The Last Soldier

I recently discovered an amazing book – The Last Men of the Revolution by Rev. E.B. Hillard, published in 1864. In his book, Hillard describes his journey to embark with two photographers to visit, photograph, and interview the six known surviving veterans of the American Revolution. Take a moment to reflect on this accomplishment – today, we can grasp in our hands, and see with our eyes, photographs of men who served in the American Revolution! Rev. E.B. Hillard’s extraordinary project (indeed a calling) was historically significant for our country in so many ways.

Hillard’s 1864 book contains a short biography and photo of the last six patriots still alive that served in the war for independence occuring over eighty years earlier. Each of these venerable men had aged to over one hundred. Here are Rev. Hillard’s words, penned in 1864, as he reflected on his quest to interview these last soldiers of the American Revolution:

“The present is the last generation that will be connected by living link with the great period in which our national independence was achieved. Our own are the last eyes that will look on men who looked on Washington; our ears the last that will hear the living voices of those who heard his words. Henceforth the American Revolution will be known among men by the silent record of history alone. It was thus a happy thought of the artists who projected this work to secure such memorials as they might of these last survivors of our great national conflict, before they should forever have passed away.”1

Rev. E.B. Hillard (1864)

Imagine the exhilaration felt by Rev. Hillard as he gazed into the eyes of men who once looked upon George Washington!

As I read the illustrious stories of the six patriots in Rev. Hillard’s book, I paused and wondered, “Who were last soldiers of each of the wars our country has fought?” So, I began a quest to discover the last soldier of the American Revolution, Civil War, War of 1812, and World War I. Here’s what I found:

American Revolution

Several men have laid claim to be the last soldier of the American Revolution. Daniel F. Bakeman was the last survivor of the war receiving a pension for his service. Although documented evidence of his service cannot be independently verified, the description Bakeman provided of his service in his pension application was judged to be credible. Bakeman died on April 5, 1868 at age 109. 

John Gray (1764-1868)

Based on record evidence, the last verifiable veteran of the American Revolution was John Gray, Jr. who died on March 29, 1868 at age 104 (one week prior to Bakeman’s death). Author James M. Dalzell published a book in 1868 titled John Gray of Mount Vernon: The Last Soldier of the Revolution revealing the compelling story of the Gray family’s love of country. His father, John Gray Sr., served in the Revolution and was killed in the Battle of White Plains in New York on October 28, 1776. John Gray Jr. enlisted at age sixteen in 1780, and served at the Battle of Yorktown in Virginia in 1781.

“During all this time John Gray had neither sought nor obtained from the Government any recognition of his service in the war of the Revolution. Never rich, indeed poor. In purse, he was yet too proud to ask a richly-merited annuity, and it was not till the frosts of a hundred winters had whitened his locks, and age, decrepitude, and want invaded his citadel, hat he gave a reluctant consent for his friend to apply for a pension.”2

James M. Dalzell (1868)

You can explore each of these captivating stories in Rev. E.B. Hillard’s book, The Last Men of the Revolution, which is available HERE. There is, however, one more noteworthy story of the last soldiers of the American Revolution I’d like to share.

Alexander Milliner (1760-1865)

Alexander Milliner enlisted as a drummer boy in September 1780 at age ten. Milliner described his personal interactions with George Washington during his interview with Rev. E.B. Hillard. He shared a story of being summoned to Washington’s headquarters to play a tune on the drum which seemingly pleased Washington enough to give him three dollars as a reward. Milliner recalled how General Washington would “come along and pat him on the head, and call him his boy” after he woke the troops with reveille each morning.3 Milliner died on March 13, 1865 at age 104. 

War of 1812

Hiram Cronk (1800-1905)

The last soldier of the War of 1812 was Hiram Cronk. Hiram enlisted with his father and two brothers, John and Jeptha, at age fourteen. Hiram served with the New York Volunteers in the defense of Sackett’s Harbor, NY in 1814. Although youthful in years, Hiram carried himself with such military bearing that troop commander, Captain Davis, said that if he had a regiment full of such soldiers, he could go into Canada and fight the enemy on their own grounds.4

For his service to country, Hiram received a pension of $12 per month. Hiram Cronk, the last soldier of the War of 1812, died on May 13, 1905 at age 105. He attributed his health and longevity to Duffy’s Pure Malt Whiskey saying, “Thanks to Duffy’s, I am able to be out every day and take quite extended tramps in the severest weather.”4

Civil War

Albert Woolson (1850-1956)

The last soldier of the Civil War whose status is undisputed was Private Albert Woolson. At age fourteen, he enlisted in the Union Army and was assigned to Company C, 1st Minnesota Heavy Artillery Regiment as a drummer boy on October 10, 1864. He served nearly two years with his unit and was discharged in September 1865. 

