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John Salling of Slant, Virginia, in Scott County, was long recognized as Virginia’s last surviving Confederate veteran.  In recognition of his service, the state of Virginia issued him a pension from 1933 until his death in 1959, at which time Salling claimed to be 112 years old. Doubt was first cast on Salling’s credibility upon his application for a state pension. When Pension Clerk John H. Johnson was unable to find evidence of Salling’s war record at the Virginia State Library (now the Library of Virginia) which maintained the records of the Department of Confederate Military Records, he required Salling to provide a sworn statement of his service to the Pension Office.

This photograph was taken in 1951 in Norfolk, Virginia. John Salling is the middle of the three elderly veterans.

Photo courtesy of Ann Avery Hunter

Salling submitted an affidavit before a notary public of Scott County certifying that he enlisted in Company D, 25th Virginia Regiment, under Capt. James R. Collins. Salling also stated that he was detailed throughout the war to work in the saltpeter mines in the Dekalb District of Scott County. Salling’s application was approved in April 1933 and he received a monthly pension of twenty-one dollars. In his February 1991 article “The Great Imposters” in Blue and Gray Magazine, Civil War historian William Marvel invalidates John Salling’s claim using census records which place his birth in 1858, not 1846 as Salling long maintained.  Additionally, Life Magazine ran an article in 1953 featuring Salling and other aged Confederate veterans.  The magazine’s online archive states that many supposed veterans misrepresented their age or military service in order to qualify for pensions issued by several Southern states, especially during the Great Depression when Salling first applied.

The Library of Virginia houses Salling’s initial pension application from 1933 which can be viewed on the Library’s Web site along with those of thousands of other Confederate veterans and widows on the Confederate pension rolls. In addition, a recently processed collection from the Department of Accounts Confederate Pension Records (Accession 44105) documents annual pension certificates and pension payroll cards for Salling and his fellow pensioners. This latter collection also documents pensions to maiden or widowed daughters of Confederate veterans, a resource not available on the online pension rolls.

Although the Confederate Pension Rolls and recently processed Confederate Pension Records neither confirm nor deny Salling’s claim, in the eyes of the Commonwealth of Virginia, he was, in fact, who he said he was.  On 15 May 1961, a memorial marker was dedicated in memory of John Salling in Slant, Virginia, as “Virginia’s Last Confederate Veteran.”

-Craig Moore, State Records Appraisal Archivist

Craig Moore

Former State Records Appraisal Archivist


  • Katheryne Cowan says:

    From the article about John Salling, I find this sentence: “Additionally, Life Magazine ran an article in 1953 featuring Salling and other aged Confederate veterans.” Does anyone know WHICH 1953 issue this was?

    • dale says:

      The article according to the index should be in the June 1, 1953 issue on page 2. We found the information on Life’s website Life does not allow us to link directly to the article. In the search bar on the top right-hand corner just type John Salling and you will see links to the photographs. I believe the website contains many photographs that were not published in 1953. Thanks for reading!

  • dale says:

    We are grateful to Ann Avery Hunter of Winston-Salem, North Carolina, for sharing with us the photograph of Salling she took at the final reunion of the United Confederate Veterans in 1951 at Norfolk, Virginia. “I was 16 at the time and was there with my mother’s cousin, Daisy Lester Avery, an ardent (United Daughters of the Confederacy) member,” she wrote. Thank you for allowing us to share the photograph with our readers Ann!

  • George Salling says:

    My great great Uncle John

  • Beckie says:

    am researching my husband’s family tree. John B Salling is his great- great Grandfather. I have collected several articles about him. We are trying to learn more about his mother Caroline Salling and his father who is unknown because he is listed as a slave?? She lived on her Grandmother Matilda Carter Salling’s Farm where she had 4 children from the Slaves on her grandmother’s farm.
    Any info you would have to find his father’s name would be wonderful.

  • Gary Hood says:

    As a U.S. Army photographer in 1959, I was sent to film John Sallings funeral. He lie in state in the National Guard Armory in Gate City, VA. There were so many people we had to stay upstairs in the local funeral home which was downtown Gate City. Lots of memories…

  • Beckie Mostello says:

    My husband is one of John Salling’s great x3 son through John’s daughter Nancy. In several articles I have researched about John Salling, it says his father was a slave. I cannot find any information on John’s father. The odd thing is that my husband had his DNA tested. The only possibly African ethnicity that appeared in my husband’s DNA was Iberian Pennisula, Spain, Portugal. No traces of African. So how can this be when most articles say his father was a slave. I am guessing his father may have been a man of color but not a slave? Any thoughts would be helpful. Thank you.

    • Brenda Thompson says:

      Email me at Nancy was married to my grandfather.

    • Rick says:

      The origin of the word “slave” is from the fact that Slavs were commonly enslaved in the Middle Ages due to the Arab slave trade (remember the Barbary pirates?). Spain and Portugal were occupied by the Islamic Caliphate for nearly 700 years before being expelled during the Inquisition.
      Those who did not convert to Islam and remained became “dhimmis”, essentially slaves. Check “arab slave trade” in Wikipedia or Stefan Molyneux had a recent Youtube post on the history of slavery.

  • Beckie Mostello says:

    We also have several photos & articles from the funeral. My husband’s Grandmother was John’s Granddaughter, Rose Aurrichio Mostello

  • Jacqueline Jordan says:

    Hello. Just wondering who all this family tree was. Me salling is actually my great grandfather. His daughter is my grandmother and I remember great granny well. She lived into her later 90s and was sharp as a tack. I would love to hear from some of you people and your family trees please. Would be wonderful

  • Beckie says:

    I created a small website with research about John B Salling.

  • Latosha Barrows says:

    Hello everyone I am Gen. John B Salling 3rd great granddaughter. My Grandmother his great granddaughter, Linda Jean who is the little blonde girl in some of the photos of John B Salling. Happy to read what some have posted in this thread please feel free to contact me I would love to fill in some gaps in the stores and meet more kin!

  • Gary Edens says:

    My mother Georgia Kinkead was the daughter of Nannie and Clarence Kinkead and neighbors of Uncle John. Several times I can remember visiting “Uncle John” as my mother called him. I was about 4 to 6 at the time in the mid 1950’s. He still had black hair. But the thing I remember most was his bed of sticks as I called it. He had a cot made from tree branches. I thought it was neat. I attended his funeral too.

  • Gary Hood says:

    I was one of the Army Photographers that filmed his funeral at the Gate City National Guard Armory.

  • Beckie says:

    Do you happen to know that exact Life Magazine issue that has the photos of John Salling? Thanks

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