Last of the Blue and Gray: Old Men, Stolen Glory, and the Mystery That Outlived the Civil War
Richard Serrano, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist for the Los Angeles Times, pens a story of two veterans. In the late 1950s, as America prepared for the Civil War centennial, two very old men lay dying. Albert Woolson, 109 years old, slipped in and out of a coma at a Duluth, Minnesota, hospital, his memories as a Yankee drummer boy slowly dimming. Walter Williams, at 117 blind and deaf and bedridden in his daughter's home in Houston, Texas, no longer could tell of his time as a Confederate forage master. The last of the Blue and the Gray were drifting away; an era was ending.
Unknown to the public, centennial officials, and the White House too, one of these men was indeed a veteran of that horrible conflict and one according to the best evidence nothing but a fraud. One was a soldier. The other had been living a great, big lie.
ISBN 10: 1588343952
ISBN 13: 9781588343956
Richard A. Serrano
RICHARD A. SERRANO is a former reporter for the Kansas City Times and was a longtime Washington correspondent for the Los Angeles Times. He has shared in three Pulitzer Prizes for coverage of the San Bernadino terror attacks, the Hyatt Sky Walks disaster in Kansas City, and the Rodney King riots in Los Angeles. He is the author of several books, including American Endurance and Last of the Blue and Gray.
Told with clarity and skillfully paced, Serrano’s story of two old men and the mythology that grew up around them is intimate, expansive, and thoroughly entertaining.
—Publishers Weekly, starred review
Richard Serrano tells the fascinating stories of several men who claimed to be the last survivor of Civil War armies. All but one were fakes. As the nation approached the Civil War centennial in the 1950s, the controversies over the last veteran of the war highlighted the continuing debates about a war that never really ended.
As one of America's greatest journalists, Richard Serrano has a well-established reputation as a master story teller. In the Last of the Blue and Gray, he has found a hidden gem worthy of his narrative skill. At the height of the Cold War, two old men lay dying. They are the nation's last connections to the Civil War, and Serrano elegantly interweaves their final days with the war's approaching centennial. He skillfully shows just how badly an anxiety-ridden modern America wanted to believe in a simpler time, even when the truth got in the way.
Richard Serrano's book is a beautifully- written account that brings to light a fascinating bit of American history. He tells us about the last "battle" of the Civil War, nearly a century after Fort Sumter: the struggle over who would be the last living veteran of the Civil War (and over whether the claims of the last survivors were real or fraudulent). This is a great story, easy to read and full of wonderful detail, one that sheds light not only on the past but on our shifting memories of it.
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