The medal was almost as rare. It was the Congressional Gold Medal and the senate directive to the Treasury Department said they could spend up to $3,500 to strike four medals, send them off to President Eisenhower and he, or his delegate had the authority to present these to the four rarest of rare war veterans.
They were the only ones left. Of the 2,213,000 men (and women) who fought on the Union side, there was only one left. And three from the Confederate side. And its safe to say the Confederates were very rarely awarded medals by the US Congress.
The inscription reads... "presented with honor to the surviving veterans of the War between the States, by Act of Congress, United States of America."
The medals were supposed to be presented to Albert Woolson, a Union soldier from Minnesota, and Confederates William Lundy of Florida, John Salling of Virginia, and Walter Williams of Texas.
Out of several million who served these four were said to be the very last of the last Civil War veterans.
Albert spent many active years with the Grand Army of the Republic, and at age 107 was still known to pull out his snare drum to play a few beats. He appears above shortly before death in a hospital bed while his nurse lit his latest cigar. At left a few years earlier he appears, at left, proudly wearing his GAR membership badge. It looks very much like a Medal of Honor, a matter commented on in this space in past blogs.
Just a few weeks after the July announcement of the medal being made, Albert passed away. None of the 4 medals were yet presented and, as being a survivor was mandatory, only three were later awarded... all to Confederate veterans. At death Albert was still serving in the GAR and was in fact its Snr Vice Commodant in Chief. As its last member to pass away, the powerful organization, once numbering over 400,000, was then closed down.
The President, Vice President Nixon and some 3,000 attended at the famous Cemetery Hill at Gettysburg about a month after Albert's death to witness the Sons of the Union Veterans as they unveiled this, larger than life depiction of him, as an old veteran, sitting on a tree stump and staring off in the direction of the famous on coming Pickett's brigade some nine decades earlier. The monument is not only a trbute to Albert but to all union veterans and their historic Grand Army of the Republic.
On 5 October 1956 General Twining, the Air Force Chief of Staff at Washington DC presented 108 yr old Willam Lundy with his Congressional Gold Medal in Florida. Lundy passed away a year later. He is believed to be the vet on the left in above picture.
Almost a month later, on 1 November Secretary of the Army Hugh Milton presented John Salling, 110 yrs old, with his medal, and the day after, presented the medal to Walter Williams who was 114 at the time.
Salling is belived to me in the center in above picture, and died in March of 1959. Williams, belived to be on the right, died a week before Christmas in 1959..in his 118th year of life.
He was the last of over 4 million who served in the Civil War!
hope to see you next week