The Last Confederate Widow Living?
In Elba, Alabama, not far from the Pea River, lives a sure-enough Country Lady of ninety years old. (At the time of publication - March 1999), called Miz Alberta Martin, who married the then eighty year old Confederate, Mr William Jasper.
The Lady goes on to say,
We got married at the Courthouse. I wore a blue dress, wasn't no special dress, he wore common clothes too. His friends serenaded us round and round with cowbells, made a racket hollerin' and hoopin'.
But there were no further celebrations,
Times was hard then, people didn't know what a honeymoon was.
I remember he had big 'ol blue eyes, reddish skin, a moustache, not bad for an old feller.
He came up the road every day to buy tobacco and each time he'd chat with Alberta over the fence.
We'd talk about nothin, what I call no sense, just talkin, we didn't spark none.
Sparking was old Southern slang for flirting. There was a certain formality given the gap in their ages. The Lady goes on,
I called him Mister Martin, I never did call him any other name because he was so old. He called me Sis, like my daddy. But I called that old man Mister Martin even in bed.
When asked if she had any regrets marrying a man sixty years her senior, Alberta smiled,
better to be an old man's darlin' than a young man's slave
They were married for five years, six months before William's death in 1932. William attended veterans' conventions in Montgomery.
He was also vague about his civil war days. He said he went up to Virginny and was hungry, he's grave's over in Opp [about 5 miles from Elba].
A long slab laid flat, its surface completely blank, at the top end a fresh marble tablet read: -
WILLIAM JASPER MARTIN
PVT 2 ALA INF
CONFEDERATE STATES ARMY
This was the stone the Daughters of the Confederacy had erected. William drew a pension of $50 a month from the State. The author, was a researcher from the National Archives, who specialised in Confederate war records. William Jasper Martin was drafted late May 1864. He was sent to Richmond the next month, turned up in hospital records with Rubella and released in July on a sixty-day furlough. He went AWOL. On his Company muster roll, William's name appeared beside the word "deserter" for the remainder of the war. William's name turned up two months after Appomattox when he went to Montgomery for a formal parole by Federal officials. William was lucky he hadn't been caught and shot for desertion by Confederate authorities or exposed years later and denied a pension. But I was glad for Alberta, and for the false teeth, hearing aid, and whatever her measles-ridden husband might have done 130 years before up in old Virginny.
These are the authors words and findings, personally we all know how difficult record keeping can be in times of war and I mean no dishonour to Mr William Jasper Martin, or Mz Alberta Martin, or Mr Tony Horwitz, the author of Confederates in the Attic.
So I will leave the last words to Mz Alberta Martin,
I lived with that old man for five years and six months, He's been dead forever. I married to my next husband Charlie for fifty years and six months. Why don't nobody ever ask after him?
Pvt. A B Spencer, 1st Maryland Inf.
Extracts from Confederates in the Attic, by Mr Tony Horwitz, March 1999.
The above article appeared in the ACWS Newsletter, June 2000