Skip to comments.Last widow of Civil War Vet dies
Posted on 05/31/2004 1:03:21 PM PDT by WinOne4TheGipper
MONTGOMERY, Ala. - Alberta Martin, the last widow of a Civil War veteran, died on Memorial Day, ending an unlikely ascent from sharecropper's daughter to the belle of 21st century Confederate history buffs who paraded her across the South. She was 97.
Martin died at a nursing home in Enterprise of complications from a heart attack she suffered May 7, said her caretaker, Dr. Kenneth Chancey. She died nearly 140 years after the Civil War ended.
Her May-December marriage in the 1920s to Civil War veteran William Jasper Martin and her longevity made her a celebrated final link to the old Confederacy.
After living in obscurity and poverty for most of her life, in her final years the Sons of Confederate Veterans (news - web sites) took her to conventions and rallies, often with a small Confederate battle flag waving in her hand and her clothes the colors of the rebel banner.
"I don't see nothing wrong with the flag flying," she said frequently.
Chancey said she loved the attention. "It's like being matriarch of a large family," he said.
"She was a link to the past," Chancey said Monday. "People would get emotional, holding her hand, crying and thinking about their family that suffered greatly in the past."
Wayne Flynt, a Southern history expert at Auburn University, said the historical distinctiveness of the South, which is so tied to the Civil War, has been disappearing, but Martin provided people with one last chance to see that history in real life.
"She became a symbol like the Confederate battle flag," he said.
The last widow of a Union veteran from the Civil War, Gertrude Janeway, died in January 2003 at her home in Tennessee. She was 93 and had married veteran John Janeway when she was 18.
In 1997, Martin and Daisy Anderson, whose husband was a slave who ran away and joined the Union Army, were recognized at a ceremony at Gettysburg, Pa. Anderson, who lived in Denver, died in 1998 at age 97. Janeway wasn't invited to the Gettysburg event because, at the time, no one outside her family knew her whereabouts.
Alberta Stewart Martin was not from the "Gone With the Wind" South of white-columned mansions and hoop skirts. She was born Alberta Stewart to sharecroppers on Dec. 4, 1906, in Danley's Crossroads, a tiny settlement built around a sawmill 70 miles south of Montgomery.
Her mother died when she was 11. At 18, she met a cab driver named Howard Farrow, and they had a son before Farrow died in a car accident in 1926.
Stewart, her father and her son moved to Opp. Just up the road lived William Jasper Martin, a widower born in Georgia in 1845 who had a $50-a-month Confederate veteran's pension.
The 81-year-old man struck up a few conversations with the 21-year-old neighbor and a marriage of convenience was born.
"I had this little boy and I needed some help to raise him," Alberta Martin recalled in a 1998 interview.
They were married on Dec. 10, 1927, and 10 months later had a son, William.
She said her husband never talked much about the war, except the harsh times at Petersburg, Va.
"He'd say it was rough, how the trenches were full of water. They were so hungry in Virginia that during the time they were fighting, they had to grab food as they went along. They came across a potato patch and made up some mashed potatoes," she said.
Asked if she loved her husband, Martin said: "That's a hard question to answer. I cared enough about him to live with him. You know the difference between a young man and an old man."
William Jasper Martin died on July 8, 1931. Two months later, Alberta Martin married her late husband's grandson, Charlie Martin. He died in 1983.
She became the focus of a dustup over the depiction of her and her late Confederate husband in the 1998 book "Confederates in the Attic." Among other things, the book by Tony Horwitz described William Jasper Martin as a deserter.
A group that defends Southern heritage disagreed, contending there were at least two William Martins who served in Company K of the 4th Alabama Infantry Regiment and that Horwitz got the wrong one. Horwitz said his research was carefully checked and the book was accurate.
The state government considered Martin's record clean enough to award him a Confederate pension in 1921 and to give Alberta Martin Confederate widow's benefits in 1996.
