Friends of Mount Moriah Cemetery, P.O. Box 5321, Philadelphia, PA 19142

The Last Soldier of the Civil War – Chief Master-At-Arms William Henry Scholls

Chief Master-At-Arms William Henry Scholls

USS Georgia (BB-15)

In 1932, in the midst of the Depression, Mrs. Emma Kruger Scholls, the widow of Naval Home beneficiary William Henry Scholls, applied for a Confederate widow’s pension from the State of Florida. All she knew was that her late husband had served as a drummer boy in the Confederate Army. Unable to document her husband’s Confederate service, Florida officials denied her claim.

In 2008, while researching Navy Chief Master-At-Arms William H. Scholl’s Naval Asylum Plot grave, we discovered his affidavit attached to another Florida Confederate widow’s pension application, filed on behalf of his brother’s widow in 1919. Scholls’ affidavit not only confirmed his younger brother’s service, but his own – in the Confederate States Marine Corps. Both were drummers.

Scholls Pension 1

The documents attest to a remarkable story of a veteran we believe is the “Last Soldier of the Civil War” still “on duty” at the end of World War 1.

Born January 21, 1848 in New York City to Jacob S. and Bridget Sweeny Scholls, William grew up in Warrington, Escambia County, Florida (near Pensacola). His father was a US Marine Corps Sergeant from Easton, PA, and a veteran of the Mexican War.

Scholls Pension 2

William Henry Scholls began his military career in March 1861 at the age of 13, enlisting as a drummer in the Confederate States Marine Corps, Company C, at Drewry’s Bluff, VA. His father, later assigned to the ironclad ram CSS Virginia, was the CSMC’s “First” Sergeant. His younger brother, James Lawrence Scholls, followed in 1863, enlisting also as a drummer (CSMC, Company A) at the age of 11.

Drummer William Henry Scholls served throughout the war at Drewry’s Bluff, the headquarters of the Confederate Marines. At the end of the war, the last of the Confederate Marines and sailors, including the Scholl’s brothers, fought a last ditch battle at Sayler’s Creek, VA outside Petersburg. Encircled, the Confederates sailors and marines held off several regiments of Union soldiers in hand-to-hand fighting, before finally being forced to surrender.

Of 400 Confederate Marines at Sayler’s Creek, only 21, led by 1st Lieutenant Richard Henderson (son of the late USMC Commandant Archibald Henderson), escaped to Appomattox to join up with General Robert E. Lee’s forces. Among them were the Scholls’ brothers. Both were surrendered and paroled at Appomattox, April 9, 1865.

Fifty-two years later, at the start of America’s involvement in World War I, William Henry Scholls, then 69 years old, was serving in the US Navy as Chief Master-At-Arms aboard the battleship USS Georgia. Chief Scholls enlisted in the Navy on July 1, 1890 and served for the next 30 years until his retirement at Pensacola Naval Air Station, March 10, 1920. He was a veteran of the Civil War, the Spanish American War, and World War 1.


Chief Master-At-Arms William Henry Scholls’ grave is located at Naval 3, Row 13, Grave 21, GPS: 39.93672 N, 075.24088 W.

6 Comments on “The Last Soldier of the Civil War – Chief Master-At-Arms William Henry Scholls

  1. I have been collecting information on U.S. Navy Master-at-Arms and updating the Wikipedia page of our rating. Eventually I am trying to get a complete history of our ratings written. I am just writing to leave my thanks to the family of Chief Scholls. I am an active duty Chief Petty Officer currently serving as a Master-at-Arms as well. thank you.

    • Michael
      The old chief was my great grandfather. I periodically check to see what new information is recovered. I intend to get up to Philadelphia and visit the grave sight. I have gone to Hollywood Cemetary in Richmond, and visited the area where my great great grandfather is buried. It is a section, with no individual marker. A group burial site.
      Jacob was a top sergeant on the CSS Virginia with their battle with the Monitor.,
      But anyway, it is fascinating history.
      The navy and marines must run in the family because I also spent 8 years from 65 to 74, in the Navy.

      You mentioned that you had help with the research. I know there are some relatives in the New York area, and was wondering if they were your source help?

      • William Scholls

        I wrote the above article on your Great Grandfather. My source for most of the material was his brother’s widow’s Florida Confederate Pension Application which contained the above affidavit. W.H. Scholl’s widow’s Florida Confederate Pension application contained a service card listing is service during World War 1.

        Do you have a photo of your Great Grandfather that you can share with us? I will have it posted online as part of this page.

  2. I am researching information on my gr-gr grandfather Alexander Condon who was master-at-arms on the CSS Virginia 2, of the James River Squadron, below Drewrys Bluff from 1864 until the fall of Richmond, he was and I am from Petersburg, Va. I found this site looking for what exactly the duties of a Master at Arms was on a confederate ironclad. Thanks.

    • William Henry Scholls was enlisted as a Musician (drummer boy) in the Confederate States Marine Corps. He was Master at Arms in the US Navy during World War 1.

      A Master At Arms, previously called “Ship’s Corporal,” was a vessel’s police department. He was responsible for prisoners taken at sea from enemy vessels.

  3. I’m also researching the Master At Arms rating. Specifically when the USN Master At Arms authorized a metal badge for MAAs, and later, during WWII, Police Petty Officer badges.
    The USN Police Petty Officer was usually a department level augmentation to the unit MAA force. Most common PPO duties were assist in lights out, smoking lamp enforcement and reveille.
    The USN utilized a number of metal badges for duties such as MAA, PPO, Brig Guard, Medical Master At Arms (MMAA), as well as civilian USN base police officers.
    The USN from 1885 to 1921 utilized a rating badge with a “star” specialty mark as the Ship’s Corporal or Master At Arms. The specialty was discontinued in 1921 and considered a collateral duty from 1921 until Master At Arms was re-instituted as a navy specialty in 1974. The best I can date at this time is an MAA metal badge being used starting in the mid-1930s.
    Any help or documentation would be appreciated.
    Dan Smith, SCPO, USNR(Ret)