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In Last of the Blue and Gray: Old Men, Stolen Glory, and the Mystery That Outlived the Civil War, award winning author Richard Serrano tells the story of two Civil War veterans. In the late 1950s, as America prepared for the Civil War centennial, these two very old men lay dying. Albert Woolson, at 109 years old, was the last surviving member of the Union army. Walter Williams, at 117 years old, was the last surviving member of the Confederate army. They both struggled to survive until the centennial, where they would be lauded as heroes. But were they? As Serrano discovered, one of these men was a true veteran, and the other was a fraud.
Told in Serrano’s authoritative and engrossing voice, Last of the Blue and Gray focuses on a rarely-explored topic: what happened to veterans after the Civil War? He explores this previously uninvestigated topic from different perspectives, asking both how an imposter veteran could fool the public, centennial officials, and the White House, and why someone would pose as a veteran. Last of the Blue and Gray investigates the factors and circumstances that led men to lie about their Civil War status. For example, he investigates the economic hardships caused by the Great Depression that drove many impoverished men to claim to have fought in the war so that they could obtain benefits. Serrano explores the conflicting notions of ethics and honor and dishonesty and disgrace that flourished in a nation torn apart by war.
The compelling narrative of Last of the Blue and the Gray appeals to fans of American history and the Civil War. It shows that imposter veterans are not just a 21st century phenomenon. And most of all, it looks at how clouded memories and outright lies obscure the truth about one of the most enduring conflicts in American history: the Civil War.
Richard A. Serrano, former reporter for the Kansas City Times, is currently a Washington correspondent for the Los Angeles Times. Serrano shared in two Pulitzer Prizes for coverage of the Hyatt skywalk disaster in Kansas City and the Rodney King riots in Los Angeles. He is the author of One of Ours: Timothy McVeigh and the Oklahoma City Bombing.