Albert Henry Woolson, the last Union Civil War soldier, died on August 2, 1956, in Duluth, Minnesota. Born in Antwerp, New York, on February 11, 1850, Albert moved to Minnesota when he was a teenager. He accompanied his mother to Windom, Minnesota, where his father was recuperating in an Army hospital. His father, Willard, was wounded at the Battle of Shiloh, and died in Minnesota of his wounds.
Albert then joined Company C of the 1st Minnesota Heavy Artillery as the company drummer. He enlisted on October 10, 1864, and was discharged on September 7, 1865. He never saw action.
After the War, Woolson returned to Minnesota, where he lived the rest of his life, working as a carpenter. He belonged to the Grand Army of the Republic (G.A.R.), becoming Vice Commander in Chief in 1953. After his death, the G.A.R. was dissolved because Woolson was its last surviving member.
Life magazine² ran a seven-page article about Woolson on August 20, 1956. The article also included photographs of the last three living Confederate soldiers: William Lundy, Walter Williams, and John Salling.
1. Photograph from the Wisconsin Veterans Museum, Madison, Wisconsin. They have a collection of papers and photographs of Woolson.
2. The Chalmer Davee Library at the University of Wisconsin-River Falls has a full run of Life on microfilm.
The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2015 annual report for our blog. As the Civil War has wound down, so has our blog viewership, which fell by 1% since last year.
Here’s an excerpt:
The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 24,000 times in 2015. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 9 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.
Thanksgiving Day was supposedly set as the last Thursday in November by President Abraham Lincoln in his 1863 proclamation, but in 1865 President Andrew Johnson declared December 7 as the National Day of Thanksgiving. Wisconsin Governor James T. Lewis had issued a proclamation declaring November 30th, but then changed the date when President Johnson issued his proclamation.
As has been our custom, we include the Thanksgiving artwork—1865’s by famed illustrator Thomas Nast—from Harper’s Weekly.
From The Polk County Press of November 29, 1865:
Gov. Lewis has changed the day for thanksgiving from November 30th to December 7, the day appointed by the President.
From The Prescott Journal of November 11, 1865:
Proclamation for Thanksgiving.
MADISON, Oct. 28.—Governor Lewis to-day issued the following proclamation :
BY THE GOVERNOR :
Peace again smiles upon us. The work of death has ceased. The authority of the government has been fully established, and traitors who once defied it, now bow in humble submission. The accursed institution of African Slavery has perished. The Union established by our fathers, cemented anew by the blood of their patriot sons, sends forth a brighter and a purer light to the oppressed of other nations.
The people of our State have enjoyed the blessings of health and prosperity and the privileges of education and divine worship. Our territory has not been polluted by the tread of the invader, our substance has been preserved.
For these and the many other favors and blessings which our Heavenly Father in His goodness has vouchsafed to us in providing for our wants and guarding us from danger, we should thank and praise Him. While we enjoy the gift let us not forget the Giver.
Feeling that we should express our gratitude and thankfulness for all these blessings and favors, I, James T. Lewis, Governor of the State of Wisconsin in accordance with a time-honored, custom, do here appoint
THURSDAY, the 30th Day of NOV., A. D. 1865,
a day of THANKSGIVING, PRAYER and PRAISE to ALMIGHTY GOD, and do recommend to the people that they meet on that day, in their usual places of worship, and
“Praise God from whom all blessings flow,”¹
thank Him for His goodness towards us during the year that has passed, and ask for the continuence [sic] of his favors and blessing.
Given under my hand and the seal of the State in the Executive Chamber at Madison,
[L. S.] this 28th day of October, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred
. .and sixty-five.
JAMES T. LEWIS.
By the Governor,
LUCIUS FAIRCHILD, Sec. of State.
WASHINGTON, Oct. 28.
By the President of the United States of America :
WHEREAS, It has pleased Almighty God, during the year which is now coming to an end, to relieve our beloved country from the fearful scourge of civil war, and to permit us to secure the blessings of peace, unity, and harmony, with a great enlargement of civil liberty;
AND WHEREAS, Our Heavenly Father has also, during the year, graciously averted from us the calamities of foreign war, pestilence, and famine, while our granaries are full of the fruits of an abundant season;
AND WHEREAS, Righteousness exalts a nation, while sin is a reproach to any people;
Now, Therefore, I, Andrew Johnson, President of the United States, do hereby recommend to the people thereof that they do set apart and observe the First Thursday of December as a day of National Thanksgiving to the Creator of the universe for these deliverances and blessings; and I do further recommend that on that occasion the whole people make confession of our national sins against His infinite goodness, and with one heart and one mind implore the Divine guidance in the ways of national virtue and holiness.
