Thursday, June 10, 2004

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — Three days of tributes to Alberta Martin, the last widow of a Civil War veteran, began yesterday with her body lying in repose at the First White House of the Confederacy as re-enactors in gray uniforms stood guard.

Republican Gov. Bob Riley, first in the line of mourners, placed a wreath of magnolias beside her wooden casket. A Confederate battle flag covered the casket, as Mrs. Martin had requested.

“When you think we are in 2004 and the last widow of a Confederate veteran has just deceased, it’s quite remarkable,” Mr. Riley said.

Mrs. Martin died May 31, nearly 140 years after the Civil War ended. She was 97. The last widow of a Union veteran, Gertrude Janeway, died last year in Tennessee at 93.

Mrs. Martin was born in southern Alabama to a poor sharecropper’s family. She was a 21-year-old widow with a young child when she met and married 81-year-old William Jasper Martin in 1927. He served as a private in the 4th Alabama Infantry Regiment in the Civil War and died in 1932.

Alberta Martin lived in obscurity and poverty until the Sons of Confederate Veterans learned of her past in 1996. Members of the group started taking her to conventions, and she became a belle of Civil War history buffs.

Mrs. Martin’s body will lie in repose through tonight at the First White House of the Confederacy, where Jefferson Davis lived in 1861 before the Confederate capital moved to Richmond.

Mrs. Martin’s funeral is scheduled for tomorrow in Elba, with burial nearby in an 1860s-style ceremony with artillery and musket fire.

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