Martin's older son, Harold Farrow of North Little Rock, Ark., died last June. Her younger son, Willie Martin, lives in Elba.
Alberta Martin is to be interred at New Ebenezer Baptist Church six miles west of Elba, in an 1860s-style ceremony following her funeral June 12.
Apparently, the South did rise again.
If you are a Civil War buff like I am, you can buy VHS tapes of the last gatherings of the men in BLUE AND GRAY. I have one, plus a wonderful recording (double album) of their music of the time. Believe it was released by Columbis Records years ago, and probably available through researching some sources. If interested, I have an old brochure that came with the tape. Send me a message, and I will respond.
"Her younger son, Willie Martin, lives in Elba."
Argh! Did I mess up the link? Sorry...
I don't know, but that'd be an interesting bit of information.
Thanks for posting this. I remember just a few months ago, someone posted an article about this lady's existence (I'd link to it, except I'm not capable without my morning coffee!)
May the dear lady rest in peace...
A while back, there was a book, later made into a movie:
Oldest Living Confederate Widow Tells All". I was told it was a passable work of historical fiction.
Can any of the buffs hereabouts confirm?
I remeber hearing about her, too.
The Wall St Journal had a page one story on this just last week. There are quite a few children of Civil War vets. Of course, "quite a few" is a relative term!
kind of freaky...
In the South, not all family trees fork.
At least there was no child, or the two siblings would one have been the son of a Confederate Veteran and the other the great-grandson of the same veteran.
So I guess we can stop paying Veterans benefits on the Civil War now. (Wars are expensive!)
What does it for the South? Is it that they were broken by the Civil War and developed the "Stockholm syndrome"? Is loyalty for institutions an inherit trait of Southern society but after the Civil War this trait was applied to the Union out of default i.e. Southerners have a need to be loyal and patriotic and they had no nation to be patriotic about but to the one that conquered them??
Note that Charlie was William's stepfather and also his nephew.
Yes, but the South was part of the Union before they succeded and became the Confederacy. So in a way it was just going back to the way it was before the war.
This is and always will be our nation and will be honored and cherished.
We have no 'stockholm syndrome' nor were we broken. If you have to even ask why we are so loyal and patriotic then you don't have the love of Country in your heart and therefore you'll never understand.
It is what it is.
I've never quite thought of that way. You're right -- that does seem to be an ironic twist on things. You can't drive a mile in Dallas without seeing an American flag, either hanging outside stores or on car bumpers. They're everywhere. Northerners visiting me have remarked about it and I had also noticed in my many trips to the north that displays of the flag are much scarcer up there.
Could it be the Stockholm syndrome? I don't know.
I heard on NPR (shoot me I know) the other day that there are around 85 children of Union soldiers and over 200 children of CSA soldiers surviving.
Bizarre. When we starting hearing about 1,100 WWII veterans dying every day, I began thinking about the vets from WWI. I was just wondering yesterday if there were any "first generation" links to that war. I supposed there weren't any left to the Civil War, or the Spanish-American war. I guess I was wrong.
It's inherently that white Southerners tend to be fairly homogenous, have most ancestors that predate the Civil War and are most conservative socially.
All of that contributes. The South is also more rural (but that is changing quick) and that contributes.
It is ironic granted although in the aforementioned dispute, the South had issue with Yankee political hegemony and not the Founders....most of whom the more influential were Southern as well.
Not what happens in Europe-ask a Scotsman wha he thinks of England.
So, this 73-year old guy can say, "Yeah, my dad fought in the Civil War..." Wild.
I think I saw it on a Simpson's cartoon it was a Lisa Simpson episode where she got in trouble by mistake for not being patriotic enough and a Southern chartacter yelled out "she is insulting the country my granpappy fought against!" or something like that. I found it funny but also it made me think being that I am from Europe and while I consider myself a Civil War buff I can not get that answer.
By the way....we were NEVER broken and Stockholm is for sissies.
Just look around this forum, we have not forgotten about when Yankees act smug and self righteous (some still do today...not all or even most arguably).