In testimony whereof I have hereunto set my hand, and caused the seal of the United States to be affixed.
Done at the City of Washington, this 28th day of October, in the year of our Lord 1865, and of the Independence of the United States the 90th.
[Signed.] ANDREW JOHNSON.
By the President :
. .WM. H. SEWARD, Sec’y of State.
1. The first line from the doxology known as “Old One Hundreth” or simply Old Hundred.²
2. From the December 9, 1865, issue of Harper’s Weekly. The University of Wisconsin-River Falls’ Chalmer Davee Library has microfilm copies of Harper’s Weekly for 1858-1865 (UWRF online catalog).
The following article comes from The Prescott Journal of November 11, 1865.
It is reiterated that Caleb Cushing’s mission to England is in connection with our claims for damages in the cases of the Anglo-rebel pirates; and Mr. C., it is stated, is preparing an elaborate argument on the subject.
Governor Stone’s majority, in all but eight counties of Iowa, is 15,942.
Brigadier General John Cook has been promoted a Major General.
The payment of bounties to colored soldiers who were slaves at the time of their enlistment has been suspended for the present, the Secretary of War holding that the law on the subject as it stands at present, does not warrant such payment.
Since the close of the rebellion, thirty-five new national banks have been organized in the southern state, with an aggregated capital stock of $4,474,400, distributed among the states as follows; Virginia, sixteen banks, capital stock $1,600,000; Tennessee, seven banks, capital stock $1,000,000; North Carolina, two banks, capital stock $100,000; Georgia, three banks, capital stock, $800,000; Alabama three banks, capital stock $400,000; Mississippi, one bank, capital stock $50,000; Louisiana, two banks, capital stock $800,000; Texas, one bank, capital stock $200,000.
In the case of Father Cummings, tried on charge of having preached without having taken the oath of loyalty, the supreme court of Missouri has affirmed the decision of the Pike Circuit Court, amereing him in the sum of $500.
A Washington dispatch states that the President in consequence of recent grossly disloyal action in South Carolina, Georgia, and Mississippi will change his policy concerning those States; visit them in future with the rigors of martial law, and grant but few amnesties to citizens thereof.
Returns of the gubernatiorial vote in all districts of South Carolina give Orr a majority of 500 over Wade Hampton. Provisional Governor Perry has been elected United States Senator for the long term.
Great Britain has removed all restrictions upon the United States war vessels in British ports, and it is understood that the British naval commander in the Pacific has been ordered to send cruisers out for the purpose of capturing the Shenandoah.
Generals Hood and Longstreat left Cincinnati for Washington Tuesday. Gen. Breckinridge, it is reported, will proceed from Canada to Washington, at the request of the President.
In accordance with Secretary Seward’s circular, a large number of claims against foreign governments-mainly for damages sustained by the operations of the Anglo-rebel pirates-have been filed in the State Department. Mr. Seward is preparing a reply to Earl Russell’s dispatch proposing a commission for the adjustment of certain claims.
Jeff. Davis evidently does not expect to be executed this winter, as he has ordered a new overcoat for his own wear. A Washington dispatch to the New York Tribune estimates that Davis will escape without punishment.
The payments to the army, since the beginning of the rebellion, amount, it is said, to $1,050,000,000.
Alexander H. Stephens has signified his consent to accept the nomination for governor of Georgia.
Wisconsin has been taken from the military department of the Missouri and sided to the department of the Ohio.
The New York Herald states that Secretary Weller has issued an order directing the immediate preparation for sea of all iron clads now lying idle.
The number of vessels now in the United States naval service is 101, carrying 1,115 guns.
The President has sent a dispatch to Governor Johnson, declaring that Georgia “should not hesitate for a single moment in repudiating every dollar of the debt created for the purpose of aiding the rebellion;” and the governor has sent a message to the convention, urging strongly such repudiation.
The Mississippi House has passed, over Governor Sharkey’s veto, a bill abolishing the special court of equity established by that functionary; and it is considered certain that the bill will also pass the Senate.
