Last Yankee war widow dies


(BBC News, 20 January, 2003)



One of the last living links with the American Civil war of the 1860s has been broken with the death of the last known widow of a soldier who fought on the Union side.

Gertrude Janeway, who was 93, married her veteran husband, John, in 1927 when she was 18 and he was 81, some 60 years after the Civil War ended.

She is to be buried near her husband's military grave at the cemetery of New Corinth Church in the town of Blaine, Tennessee.

Only one Civil War widow now remains, Alberta Martin, 95, who was married to a Confederate soldier and lives in the state of Alabama.

The last veteran of the war died in the 1950s.

Gertrude Grubb Janeway's log cabin in Blaine, TennesseeMrs Janeway, who had been bedridden for the last few years of her life, died in the three-room log cabin in the state of Tennessee she shared with her husband

She says she married out of love in spite of the age gap.

Three-year courtship

John Janeway joined the army fighting against the Confederates after a chance encounter with a group of Union soldiers in 1864 at the age of 18.

He took on the name of John January so his parents would not come looking for him, and up to her death, Mrs Janeway received cheques for her war widow's pension made out to that name. He soon became part of the Union cavalry outside Atlanta, Georgia, and was captured two months later in the same state.

The war ended soon afterwards, but Mr Janeway never returned home and was not heard of until 1925.

Mrs Janeway believes he went to California after the war and was 77 when he returned to his home in Blaine, Tennessee.

There he met his future wife. But he had to wait three years before getting married as her mother refused to sign papers to let her marry him before she turned 18.

"So my man says, 'Well, I will wait for her until you won't have to'," Mrs Janeway said in a 1998 interview.

They later bought a log cabin where they lived together for 10 years until Mr Janeway died in 1937 at the age of 91.

"After he died, why it just seemed like a part of me went down under the ground with him," she said.

"He is the only one I ever had. There wasn't anybody else."

Mrs Janeway spent 70 years in the log cabin until she passed away.

Electricity was only installed there a few years ago, and Mrs Janeway cooked for many years on a wood-burning stove.