Albert Woolson was the last surviving member of the Union Army who served in the American Civil War.
Woolson was born in Antwerp, New York to Willard P. Woolson (1811–1862) and Caroline Baldwin (ca. 1822–unknown).
He claimed to be born on February 11, 1847, but his entry in the 1850 United States Census lists him as born in 1850. Entries in the later census records and in the 1905 Minnesota State Census support the conclusion that he was born in 1850.
His father, Willard Woolson, enlisted in the Union Army. Willard was wounded at the Battle of Shiloh and was transported to an Army hospital in Windom, Minnesota, where he eventually died of his wounds. Albert and his mother moved to Windom to accompany Willard.
Albert enlisted as a drummer boy in Company C, 1st Minnesota Heavy Artillery Regiment on October 10th, 1864, becoming the company’s drummer. However, the company never saw action, and Albert Woolson was discharged on September 7, 1865.
Woolson returned to Minnesota, where he lived the rest of his life. He was a carpenter and later a member of the Grand Army of the Republic (G.A.R.), a powerful political organization made up of Civil War veterans, eventually, he became its senior vice commander in chief in 1953.
In his final days, he lived at 215 East Fifth Street in Duluth, Minnesota. Woolson died at St. Luke’s Hospital in Duluth on August 2, 1956, at what was then thought to be the age of 109, of a “recurring lung congestion condition”. Woolson was buried with full military honors by the National Guard at Park Hill Cemetery.
Following his death, President Dwight D. Eisenhower said:
“The American people have lost the last personal link with the Union Army … His passing brings sorrow to the hearts of all of us who cherished the memory of the brave men on both sides of the War Between the States.”After his death, the Grand Army of the Republic was dissolved because Woolson was its last surviving member.
Life magazine ran a seven-page article upon the death of Albert Woolson, in the August 20, 1956 issue. The article included much information about the G.A.R., with pictures or drawings of several encampments (conventions).
Also included are photos of the last three living Confederate soldiers (status and age disputed): William Lundy, 108; Walter Williams, 113; and John Salling, 110.
In mid-2006, new census research indicated that Albert Woolson was actually only 106 years old, being listed as less than one year old in the 1850 census.
Previous research in 1991 had suggested he was only a year younger than claimed (108 instead of 109), although this does not affect his veteran status.