He is mentioned by name on a monument to Confederate veterans, and many people think of him as a gallant rebel soldier. But did William A. “Uncle Bill” Lundy actually serve in the Confederate army? A noted Civil War historian says no.
CRESTVIEW — Few local ancestors stir as much debate as William Lundy, whom many people consider Florida’s last Confederate War veteran.
But like the rebel battle flag that fluttered until recently over the city’s former Confederate Park, Lundy’s claim of veteran status has also been removed.
Civil War historian Scott R. Smith’s research confirms what historians have said since at least 1991.
“He never served in any branch of the Confederate military or of Home Guards during the War,” Smith stated in the winter 2015 issue of Pea River Trails, the Enterprise, Ala.-based Pea River Historical and Genealogical Society's quarterly journal.
Smith’s article, “The Cases of Francis Marion Lunday and William Allen Lundy, Father and Son: Self-Declared Confederate Veterans and Bogus Pensioners,” draws on Florida, Alabama and federal military and census records to disprove Lundy — and his father’s — claims of veteran status.
Smith’s work expands on that of historian William Marvel, who aimed to disprove Lundy’s claim in the February 1991 issue of “Blue and Gray,” a Civil War history magazine.
In the 2007 reference “Civil War A to Z,” edited by Clifford Linedecker, Lundy is listed as a “discredited veteran.”
DEPRESSION ERA MOTIVATION
Scott Smith’s research is exhaustive — and conclusive.
“The facts prove that William Allen Lundy was only 4 or 5 years old at the end of the War; he never served in the Elba Home Guard or any other Confederate military unit,” he wrote.
The deception was financially motivated, Smith and Marvel said. Lundy was a poor North Okaloosa County farmer whose first claim of Confederate veterans status was made two years into the Great Depression. He needed money, and for many elderly men born in the early and mid-1800s, claiming Civil War veteran status was a way to get federal cash.
“By the late 1920s and early 1930s, actual veterans were getting scarce,” historian Mark Curenton, a Laurel Hill native, said. “Old men would get together and swear to each other’s pension application in order to qualify for the money. There were not any real soldiers left at that time to dispute their claim.”
It took 10 years and political pressure on a skeptic Florida Pension Board before Lundy saw his first check. “From the beginning, examiners with the Florida Pension Board were suspicious of Lundy's claims and consistently denied his applications,” Smith wrote. “In fact, the board awarded him a pension only because they had to comply (albeit reluctantly) with special bills of the Florida legislature that mandated the benefits.”
Lundy’s first step was to claim Civil War service age, historians state. His grave marker at Almarante Cemetery near Laurel Hill claims he was born in 1848.
Smith states that Lundy started adding years to his actual age in successive federal censuses beginning in 1910, when he gave his age as 57.
His age continued to increase. In 1930, he’d told federal census takers he was 75. In the Florida state census of 1935, three years after his first pension claim, he said he was 86. “In five years, Lundy had managed to add eleven years to his earthly sojourn,” Smith wrote.
Lundy’s actual birth year “precluded him from service in the War,” Smith stated. “The best evidence…indicates that he was 4 or 5 years old at the end of the war.”
COMPANY D'S CONFLICT
The documentation needed to claim a Confederate veteran’s pension was proof of service. Lundy couldn’t produce it, and neither could Confederate army records, Smith said.
Smith states that Lundy and two neighbors conspired so that each “would claim to be some 10 or more years older than his actual age and to have served during the last year of the war in the Elba Home Guard in Coffee County, Alabama."
The men said they enlisted in March 1864 in Company D, Coffee County Regiment, Alabama 4th Cavalry, a claim Smith said “is ludicrous.” Company D of the 4th Cavalry Battalion, raised August and September 1863, was separate from the Elba Home Guard. The guard unit Lundy claimed to join never “rendered some service to the Confederate army,” a key provision for claiming active military duty, he stated.
A search of Confederate army records in conjunction with Lundy’s pension claims found no William Lundy in any of its company D’s.
'IT WOULD'VE COME OUT'
Greg Lundy, Uncle Bill’s great-grandson, said the family has heard speculation about discrepancies in their ancestor’s service claim over the years and generally discredits it.
“It was a damn good ruse if that’s what it was,” he said. “My father and his brothers and sisters were old enough they would’ve known something about it.”
Introducing doubt into Uncle Bill’s service claim now is disingenuous, Lundy said.
“For all those years he was getting all that publicity, it seems like it’s mighty late to be bringing up something like that when there’s nobody left to tell you if it was really the truth,” he said.
The Lundy family stands by their ancestor, Greg Lundy said.
“From my family's point of view, they were good folks and they would’ve had to live with a lie,” he said.
“I do know the character of my father and my uncles and my aunts and my second and third cousins, and my family was too large to keep a ruse like that a secret. It would’ve come out.”