I'm 4 generations removed from my closest ancestor who fought in that war and he was only a kid at Vicksburg.
Btw, we would bristle much less about it all if folks left us alone about it but they can't help it.....we know that.
Agreed - the founders were never in question. Is this why the South will only vote for a Southerner over a Northerner even if the Northerner is a Republican (Jimmy Carter - Bill Clinton). No other region has such native son loyalty - that could be it - after all Union armies did burn down much of the South and wage economic war on Southern civilians in a rather ruthless way.
What a wild story! What a life this old lady had ... can you imagine the scandal in 1931 when she married her step-grandson?
My opinion? The South only recovered from the economic distruction of the Civil War in the last 30 years.
His name was William Lundy and he was from Crestview, Florida. Not all that far from Enterprise, Alabama where She died.
I am sure the last three survivors of the WBTS were Confederate, probably because they tended to have younger soldiers.
You mean I can't ask such a question? As a European origin naturalized American citizen I know in Europe grudges ans losses in war are remembered for generations. Yet the Southern man salutes the flag of teh nation that burned down Atlanta and other Southern cities. I was only asking what caused the Southern people to overlook this? Complex question I as a transplanted into the North American can not answer - maybe even Southerners can't answer it either?
Bump. May the good lady rest in peace.
(Speaking as a northerner whose family history is steeped in the 48th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry, FWIW...)
The answer, as I understand it, is that Union means Union. The rebellious States weren't simply busted up and recolonized by the North; they were readmitted to the Union. What remained of the Confederacy and its culture was fully a part of the character of the Nation that resulted. It was more of a merger than a conquest.
If I was a foreign power the nation I want kick my ass and occupying me is the USA hands down. They fix you up after and let you be (more or less).
I think Southerners now fight for the Union, as it were, because they're fighters!
In some places, there is still deep anger towards the Yankees, especially in isolated areas where the guerilla war had neighbors fighting one another. But just as the U.S. is now, and has been for over 100 years, an ally of Britain, the South may have conflicts with the north, but we're still together against the rest of the world.
How many widows did he leave behind? Must've been a Mormon.
My Dad's great-grandfather lived to be 99, and my Dad vividly remembers listening to his stories about visiting Lincoln's funeral train when it came through Philadelphia. My great-great-grandfather was a teenager at the time, and it was his father who took him downtown.
It just makes me shake my head to think that my Dad, who is 76 (and by the way golfed an 86 a few weeks ago), spoke personally with a witness to Lincoln.
One of my own g-g-g-grandfathers was wounded at the battle of Petersburg.
My g-grandfather (48th Pa. Vol. Inf.) was shot in the arm and chest the first night at Petersburg. He spent many months recovering, and rejoined his unit at Fort Hell in March 1865, just in time to be overrun by the last Rebel charge of the war.
My dad still tells of the deep, purple scar running up his grandfather's forearm.
My ancestor was, unbelievable to say this, but he was 53 years old at the time of this battle! Seems ancient for a fighting man in those days.
He had immigrated from Europe about 12 years earlier, and was drafted into the Wisconsin infantry, and wound up at Petersburg, where he was wounded in April of '65. Gunshot wound somewhere, not sure now where, and from his pension records it also shows that he had dysentery the rest of his long life, presumably from his service in the war, since he drew a pension of I believe it was $4 per month because of it.
It was an awful battle (but which of them is not?) and I keep meaning to look for the book that came out a number of years ago, which dealt with the battle of Petersburg, but just have never gotten around to it.
When I was a kid, my parents had a double album called "Songs of the Blue and the Gray," IIRC.
I remember the album with the Union songs had a blue label, and the album with Confederate songs had a gray label.
Maybe that was the same album you have. It had to have come out in the early 1960s, at the latest.
There was a front page article in one of last week's Wall Street Journal's on this. I believe there are around 84 Union children and about 204 Confederate children still alive.