Fischer, Joan (ed.) / Wisconsin Academy review
Volume 51, Number 3 (Summer 2005)
Hayes, Paul G.
Hallowed ground, pp. 29-36
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 assassination. THREE PRESIDENTS (AND LIBERACE) 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. WISCONSIN ACADEMY REVIEW I qn1r1iPrq homp S UM M ER 2 0 05 31
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