Woolson was a member of the member of the Grand Army of the Republic (GAR), a fraternal organization formed by veterans of the Civil War. He later became the GAR’s senior vice commander in chief in 1953. Albert Woolson, the last soldier of the Civil War, died in Duluth, Minnesota on August 2, 1956 at age 106. 

Upon reflecting on the date of Woolson’s passing in 1956, I’m personally feeling quite old myself. Why? Because I was born just eleven months after the death of the last soldier of the Civil War! 

Ulysses S. Grant III, grandson of the Union Army general, was an honorary pallbearer at Woolson’s funeral.5 After Albert Woolson’s death, the GAR was dissolved because he was its last surviving member.

World War I

Frank Buckles (1901-2011)

The last soldier of World War I was Frank Buckles. Frank enlisted in the U.S. Army in 1917 at age sixteen after convincing Army officials he was eighteen. Buckles wanted to serve in combat and a sergeant suggested the quickest way for him to get to the front lines was to drive ambulances. Buckles served first in England, then in France, driving ambulances and motorcycles in the Army’s 1st Fort Riley Causal Detachment.6

During World War II, Frank Buckles worked in the shipping business which eventually landed him in the Philippines. In 1942, he was captured by Japanese forces and held in a prison camp for over three years as a civilian internee. By the time Frank was freed by Allied forces in 1945, he weighed less than one hundred pounds.6

In his later years, Buckles continued his service to country as honorary chairman of the World War I Memorial Foundation. Frank Buckles, the last soldier of World War I, died on February 27, 2011 at age 110. 

World War II

We are so blessed to have World War II veterans of The Greatest Generation still with us. Unfortunately, those days are numbered. Here’s some astonishing facts: Over sixteen million Americans served in World War II. And, according to U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, 167,284 of them were still alive in 2022. These heroes are dying at a rate of 180 per day.7

Someday soon, we will tell the story of the last remaining World War II veteran who will join the honored rolls of The Last Soldier. 

I’ve had the privilege to capture the stories of my ancestors who answered our country’s call to duty during each of America’s conflicts dating back to the American Revolution. You can read these stories of honor, commitment, and courage in my book Fortitude: Preserving 400 Years of an American Family’s Faith, Patriotism, Grit, and Determination


  1. Hillard, E. The Last Men of The Revolution. (Connecticut: N.A. & R.A. Moore, 1864), p. 4. 
  2. Dalzell, J. John Gray of Mount Vernon: The Last Soldier of the Revolution. (Washington: Gibson Brothers, Printers, 1868), p. 5.
  3. Wood, L. Alexander Milliner, Age Ten, Enlisted September 1780 (accessed November 22, 2022).
  4. Murray, J. Hiram Cronk: Last Survivor of the War of 1812, November 23, 2022).
  5. Laine, M. Minnesotan Albert Henry Woolson was the last surviving Civil War veteran, (accessed November 23, 2022).
  6. Wikipedia. Frank Buckles (accessed November 23, 2022).
  7. The National WWII Museum. WWII Veteran Statistics: The Passing of the WWII Generation (accessed November 12, 2022). 


  1. Feature Image: Church, F. “Our Banner in the Sky”, (accessed November 27, 2022) is in the public domain.
  2. Knowlton, I. “John Gray”, (accessed November 27, 2022) is in the public domain. 
  3. Moore, N. “Alexander Milliner”, (accessed November 28, 2022) is in the public domain. 
  4. Henley, B. “Hiram Cronk”, (accessed November 28, 2022) is in the public domain. 
  5. Find a Grave, “Albert Henry Woolson”, (accessed November 28, 2022). 
  6. Thurlby, C. “Frank Buckles”,,_2008.jpg (accessed November 28, 2022) is licensed with CC BY 2.0. To view a copy of this license, visit

Published by Dale Spaulding

Family historian and author of Fortitude.

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