This was the home of William Joshua Bush (1845-1952), Georgia’s last surviving Confederate veteran. For his service to the Confederacy, he was afforded the honorific “General” in his last years. The historic marker at the site, first erected in 1954, reads: This was the home of General William Jordan Bush, last survivor of the 125,000 heroes from Georgia who fought for the South. Gen. Bush was born near Gordon, Ga. July 10, 1845, and died here Nov. 11, 1952. In the War Between the States he was a private in Co. B, 14th Ga. Infantry, under Capt. Tom Wilcox and Gen. John B. Gordon. His title of General was won through offices held in the United Confederate Veterans. Active until a few weeks before his death at 107, Gen. Bush attended all UCV reunions and danced at public functions.
His stepdaughter Janie Law was a classmate of my grandmother and on several occasions in the late 1980s and 1990s shared her memories of him with me. They were similar to the following article by Wylly Folk St. John, published in the Atlanta Sunday magazine on 24 April 1949:
Georgia’s last Confederate is a spry old soldier of nearly 104, who lives in a little confederate-gray house in Fitzgerald, Georgia. He is “General” (an honorary title) William Bush, of Company B, 14th Georgia Infantry. He was a teen-aged private when he fought the Battle of Atlanta. He is regarded with appropriate awe throughout the state, as the last living Georgian who wore the gray during the War Between the States – the only flesh and blood contact with the Lost Cause that is left to us on this Memorial Day.
The General is Fitzgerald’s most famous and most carefully taken care of citizen. The UDC offers him everything he could possibly want to make him comfortable, the State Patrol drives him home in state when he’s out late, the Ordinary not only brings him his pension check but also the $75 to cash it with, he is always being asked for pictures and autographs, and he gets sheaves of fan mail. He is senior deacon of his Baptist church, and received his “diploma” as a Mason in 1888.
For a man who’ll be 104 next July 10, he is astonishingly vigorous. He can read his Bible without his glasses, he can hear well with no artificial aid, his blood pressure is perfect and his heart is okay. He can still dance a jig if you dare him to, and sings “Dixie” in his quavery brave old voice. Until a few years ago, he walked downtown every morning to talk over old times with his friends. Now he has to call a taxi when his wife’s back is turned. Sometimes, when Mrs. Bush, who teaches the sixth grade, misses him, she finds out he has dressed up by himself and “gone out with the girls” to the UDC meeting. Mrs. Bush has celebrated her 27th wedding anniversary with the General, whom she married when he was 76 and she was 34. He lived with his first wife 48 years before she died, and had six children.
Bush was a bare 16 when he joined the Gray army. “I told a lie to get into it, and I’d have told another to get out,” he says, and then immediately retracts “No, I wouldn’t either. I fought to the end and I wouldn’t have it any other way.” He was “near-bout” the whole time with General Gordon, but part of the time with General Johnston. When asked if the young army did much training before it went into battle, he replies “We didn’t waste no ammunition practisin. When we shot, we shot to kill – it was hand to hand fightin” He brought home a big Confederate flat from the last Gettysburg reunion that he carries in all the Memorial Day parades.
Until a few years ago, there was also one Union Veteran left in Fitzgerald, Henry Brunner. On Memorial Day, the two old soldiers would go to the cemetery together and put flowers on the graves of their fallen comrades, General Bush decorating the Northern graves and General Brunner the Southern. When his friendly enemy died, General Bush sent a wreath “from the last of the Gray to the last of the Blue”.
Now General Bush has to place, tremulously, the flowers and laurel wreaths for both of them. There will be tears no doubt, when emotional Southern ladies see his lone indomitable figure in the parade this year, the Last Confederate, wearing his Gettysburg medal and carrying his Confederate flag.
The other men in Gray are all gone. Now at the cemetery, when the bugle softly plays Taps, it is for ALL the Confederates – except Josh Bush. There is no other man left alive in Georgia today who fought in ’61. It is a lonely emenence.
Here is Georgia’s Last Confederate.