Michigan’s Last Civil War Veteran(s)

In April 1948, Michigan mourned the death of the last living Civil War veteran in the state.

In July 1951, they did it again.

Neither of these events were incorrect. Both times, the man who died was, in fact, the last Civil War veteran to call Michigan home. What happened is that after Michigan lost their first last veteran, they gained another! Here’s the whole story:

Orlando LeValley was born in 1848 on a farm in Lapeer County. He tried to join the Union forces when the war began in 1860, but at 12 years old he was turned away and told to grow up a little. He did grow up, and in 1864 he joined up – still two years short of the “required” 18. During the remainder of the war, he served in the 23rd and 28th Michigan Infantries, participating in the battles of Franklin and Nashville. After the war he moved back to Michigan, settled on a farm near Caro, married, had children and went on with his life.

By 1948, LeValley was 99 years old and the last Civil War veteran in the state. When he died, his status as last veteran awarded him an large funeral attended by state dignitaries such as Governor Kim Sigler as well as most of the town of Caro. Michigan last living participant in the major war of the previous century was gone.

A few short months later, Joseph Clovese of Louisiana decided to move to Pontiac, Michigan to live with a niece. Born a slave in 1844, Clovese ran away during the Civil War to join the Union army. He first served as a drummer in the Siege of Vicksburg before joining the 63rd Colored Infantry. After the war he had stayed in the south, working on steamers in Mississippi. Soon after moving to Michigan, he called a local newspaper to inquire about local GAR posts, as he had been a member of the fraternal organization for veterans in Louisiana wanted to continue to do so. The newspaperman must have been shocked to learn the Michigan had a new last Civil War veteran! The story was reported in the newspaper the next day and Clovese became a minor celebrity.

In 1949, Clovese attended the GAR’s final national encampment in Indianapolis. He was one of six veterans in attendance. A few other Civil War veterans, both Union and Confederate, still survived around the nation but their numbers were dwindling fast. On January 28th, 1951 he celebrated his 107th birthday with a celebration organized by the city of Pontiac. Clovese passed away six months later on July 13. For the second time in three years, Michigan mourned the final passing of the Civil War generation.


Richard Bak, “Last Man Standing” Hour Detroit , August 2012 http://www.hourdetroit.com/Hour-Detroit/August-2012/Last-Man-Standing/

Mary Drier, “Honoring Orlando,” Tuscola Today, July 26 2011, http://www.tuscolatoday.com/index.php/2011/07/26/honoring-orlando/

Jenny Nolan, “The Grand Army of the Republic,” The Detroit News, Januay 28 1997 http://apps.detnews.com/apps/history/index.php?id=66#ixzz2H1g9HlVl

Farmington Community Library Newsletter, April 2006

“Uncle Joe Clovese, Michigan’s Last Civil War Veteran, Dies,” Toledo Blade, July 13, 1951


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