William Murphy Loudermilk (1847–1952)
In 1952, Jonesboro (Craighead County) resident William M. Loudermilk became the last Confederate veteran to die in Arkansas; he had been the last survivor to have served in a North Carolina unit. At the time of his death, he was one of the nation’s last nine surviving Confederate veterans. Being a native of North Carolina, he had served in a unit from his home state but moved to Jonesboro sometime in the late 1880s. He lived in northeastern Arkansas for over sixty years until his death in 1952.
William Murphy Loudermilk was born near Murphy, North Carolina, in Cherokee County on October 27, 1847. He was the fifth of nine children born to Daniel Loudermilk and Nellie Thompson Loudermilk. Little is known of his childhood growing up on his family’s farm. It is likely that he received some formal education, as later census records indicate that he was literate. By the time he turned sixteen, the Civil War had been in progress for over two years. In later life, Loudermilk stated that when the Union armies began advancing into the areas near his home, he enlisted in a North Carolina cavalry unit. His father likewise enlisted in an infantry unit. Loudermilk stated that he entered the service as a water boy but soon advanced to a bugler and finally to a sharpshooter. While serving in the army of General John Bell Hood, he participated in the Georgia battles of Marietta and Atlanta and also at Chattanooga and Nashville, Tennessee.
Little documentary evidence has been found to confirm his military service, as no official military records of his service have been located. However, such lack of documentation for Confederate service is not uncommon. Loudermilk stated that he had never completed any paperwork, and when the war ended he was simply instructed to go home. He received no parole or any other form of documentation. He was never able to obtain a military pension, nor was he able to gain admittance to the Arkansas Confederate Home in Sweet Home (Pulaski County). As late as 1948, he made an unsuccessful trip to North Carolina to collect documentary evidence of his service. His military service is basically confirmed by his own claims.
On January 8, 1887, he married Sarah Elizabeth Bruce in Georgia. The couple had no children.
Not long after their marriage, they moved to a farm on Woodsprings Road near Jonesboro. For years, Loudermilk and his wife peddled vegetables on the streets of Jonesboro. He also worked for the Cotton Belt Railroad for a time. They lived on the farm until moving into the city in 1947. In September 1952, Loudermilk suffered a cerebral hemorrhage and was admitted to St. Bernards Hospital. His wife collapsed on the same day and was also admitted to St. Bernards. Loudermilk never recovered and died on September 18. He was buried with full military honors in Keller’s Chapel Cemetery in Jonesboro. His military headstone identifies him as Arkansas’s last living Confederate veteran. His wife died in 1964 and is also buried there.
During his lifetime, Loudermilk received a number of honors, including honorary colonel of the Arizona Rangers, honorary member of the Confederate Air Force, and admiral of the Great Navy of Nebraska. In 2015, the Arkansas Civil War Sesquicentennial Commission placed a historic marker at his gravesite.
For additional information:
Hoar, Jay S. The South’s Last Boys in Gray. Bowling Green, OH: Bowling Green State University Popular Press, 1986.
“William Murphy Loudermilk.” Find-a-Grave. https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/37768256/william-murphy-loudermilk (accessed November 20, 2020).
CALS Encyclopedia of Arkansas
Last Updated: 11/20/2020