Conflict Period:
Civil War (Union) 1
Army 1
Private E-1 1
15 Jul 1843 1
Victor NY 1
12 Mar 1953 1
Rochester NY 1

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Personal Details

Full Name:
James Albert Hard 2
Full Name:
James Hard 1
15 Jul 1843 1
Victor NY 1
12 Mar 1953 1
Rochester NY 1

Civil War (Union) 1

Army 2
Private E-1 2
Service Start Date:
May 1861 2
Enlistment Date:
New York 2

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James A. Hard was born at Victor, New York
on July 15, 1841. He was the son of Alanson
Pratt and Martha Frost Hard. He was the third of
13 children and survived the entire family.

In 1949, at the Grand Army of the Republic's
final National Encampment, James Albert Hard
was the last living veteran of the Civil war in the
State of  New York. At 109 1/2 years of age he
was both the oldest living Union veteran and the
oldest member of the Grand Army of the
Republic. Although blind, he served as both the
New York Department Commander and the Jr.
Vice Commander-in-Chief of the G.A.R.

In 1868 James A. Hard married his first wife
who died in 1880. They had one daughter who
died in 1948 at the age of 75. In 1884 he married
his second wife who died in 1929.

James Albert Hard, while still alive, had 3 grandchildren, 8 great-grandchildren and 7 great-great grandchildren.

Mr. Hard began as a government railroad worker. Thereafter, he engaged in carpenter work for a time. Finally he became a notary and had a flourshing pension business continuing in the same
office for 38 years. As a young man he worked on farms. He had very little schooling.

He settled in Rochester in 1882 which has remaianed his permanent home. While very young he moved from his birthplace at Victor, NY to Broome County, Windsor, NY.

At President Lincoln's first call for volunteers he enlisted at Dryden, NY on April 18, 1861. He
served in the regular Army for 2 years and thereafter engaged in government railraod work until
the close of the War. James A. Hard served in Co. E, 32nd NY Volunteers.

He met President Lincoln twice. Their first meeting was at a White House reception at the
outbreak of the war just after his enlistment - before he had been issued a uniform. As he
approached Lincoln the President shook his and and said, "Well, son, you look like you would
make a good soldier, why don't you join up?" His second meeting with Lincoln was at
Bailey's Cross Roads when Lincoln was inspecting troops, at which time he again shook hands
with the President. He also once shook  hands with General Grant.

During the Battle of While House Landing, on the York River, his Commanding Officer, Capt.
LC Grown was killed besides him. He took part in the battle of Fairfax Court House,
Blackburn's Ford, Bull Run, Munson's Hill, Bailey's Cross Roads, 2nd Munson's Hill, and
Annandale - all in Virginia in 1861. In 1862 he fought in the battles of West Point, The Seven
Day's battle of Virginia, Gaines Mill, Garnet's and Goldings Farm, Glendale, Malvern Hill,
Crampton's Pass - again, all in Virginia, as well as Antietam, Maryland. In 1863 he took part in
the battles of Fredericksburg, Franklin's Crossing, Mary's Heights and Salem Church -once again, all in Virginia. Hard served through the war as a Private.

One of Mr. Hard's maternal uncles served in the Revolutionary War. In WWII he had a
Grandson, Earl H. Osborn, stationed at Aberdeen, Md., a Great-Grandson, James P. Eksten,
with a medical detachment of the 133rd Inf. in Africa and Italy, and another a Great-Grandson, Donald R. Nelan, with the Air Corps over Germany.

James A. Hard attended the last encampment of the NY Department, GAR, in 1948 and of the
national organization in 1949. He was the only veteran at the State Encampment and only 1 of 6
at the last National.

He was Commander-in-Chief of either the Union Veterans Union or Union Veterans Legion.

When he died on March 12, 1953 he was given the City of Rochester's version of a State funeral.
Thousands lined the streets of Rochster to say good-bye. The City Hall bell tolled 13 times. It
was the first time since V-J Day that the bell had sounded. He was laid to rest in Mt. Hope
Cemetery next to his second wife, Anna, who died in 1929.

James Hard

From Wikipedia

James Albert Hard (July 15, 1843 – March 12, 1953) was the last verified combat veteran of the Civil War and the second-to-last verified veteran overall; only drummer-boy Albert Woolson post-deceased him. Though he claimed to have been born in 1841, research in 2006 found that the 1850 Census indicated a birthdate of 1843. His war service record from 1861 was also located.

He died in Rochester, New York, at the claimed age of 111. Census research indicates, however, that he was probably a year or two younger and may have inflated his age to gain service. He is recorded as having joined the Union army on May 14, 1861, aged '19.' The 1850, 1910 and 1920 censuses, however, indicate that he was born in 1843, 1842, and 1842, respectively. Hard is also the current record holder for the oldest verified person born in 1843.

Hard is reported to have fought as an infantryman in the 37th New York Volunteer Infantry Regiment at the battles of First Bull Run, Antietam, and Chancellorsville, and to have met Abraham Lincoln at a White House reception


James Albert Hard was born in Windsor, Broome Co., NY. He joined the Union Army in May 1861 and served in Co. E, 37th NY Volunteers. He saw action at he battles of Bull Run, Antietam, and Chancellorsville. He told the story that during the War he met President Lincoln at a White House reception.

After the War he worked for a railroad, was a building contractor and a veteran's pension attorney. He also joined the veteran's organization, the Grand Army of the Republic (GAR). In that organization, he served two terms as NY State commander and was the national junior vice-commander in chief.

