Albert Henry Woolson, born on February 11, 1850, in a town in Jefferson County, New York, was the last known surviving Union Army veteran from the American Civil War. Historians also recognized him as the undisputed last Union and Confederate armies survivor.

The Drummer Boy from Minnesota

His father, Willard Paul Woolson, likewise served in the Union Army as part of Company I, 4th Minnesota Volunteer Infantry Regiment, where the elder Woolson later became a member of a regimental brass band. Many have recorded that Willard was badly wounded at the 1862 Battle of Shiloh and had to recuperate in an Army hospital in Windom, Minnesota. But, a 2019 news report debunked this, pointing out that “his (Willard) company was not at Shiloh, nor did Windom exist then,” proceeding to state that Albert’s father sustained an ugly injury in “his leg in a Gladiator steamboat accident on the Tennessee River on May 13, 1862.” After Willard’s dismissal from the Union Army, Albert and his mother, Caroline Baldwin Woolson, went to live with the elder Woolson in southern Minnesota, where the latter would spend the remainder of his life before passing in 1865 following a leg amputation procedure.

Meanwhile, Albert enlisted in the Union Army in the fall of 1864 and became a private at age 14. Given that the minimum enlistment age was eighteen, he may or may not have lied about his age. That, or he obtained parental consent to enlist. The young Woolson eventually joined Company C, 1st Minnesota Heavy Artillery Regiment as a drummer boy and went to Chattanooga, Tennessee, to lend workforce for the construction of winter quarters. Albert would stay with the rest of Company C for garrison duty until the following fall, when he would be discharged on September 27, 1865. The drummer boy would return home to Minnesota unscathed, as he did not see combat throughout his active service.

Post-Union Army Life

Albert, who inherited his father’s musical genes, went on to pursue a career as a musician after serving in the Union Army. The veteran played the cornet and guitar in a traveling minstrel troupe consisting of a band, dancers, and an acrobat. Later, he also taught mechanical engineering and music at the Breck School nearby Wilder. Eventually, he would move and settle in Duluth with his eight children from the two marriages.