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Fischer, Joan (ed.) / Wisconsin Academy review
Volume 51, Number 3 (Summer 2005)

Hayes, Paul G.
Hallowed ground,   pp. 29-36

Page 31

Starting home, he stepped from one 
steamboat to another in the dark, lost 
his balance, and was drowned in the 
rushing Tennessee River. Upon his 
death, his widow, Cordelia, devoted her 
life to Union soldiers. Shocked by con- 
ditions she witnessed in hospitals in 
Missouri, Arkansas, and Tennessee, she 
directly lobbied General Ulysses S. 
Grant and even President Abraham 
Lincoln to allow her to bring the 
wounded and sick home to better care 
in Wisconsin. 
The Harvey United States Army 
General Hospital opened in Madison in 
1863, and other hospitals opened in 
Milwaukee and Prairie du Chien in 1864. 
As the war progressed, Milwaukee 
women working as the West Side 
Soldiers Aid Society operated a refuge 
for soldiers in storefront buildings on 
West Water Street (now Plankinton 
Avenue). After the war ended, the 
women, led by Lydia Hewitt, organized 
a 10-day soldiers' fair in the summer of 
1865 in a donated wooden hall built at 
Main and Huron Streets (now Broadway 
and Clybourn). 
The fair raised more than $100,000, a 
huge success. With this, the Milwaukee 
Soldiers Home Association sent their 
husbands to Washington, where they 
succeeded in persuading the federal 
government to establish one of its first 
soldiers' homes in the nation in 
Milwaukee in return for the money with 
which to buy land. 
Of three original National Soldiers 
Homes mandated by the National 
Asylum for Disabled Volunteer Soldiers 
Act of March 3, 1865, Milwaukee's 
remains the most complete. The others 
were at Togus, Maine, and Dayton, 
Ohio. The act was one of the last 
signed by President Lincoln before his 
In May 1867, 212 veterans moved into 
makeshift quarters on the new grounds. 
The grander main building, designed by 
Milwaukee architect Edward Townsend 
Mix, was finished in 1869. 
According to Marquette historian 
James Marten, while the home's popula- 
tion profile changed from year to year, 
at any given time as many as two-thirds 
of the Civil War veterans were foreign- 
born, mostly from Germany or Ireland. 
Most called themselves "farmer" or 
"laborer" by occupation, a quarter had 
The multi-denominational chapel (1889) was built by soldiers who wanted a
separate church structure and who contributed their own resources for its
construction. Both Protestant and Catholic services were held there. It is
in dire need of restoration. 
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