He died 12 March 1953 at Rochester General Hospital from complications following having his right leg being amputated from circulation problems. He was the last living member of the GAR. He was also the second to last member of the Union Army. A funeral procession of 1,000 people following his remains through downtown Rochester to the Masonic Temple where his funeral was held. He was buried in Mt. Hope Cemetery with military honors. It was said at the time of his death that was aged 111 years old but research through old census records, years later, found that he was only 109 years old. 

James Albert Hard 1843-1953 by Garry Victor Hill

James Albert Hard

Result: His Union Service is verified √

Date of Birth: July 15th 1841 or perhaps 1842 or 1845. This is uncertain as census and enlistment dates contradict.

Date of Death: 12th March 1953

Age at enlistment: given as nineteen but possibly younger

Rank: Private

Unit: 37th New York Volunteers. Company K and E

Service: Infantry

Combat Experience: extensive, from early in the war till Chancellorsville

Length of service: April 1861 to June 1863

Evidence of Service apart from his own accounts. He is listed in Official Records and in his unit’s muster roll. He had a sickness furlough recorded in late 1862. He went on to hold high office in the Union veteran’s association, the Grand Army of the Republic

          By his own account in old age James Albert Hard was an upstate New York farmer’s son who worked from the age of five onwards.[1] He would rise at four and work till nine at night – and then study by lamplight. The second eldest of four, he would sometimes be hired out to labor for other farmers and his father kept the wages. This life was strong on self – sufficiency and simple pleasures. Hard recalled how he enlisted: “One day a wagon – load of fellows came by noisily and I asked what the racket was about. ‘The President wants volunteers and we’re enlisting.’ I joined them and we all went to Dryden in Tompkins County and enlisted Apr. 18th 1861 for two years.”[2]  

Hard’s record has the usual problems with age/census/ enlistment verification and contradictions. Several sources give his birthdate as 1841, but three census statements give 1842 and 1843. He claimed to be nineteen when he enlisted four days after Fort Sumter fell, but may have been seventeen. He also claimed to have met Lincoln at a White House reception.[3] He also claimed to have met Lincoln at a White House reception.[4] Accessibility to Lincoln by ordinary citizens was extremely open.[5] Even so, this sounds odd for one of the millions of privates like Hard who came from an undistinguished family. He was at both the Bull Run battles, but saw only some fighting towards the end at both.[6] He also fought in much of the 1862 Peninsula Campaign, including two of its toughest battles, Gaines Mill and Malvern Hill. For his unit the little known battle at Etham’s Landing was the toughest. He was also in the Battle of South Mountain, then Antietam. At the latter he was lucky to survive, a bullet going through his coat.[7] He also fought in two parts of the Chancellorsville battle, Second Fredericksburg and Salem Church. His obituary and some accounts state he was at the battle of Fredericksburg, but this is probably confusing the second battle of Fredericksburg in May 1863 with the better known first battle in December 1862. Writer David George Martin states that he was on sick leave from October 29th 1862 until the year’s end.[8]  His two year enlistment expired and he left the army on June 9th 1863[9] He was a man of the most extraordinary luck, never being wounded despite being in some of the war’s toughest battles and missing both Fredericksburg and Gettysburg by fortuitous circumstances.

          After his discharge he worked for the army in railway construction until March 1865. During this time he worked at rebuilding bridges destroyed by the rebels in Virginia, Tennessee and Georgia. Several times he was “close to the fighting” and was also in Nashville when it was besieged.[10] He then worked for himself in railway construction in the west, for several years, bluntly saying that he was working to make money fast. He married in 1868 but was left a widower twelve years later. He remarried in 1884 and survived his second wife and his only child, a daughter who died in 1948. He studied and became a successful notary in Rochester concerned with pensions, particularly Civil War pensions.  He was a familiar figure as grand marshal of the veteran’s parades there. He never really retired from involvement in veteran’s organisations, despite blindness hitting in his last years. He did give some interviews and attended public events, but avoided the fuss made over his Southern counterparts.[11]


This is an excerpt from America’s Last Civil War Participants: An Investigation  by Garry Victor Hill. The full illustrated text can be found for free at my website  Hopefully this will also be an e-book. Twenty eight other claimed Civil War survivors alive after 1951 are also assessed and Part One assesses the sources, problems and controversies about the last veterans.


[1] Much of this account of Hard’s life comes from the segment on him in Jay S. Hoar’s second volume of The Boys in Blue pp872-880. Professor Hoar bases much of his segment on 1950 interviews with Hard, conducted, written and edited by Andrew D. Wolfe. These were published by the Rochester Historical Society. Another major source were Hard’s descendants who sent very detailed accounts and recollections to Professor Hoar.

[2] Ibid, p873.

[3] Unsigned Obituary ‘Hard Oldest Veteran, Dies at 111; He Spent Boyhood in Windsor’ Binghamton Press Fri. March 13th 1953 p12. ; Hoar Vol II, quoting Hard, p873.

[4] Unsigned Obituary ‘Hard Oldest Veteran, Dies at111; He Spent Boyhood in Windsor’ Binghamton Press Fri. March 13th 1953 12

[5] David Herbert Donald, Lincoln. London Jonathan Cape, 1995. p311.

[6] David George Martin, Second Bull Run Campaign July-August 1862 .Google Books n.d.  p250 http:/ EC&PG

[7] Hoar, Vol. II, quoting Hard, p873.

[8] Ibid.

[9] Ibid.

[10] Ibid.

[11] Binghamton Press; Martin p250.

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