In September 1948, 104-year-old Joseph Clovese moved without fanfare from his native Louisiana to Pontiac to live with friends. Born a slave in 1844, Clovese had run away from his owner to join the Union army. He served as a drummer boy during the siege of Vicksburg before enlisting in the 63rd Colored Infantry. The Grand Army of the Republic, unlike most fraternal groups of the era, officially had no color bar, so Clovese was a longtime member of one of the New Orleans posts.
A few weeks after moving to Michigan, Clovese called the local newspaper to inquire about the nearest GAR post. The following day, readers were surprised to learn that Michigan had a new “last man standing” in Civil War circles. “Uncle Joe” Clovese became a minor celebrity, enjoying press coverage and birthday parties. When the GAR’s 83rd — and final — National Encampment was held in Indianapolis in 1949, its roster had dwindled to a dozen members. Six, including Clovese, were healthy enough to attend the reunion.
Clovese spent less than three years in Michigan. He was 107 and the last surviving black veteran of the Civil War when he died at the veterans hospital in Dearborn on July 13, 1951.
Source : Richard Bak, “Last Man Standing”, Hour Detroit, August 2012.