National Soldiers Home
Civil War Military History
On April 28, 2006, the National Soldiers Home Historic District officially was listed on the Wisconsin Historical Society´s State Register of Historic Places.
The historic district, located on the grounds of the Clement J. Zablocki VA Medical Center, 5000 West National Avenue, in Milwaukee includes the majority of Wood National Cemetery, nearly 90 acres of historic grounds, and 25 post-Civil War era buildings, including the nation´s first newly constructed federal soldiers home, 1867-1869.
The main building was designed by Edward Townsend Mix in the Gothic revival style. The building features 3-color slate work on the mansard roof.
Why a Veterans' Home was needed:
After the Civil War the need arose to provide care for volunteer soldiers who were disabled through loss of limb, wounds, disease or injury. In March 1865, President Lincoln signed a bill providing for this care. The National Asylum for Disabled Volunteer Soldiers was created. The name was later changed to the National Home for Disabled Volunteer Soldiers because of the negative connotation of the word "asylum."
In 1867, the government purchased land and began construction on the Central Branch of the National Home for Disabled Volunteer Soldiers in Dayton. Branch homes were also opened in Togus, Maine and Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
The homes were run in military fashion and men could admit themselves to the home voluntarily and could request a discharge at any time. Only soldiers were admited. No care was given to the Wisconsin families of the soldiers until 1887 when a home was opened in Waupaca, Wis. to accomodate widows and families.
From 1867 until 1871, the home buried its soldiers in private cemeteries in the Milwaukee area. In 1871, a cemetery opened on the grounds. Originally known only as Soldiers Home Cemetery. After the Spanish-American War and World War I soldiers from other wars were buried at the cemetery. In 1937 the name was changed to honor Gen. George Wood. General Wood served in both the Spanish-American War and World War I and was a longtime member of the Soldiers´ Home´s Board of Managers. The cemetery is 50.1 acres in size. It became a national cemetery in 1973. This cemetery is closed to new interments. However, space may be available in the same gravesite for eligible family members. For a list of burials see here. Burials are now taking place at Southern Wisconsin Veterans Memorial Cemetery near Union Grove, in Racine County. (See a list of interments)
Since these veterans were from all over the state, it is not known the hospital's practices regarding the placement of obituaries when the veteran died. In many cases, you might find the obituary in the town he was born or resided in prior to becoming ill. If it was published locally, it was probably placed in the Milwaukee Journal (now the Milwaukee Journal- Sentinel). The hospital staff may be able to give you some guidance. In most cases, death certificates should be on file in Milwaukee County Courthouse. (Source: Bill Handrich, http://www.rootsweb.com/~wiwood/history/military/wood-va.htm)
Officials serving as governors:
Dr. E.B. Wolcott, May 1-Oct. 8, 1867
Capt. Theodore Yates, Oct. 8, 1867-Oct. 21, 1869
Major John Cassels, Oct. 21, 1869-Sept. 14, 1870
Lt. Col. John Wooley, Sept. 14, 1870-Dec. 31, 1872
Gen. E.W. Hincks, Dec. 31, 1872-Oct. 1, 1880
Gen. Jacob Sharpe, Oct. 1, 1880-May 1, 1889
Gen Kilburn Knox, May 1, 1889-Apr. 18, 1891
Capt. John C. Hathaway, Apr. 24, 1891-Dec. 17, 1891
Col. Cornelius Wheeler, Dec. 26, 1891-Dec. 24, 1914
Col. Thomas H Ijams, Jan. 1, 1915-Dec. 31, 1916
Col. Joseph E. Crain, Jan. 1, 1917-July 20, 1920
Col. F. E. Bury, July 21, 1920-Sept. 30, 1920
Col. A. B. Crampton, Oct. 1, 1920-Dec. 31, 1921
Col. Frank C. Kibby, Jan. 1, 1922-Dec. 31, 1922
Col. Chas M. Pearsall, Jan. 1, 1923-May 1, 1942
Major Paul G. Foremming, June 16, 1942-?
On May 9, 1876, a post office was established with the name "National Home". George W Barber postmaster.
On March 1, 1932, it was changed to "Veterans Administration". John F Coulter postmaster.
On July 1, 1937, it was changed to "Wood". Frank Dillion postmaster.
The post office was discontinued September 29, 1987, with mail service from Milwaukee. On that same date, the office was re-established as a classified station of Milwaukee named "Veterans Administration Center Station." It was given the ZIP code 53193, which was an old West Allis cancellation. The Wood post office was not officially closed until February 25, 1989. The office was located in Section 35, T7N R21E in Wauwatosa Township of Milwaukee County. (Source: Wisconsin - Its Territorial and Statehood Post Offices," published by the Wisconsin Postal History Society, 1995)
North-western branch, near Milwaukee
Source: History of the National Home for Disabled Volunteer Soldiers: With a Complete Guide-book to the Central Home at Dayton, Ohio. by J. C. Gobrecht - 1875
The location of this home is one of the most beautiful in the state. It is surrounded by trees of almost primeval greatness, and overlooks the inland sea of Lake Michigan, the city of Milwaukee with its ninety thousand inhabitants, and a vast extent of country. The Home is comprised within a large building three hundred feet in length, with corresponding projection wings, and a tower rising in the center one hundred and eighty feet high. The first floor contains the office of the commandant, surgeon, chaplain, treasurer, quartermaster, adjutant, and other officers; also the library and reading-room. The dining-rom on this floor will seat six hundred men comfortably. On the second floor, over the dining-room, is a corresponding hall, which is used as a chapel for divine service, and also as a hall for concerts and lectures. The second, third and fourth stories are appropriated for sleeping-rooms, twelve men being allotted to each room. There is a billiard-room and bowling alley for recreation; also, bathrooms, post-office, telegraph office, store, etc. To these have recently been added commodious barracks, workshops, and a handsome three-story hospital, capable of accommodating one hundred and fifty patients. The farm and garden comprise between four and five hundred acres of the best lands in the state. The cultivation of the farm as a source of profit is perhaps the most successful of either of the homes. The garden and the grounds are laid out and preserved with great taste and beauty. The number of inmates present and absent on November 30, 1874, was six hundred and fifty-one. The library contains about three thousand volumes; and the spiritual welfare and moral culture of the inmates are carefully administered and cared for. Major-general E.C. Ilinks is the commandant.
Requirements for Admission
When a volunteer soldier desires admission he may apply by letter to either of the managers whereupon blank applications will be sent to the applicant, and if duly qualified, transportation will be furnished, or he can apply personally or by letter at the branch nearest his place of residence. The requirements are as follows:
1. An honorable discharge from the volunteer service.
2. Disability by wounds received, or sickness contracted in the line of duty.
3. A soldier entitled to or having a pension must forward with his application for admission his discharge papers and pension certificate, or receipt therefor, or both, as the case may be, before his application is granted, which papers will be retained at the branch to which the application is admitted to be kept there on file and returned to him when he is discharged. This rule is adopted to prevent the loss of papers and certificates, and to prevent fraudulent practices. He must also assign his pension to the Home. But the Home does not take nor use the pension-money of its inmates; it simply collects and holds them in trust for the soldiers giving him from time to time such amounts as his needs or those of his family require, and depositing the remainder in a savings-bank for the benefit of the pensioner, and on his honorable discharge pay him back both principal and accumulated interest.