HISTORY OF THE NATIONAL HOMES FOR VOLUNTEER SOLDIERS
The National Home for Disabled Volunteer Soldiers was established by Congress in 1865 and signed into law by President Lincoln just a month before his assassination. The legislation marked the beginning of our federal government's commitment to the care of our veterans. Each of the 11 original homes, built across the country, were a tangible reminder of that commitment.
The Milwaukee Soldiers Home, originally called the Northwestern Branch, is an important example of how veterans' benefits and health care developed in the United states and is demonstrated through the evolution of the buildings that have been added over time, right up to today.
Originally, the operations of the National Homes were funded through the fines and forfeitures of Union deserters. The image that the soldiers themselves had paid fo the home helped to support the public idea that the home was not a public charity but rather something the soldiers had earned through their service.
The Home’s only admission requirements were proof of an honorable discharge from the Union military and medical testimony confirming an injury that rendered the soldier unable to earn a living by ordinary means.
In May 1867, 60 soldiers moved into the existing farm buildings on the grounds. In July 1867, work began on the first permanent building, a rectangular domiciliary veneered with Milwaukee brick that was located in the southwestern part of the campus. It was completed in six weeks and provided housing for the soldiers until Old Main was completed in 1869.
There is a reason Milwaukee was the site of one of the original Soldiers Home, and we have the women of the West Side Soldiers Aid Society to thank. Click here to continue and learn more.