The 1956 funeral of Albert Henry Woolson was an unusual affair. 1,500 people were in attendance, including members of Congress and numerous Army generals. Hundreds of people lined the streets of Duluth, Minnesota to pay respects to the 106-year-old man who was being laid to rest.
Who was this man?
Albert Woolson was an ordinary man with an extraordinary role: He was the last verified living soldier of the Civil War.
Woolson was born on February 11, 1850, in Antwerp, New York. His father died fighting for the Union in the Battle of Shiloh. Two years later, 14-year-old Woolson enlisted as a Union rifleman for Minnesota’s Company C. Instead, he became a drummer boy and served his 11 months of service without seeing action. He was honorably discharged in September 1865.
Life as a civilian
Woolson became a carpenter after the war. He settled in Minnesota and had 8 children with two wives, having been widowed in 1901.
Mr. Woolson joined the Grand Army of the Republic (G.A.R.), a powerful political organization of former Union soldiers. He was the G.A.R. senior vice commander in chief at the time of his death, after which the organization dissolved, as he was its last surviving member.
He had numerous visitors in his later years. Interest in his story rose as remaining Civil War soldiers continued to die. He gave interviews and spoke in schools about his legacy, telling fellow Americans, “We were fighting our brothers. In that, there was no glory”. When he died in August of 1956, Life Magazine featured a seven-page spread about his life. A statue of his likeness stands in Gettysburg.
He’s no ordinary hero.