Secretary McCulloch, in consequence of the scarcity of small currency, has ordered a large amount of five-cent notes to be issued.
Admiral Porter is now engaged in re-establishing the naval academy at Annapolis, Maryland. The class of midshipmen just entering numbers one hundred and twenty-five.
Judge Gray, of Texas, has been pardoned at the request of Henry Ward Beecher.
It is rumored at Washington that the President has the case of Wirz under close advisement, “with a view to mitigate as much as possible his punishment.” Wirz having recovered from his indisposition, his diet has been changed back to the regular army ration, a procedure which meets with his hearty disapprobation.
The Treasury Department has under consideration, a plan for funding the national debt at 5 1-2 per cent interest.
The following article comes from The Polk County Press of October 14, 1865.
A Little Piece of Secret History.
Mr. Montgomery Blair has published in Washington a letter, from which we get at another reason for the sudden order of Jeff. Davis to Beauregard [P.G.T. Beauregard] to open on Fort Sumpter. General, then Colonel, Lee [Robert E. Lee], it seems, was offered the command of the armies of the Union. He hesitated. Mr. Blair writes :
“My father¹ was authorized by the President [Abraham Lincoln] and Mr. Cameron [Simon Cameron], Secretary of War, to converse with General Lee, and ascertain whether he would accept the command of our army in the field. The latter was written for, and he met my father at my house, where they conversed for an hour or more. It was a few days before the ordinance was passed. General Lee concluded the conversation by saying secession was anarchy, and, added if he owned the four million slaves in the South, he would cheerfully sacrifice them to the union ; but he did not know how he could draw his sword on his native State. He said he would see General Scott [Winfield Scott] on the subject before he decided.”
But he was caught up by some Virginia friends, who lay in wait for him, and he did not get to see Gen. Scott :
“A committee from the Virgina convention, while the General and my father conversed, were hunting for him through the city. They met on his leaving the house. He repaired with them, to consult with the convention, as I have since learned, about some mode of settlement. “
The secessionists on this committee, who were determined to have no settlement, and were also anxious to secure Lee, saw that action was necessary and telegraphed to that effect to the rebel leaders. The result was Davis’ order to open fire on Sumter ; and that crazy-headed old hanger-on of Calhoun [Calhoun], Edmund Ruffin, of Virgina fired the first gun. As Lee’s Virgina confidents [sic] foresaw, he went over immediately. General Scott and General Thomas [Thomas], who are also Virginians, did not go over to the enemies of their country. Neither did General Philip St. George Cooke. Neither did General John W. Davidson nor General L. P. Graham, nor General William Hays, nor General John Newton, all of whom were Virginians by birth and education. Nor did scores of other officers of lower rank, all Virginians, and all faithful to the Union. But Edmond Ruffin’s first gun brought down Lee—as his last gun brought down himself.
1. Francis Preston Blair, Sr. (1791-1876) personally conveyed Lincoln’s offer to Robert E. Lee to command all the Union armies, which Lee rejected, as we see here. After Lincoln’s re-election, Blair organized the abortive Hampton Roads Conference, where peace terms were discussed with the Confederates, but no substantial issues resolved. Francis Preston Blair, Jr., was Montgomery Blair’s brother.
The following front page article comes from the October 14, 1865, issue of The Prescott Journal.
The 30th Reg. is home. So large a proportion of the officers and men of this Reg. went from this part of the State, that it has been watched here with more than usual interest.
No regiment in the State was made up of better material, or has more creditably discharged the duties which it was called on to perform. So trusty was its character and so orderly its deportment that it was long kept in the State, engaged in the difficult and delicate duty of enforcing the draft. Sent from the State into the far Indian country, it had no opportunity of winning laurels in battle, but it had much hard work, which was cheerfully done.
For considerable time past the regiment has been doing provost duty in Kentucky and has been remarkable for its efficiency, and honorable soldierly conduct. Many of its members have been detailed to important places, and Col. DILL has most of the time been Provost Marshal General of the State, and received high praise for the manner in which he filled that difficult position. [Daniel J. Dill]
The boys are welcome home. As they left bearing our warm wishes for their safe return, so now we rejoice that so many of them are spared to share in the prosperity and enjoy the peace which again blesses the land.