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Subject: Archive: John B. Salling, Mar. 16, 1959

Was long thought to be the last Civil War veteran
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Date Posted: Saturday, March 16, 05:33:51pm

John B. Salling (May 15, 1856 March 16, 1959) claimed to be the oldest surviving Confederate veteran of the American Civil War, though his claim of being born in 1846 has since been debunked. According to the 1860 census for Scott County, Virginia, John Salling is listed as being four years old, making him born in about 1856.

In 1991, William Marvel examined the claims of Salling and several other "last Civil War veterans" for a piece in the Civil War history magazine Blue & Gray. Marvel found multiple instances of census data that indicated Salling was born in 1856, not 1846.

At the time of his death, John Salling was officially considered the next-to-the last Confederate veteran. Walter Williams of Houston, Texas was frequently listed as the last Confederate veteran, but shortly before Williams died (on December 19, 1959), a New York Times report cast strong doubt on his claim.

The John Salling case gained currency after Guinness World Records listed him as the "oldest soldier" of all time, erroneously as 113 years and 1 day old (it was later found that Salling claimed shortly before his death to have been born in May 1846, not March 1846; Guinness had made a typographical error). Thus, Salling's age was first dropped from 113 to 112, and then a census search suggested that he was really 'only' 100. In any case, no documentation to support his claim to being a veteran was ever produced. Many of the records of Southern troops during the Civil War are incomplete because many records were lost or destroyed. John Salling claimed in his application for a pension that he was a saltpeter digger in Scott County during the war and that he had been put on detail duty in that job after enlisting in the 25th Virginia Infantry. In 2006, Guinness pulled recognition of this case.

The last authenticated Confederate veteran was Pleasant Crump, who was 104 when he died on December 31, 1951.

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Subject Author Date
Film of his birthday in 1955When he supposedly turned 109Saturday, March 16, 05:35:16pm

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