The Barron County Historical Society, in cooperation with the Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War, conducted a Last Soldier Marker dedication ceremony at Lake View Cemetery on Thursday, July 25.
The marker was dedicated at the grave of Ancel Goolsbey, Barron County’s last surviving Civil War veteran. Goolsbey was born in Ohio on July 12, 1847, and died in Chetek over 100 years later, on Nov. 18, 1947.
Dawn Anderson arranged for a color guard from the American Legion in Chetek, which Ron Ekstrom led. There were several family members at the dedication: Carlyn Bryngelson, Carolyn Bartlett and Lucy Bryngelson. Brianne Duncan, of Barron, brought her three sons so that they could witness it. Her oldest, Collin Duncan, came in a Civil War uniform.
Bob Schutz was the chaplain and Tammy Schutz spoke in appreciation of Ancel’s service and placed the marker. Great-grandson Carlyn Bryngelson spoke about his memories of his great-grandfather and a little about his life. John Decker, of the Sons of the Union Veterans of the Civil War, led the ceremony. He plans to write an article for their newsletter. He said it was very moving and a very special ceremony.
Goolsbey enlisted as a musician in Company C of the 7th Minnesota Volunteer Infantry Regiment on Feb. 15, 1865, at age 17. He mustered out on Aug. 16, 1865, at the close of the war with the rank of private. Due to his age, a parent’s consent was required and was given by his father, Lewis, with the following statement: “I hereby give my consent that my son, Ancel Goolsby [sic], can enlist in any capacity in the Federal Army.”
Service records described Ancel as 5 feet, 3 inches in height, with brown eyes, black hair and a dark complexion. His occupation was listed as farmer. The 7th Minnesota Volunteer Infantry Regiment was posted in Louisiana and Alabama during the period of Ancel’s service. In a newspaper story written at the time of his 100th birthday, Ancel was quoted as saying, “The officers were always good to me; because I was young and slight of build, they kept me out of any big battles.”
Ancel and his wife, Alice, were married at Black River Falls on July 4, 1870, and they moved to a farm in Chetek in 1897. The couple had six children, all of whom were alive at the time of their golden wedding anniversary in 1920.
Goolsbey was a member of Albert Weatherby Post No. 128 of the Grand Army of the Republic at Chetek, and was its last Commander. Post No. 128 was one of nine GAR posts to be established in Barron County and of more than 400 in Wisconsin. Post No. 128 maintained its charter for 64 years. Only four other GAR posts in Wisconsin had longer existence. The post was named in honor of a member of Company H, 2nd Wisconsin Volunteer Infantry, who was killed in action in a fierce fight against the Stonewall Brigade during the Second Battle of Bull Run.
Goolsbey was a devoted and active member of the Grand Army of the Republic. He served as the last vice commander of the Department of Wisconsin, and attended his last National Encampment (or convention) in 1941 at Columbus, Ohio. An obituary noted he marched in every Memorial Day parade except the one held in 1947.
The Grand Army of the Republic emerged as the largest and most influential organization of Union Civil War veterans. Its membership reached more than 409,000 by 1890. The GAR founded veterans’ retirement homes, including the home at King, Wis.; provided relief work at the local, state and national levels; and advocated for veterans’ interests. Five members were elected president of the United States.
In 1868, GAR Commander-in-Chief John A. Logan issued orders calling for May 30 to be set aside as a day for the GAR to remember fallen comrades, thus beginning the observance of Memorial Day.
The final National Encampment of the GAR was held in 1949 and its last member, Albert Woodson, of Duluth, Minn., died in 1956 at the age of 109. Only two other Wisconsin Civil War veterans outlived Ancel Goolsbey. Josiah E. Cass, of Eau Claire, died on Dec. 1, 1947, at the age of 99. Wisconsin’s last surviving Civil War veteran, Lansing A. Wilcox, of Cadott, died at the veterans home in King on Sept. 29, 1951, at the age of 105. Like Goolsbey, Wilcox enlisted at the age of 17. His grave site at the Brooklawn Cemetery in Cadott features both a state historical marker and a Last Soldier Marker.