coloring his chest. after they assembled on the St. Paul urban auditorium, an viewers of 3 thousand hushed as he stepped to the rostrum. they can see the tears in Albert Woolson’s eyes. “It is my wish that there'll be not more merciless and inhuman wars,” he instructed them.

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