Walter Williams (November 14, 1842 – 19 December 1959)

Walter Williams (November 14, 1842 – 19 December 1959)

Walter Williams claimed to be an American Confederate soldier born in 1842 and the last surviving veteran of the American Civil War.

Born in Itawamba County, Mississippi, he claimed to have served under General John Bell Hood. He said he had been a foragemaster in Hood's Brigade and Quantrill's Raiders. Since John Salling and all the other "last claimants" were dead, Williams was celebrated as the "last Confederate veteran." When he died in 1959 in Houston, Texas, at the reported age of 117, Ulysses S. Grant III, chairman of the Civil War Centennial, said the death was an occasion for national mourning. There would no longer be any living memories of those long-ago battles; only history, and legends.

However, in September 1959, Lowell K. Bridwell revealed that he could not find "one single scrap" of substantiating evidence to back up Williams's age or claims of military service.

When he died 19 December 1959, according to his New York Times obituary, "a newspaper story said a check had failed to find evidence to support the claim Based on Bridwell, he would have been eight years old at the time he said he had joined the Confederate Army, eleven months before the war ended in 1865. It also was reported that the National Archives listed no Walter G. Williams as having served in the Confederate Army from either his home state of Mississippi or from Texas, where his family later settled. Archives at Jackson, Mississippi, however, were said to list a Walter Washington Williams as a private. Mr. Williams said that he had used several different middle initials.

Other officials contended that the Archives of the Federal Government are incomplete on the Confederacy and that ages in census records sometimes are inaccurate. A 1991 article by William Marvel gave further details suggesting Williams was born between October 1854 and April 1855.

Irrespective of the controversy, his grave is marked at the Mount Pleasant Church Cemetery near New Baden, Robertson County, Texas. An interpretive sign was provided by the Texas Civil War Centennial Commission in 1963.

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