By Mike Polston

More than one hundred years have passed since the last shots of the War Between the States were sounded. But even today there are many reminders of those days in the 1860's when brother fought against brother. But these reminders are mere inanimate relics of those years of bloodly strife. Not so long there were living reminders. Well into the present century men who had actually shouldered weapons in the war were still alive. One such soldier of the Civil War was William M. Loudermilk of Jonesboro, Arkansas.

In 1864, at the tender age of sixteen William Loudermilk joined the Confederate Army of General John Bell Hood. Young Loudermilk was prompted into enlisting after he had witnessed the burning of Southern property by the invading army under the command of General William Sherman.

Most of William's military career was at the least unexciting and routine. His first duty was that of a waterboy. Gradually he was assigned more important work including bugle boy and finally sharpshooter. While in the service of his country the young boy participated in the battles of Chatttanooga, Marietta, Nashville, Atlanta and was still with the army when it was surrendered in May 1865.

When the war ended in the Spring of 1865, William became one of the thousands of exconfederates who began their long journeys home. His only possessions at the time were the clothes on his back. a canteen and a lucky 1834 half dollar. These last two items became cherished keepsakes in his later years. After miles of hard travel William finally made his way back to the hills of North Carolina. Life in the South after the war was hard for most and it was no different for William Loudermilk. As with most Southerners, William's time was spent m farming near his hometown of Murphy, North Carolina. Most of this time was spent alone, but after several years William took a wife. In January 1886, William Loudermilk and nineteen year old Elizabeth Bruce were joined in marriage. The young couple quickly grew restless. In December of the same year they moved to Craighead County Arkansas near a small and fast growing town named Jonesboro. While living on a farm near Jonesboro, Loudermilk at times worked on tbe Cotton Belt Railroad and at a nearby saw mill. But as in North Carolina most of his time was spent farming and selling his crops.

In August 1940, William and Elizaheth moved from their farm to 1000 Burke Street in Jonesboro. Farm life was no longer suitable for a near 100 year old man and his better than 80 year old wife. But even in these advanced wears the old couple still kept a small garden in their back yard. Sometime around 1950 William. then 101 years old, learned of the availability of government pensions for former Confederate soldiers: The old gentleman applied for such pension but was denied. for he could not prove his age or Military service. In an attempt to obtain his just reward Loudermilk traveled to his home in North Carolina to collect the needed information. Unfortunately his efforts were in vain for ironically he had outlived all of his friends and relatives who could confirm his military service. After traveling over a thousand miles, old William returned home to Arkansas with no evidence and no pension. The fact that Loudermilk could not provide written documentation of his military service does not automatically prove that he did not serve. It is not uncommon for Confederate enlistment records to have become lost or destroyed. Many times, especially in the later years of the war, no records were kept. Therefore, Loudermilk most likely did serve in the Confederate army even though no written record now exists. Even without written proof, William strongly professed that he indeed was a Confederate veteran. ln fact he was very proud of his military experience and often bragged about it. Many times this bragging resulted in heated arguments with people who contended that he was not a Civi1 War Veteran. Whether these people were honestly contesting his claims or just enjoyed seeing the old man rant and rave, no one can say. By 1952. William Loudermilk had the honor of being one of the few Confederate veterans still alive. But it was not long until the old soldier would once again join his comrades in arms. In September 1952. William was admitted to St. Bernard's Hospital in Jonesboro. He never left there alive, for on September 18, 1952 he died of a cerebral hemorrhage. His wife, Elizabeth, who had also been admitted to the hospital after an accident, died shortly thereafter. The two are now buried in the old Keller's Chapel Cemetery where they rest side by side forever. When William M. Loudermilk died, the last Confederate Veteran living in Arkansas was gone. Though Loudermilk was not a native Arkansan nor served in a Arkansas regiment, the people of Craighead County and Arkansas can express pride in the fact that he was a long time resident. Though no great hero, Loudermilk was an excellent example of the Confederate soldier that marched off to war so long ago. When William Loudermilk died a part of the history of theOld South died with him.


Our lives are filled with many interesting events and happenings. As such this story would be incomplete without mentioning a few interesting facts in the life of William Loudermilk. The following are just a few interesting and sometimes humorous incidents that occurred during the life of Arkansas' last Confederate Veteran. On Loudermilks one hundredth birthday a big party was held in his honor at the Mt. Carmel Methodist Church, a church for which he had donated land. The celebration included a large three tiered cake, upon which one hundred candles were mounted. As for his personal observance of his birthday William deposited a symbolic one hundred pennies in the church collection plate.


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