Marker 553: Wisconsin Soldiers' Home 1864-1867

 Photographed October 26, 2014
Marker dedicated October 26, 2014
Erected by West Side Soldiers’ Aid Society Inc.
and Wisconsin Historical Society
 Milwaukee, Milwaukee County, Wisconsin
43° 2.362′ N, 87° 54.715′ W

In April 1864, women of the former West Side Soldiers’ Aid Society opened a temporary Civil War Soldiers’ Home at this location. By May 1867, the home’s Lady Managers had welcomed 21,550 Union soldiers, given medical care to over 1,000, and provided 150,167 free meals. Although the women had received a state charter for a permanent Wisconsin Soldiers’ Home and had raised over $100,000 at their Soldiers’ Home Fair, they were persuaded to donate their assets to the federal government for the Northwest Branch of the National Home for Disabled Volunteer Soldiers in Milwaukee. When the veterans living at this home were transferred to the grounds of what is now the Zablocki VA Medical Center, the women were comforted that they had in some small way advanced the well-being and happiness of Wisconsin’s battle-scarred heroes.
The marker is located on southbound North Plankinton Avenue, between West Wells Street / U.S. Route 18 (to the north) and West Wisconsin Avenue (to the south), near 725 North Plankinton Avenue, Milwaukee, Wisconsin 53203.

West Side Soldiers Aid Society, Inc.
Founded in 1862 • Reborn in 2003
Incorporated in 2006 to Serve Today's Soldiers and Veterans

Milwaukee's Soldiers Home, by Patricia Lynch (1967 to present)
As the country sought healing and peace after the Civil War, Wisconsin citizens took up Pres. Abraham Lincoln's challenge "to care for him who shall have borne the battle." Their efforts paved the way for the establishment in Milwaukee of one of the original three branches of the National Asylum for Disabled Volunteer Soldiers. In May 1867, the first 60 veterans, including a musician from the War of 1812, moved to a single building on 400 rolling acres west of Milwaukee. By the end of the 19th century, the bustling campus boasted its own hospital, chapel, library, theater, and recreation hall, in addition to the grand main building. Subsequent wars and military conflicts created a need for additional buildings and services. Designated a National Historic Landmark in 2011, the campus continues to offer a healing environment for today's patients and stands as a testimony to advances in veteran health care.
See also, Turner Hall Civil War Memorial, also at this location.
On Sunday, October 26, 2014, I had the privilege to attend the dedication ceremony for the Wisconsin Soldiers' Home historical marker. Some moments were sobering, some moments were joyful -- all were powerful! We honored the men in Civil War battlefields far from Wisconsin, and the women back home who worked tirelessly to send mittens, quilts, hospital supplies, and notes with prayers and patriotic sentiments to encourage the war-weary soldiers. Finally, through letters and other records, we had the opportunity to meet "personally" some of the veterans who benefited from the dedication and compassion of the "women of the former West Side Soldiers’ Aid Society".

The West Side Soldiers Aid Society, Inc. was reborn in 2003 to carry on the legacy began at the Wisconsin Soldiers' Home 1864-1867 historical marker site with projects that support today's soldiers and veterans, including Brain Scans for Warriors, Wreaths Across America, Dryhootch and Stars and Stripes Honor Flight.

The laurel wreath is the symbol of victory.
Each year the West Side Soldiers Aid Society, Inc. places the same wreath
at the plot purchased by the Lady Managers of the Wisconsin Soldiers' Home.

In ancient Greece, laurel wreaths were awarded in competitions.
In Rome, the laurel wreath symbolized martial victory.
The laurel wreath is the etiology of the idiom "resting on your laurels".
The marker dedication invitation.

Guests gathering for the dedication ceremony.

Welcoming remarks by Terry Arliskas,

Rebecca Anderson, Vice President of West Side Soldiers Aid Society, Inc.,
held the laurel wreath throughout the ceremony.

Patricia Lynch, co-founder of West Side Soldiers Aid Society, Inc.,
shares historical comments about the Wisconsin Soldiers' Home.

Patrick Lynch reads a prayer adapted
from a 1917 Grand Army of the Republic ritual.

The Civil War soldiers who were served by the Home (1864-1867)
are honored with three volleys -- right on the streets of downtown Milwaukee!

Reloading . . . 

Shot number three . . .

About face and return to ranks.

Huzzah!! (The Civil War way of saying "hip, hip, hooray!)

(L-R): Patrick Lynch, Terry Arliskas, Rebecca Anderson,
Patricia Lynch, Tom Arliskas, John Thielmann

(L-R): Patrick Lynch, Laura Rinaldi, Terry Arliskas, Rebecca Anderson,
Patricia Lynch, Tom Arliskas, John Thielmann

All the guests (except for those of us with cameras).

Civil War re-enactors represented Company K, Second Wisconsin;

John Thielmann, through whose tireless efforts the
exact location of the Wisconsin Soldiers' Home was identified
(and where the marker has been placed).

Fran Korthof, whose great grandfather was a co-chairman of the
Wool Department at the 1865 Soldiers' Home Fair to raise money
for a permanent Soldiers' Home.

Following the marker dedication, a celebration was held at
historic Turner Hall, a several-blocks walk from the marker location.

 Turner Hall Civil War Memorial (written in German)
This mural contains the names of Turners who died while in service
during the Civil War, along with the places and dates of their deaths.
(Historical information provided by John Thielmann.)

Even Confederate soldiers attended the celebration!

 A toast to the soldiers on both sides of the Civil War.

 Dexter was invited, too! Oh, he got so much attention!
Craig Arellano, a member of the West Side Soldiers Aid Society, Inc.
and Pelham's Battery, is Dexter's new friend.

John Thielmann (sans the Union soldier attire worn in previous photos)
relates his research journey to locate the exact location of the soldiers' home.

Patricia Lynch shares the heart-wrenching stories of three Civil War 
veterans who benefited from the services of the Wisconsin Soldiers' Home.

Hilda Demuth-Lutze, a member of the West Side Soldiers Aid Society, Inc.,
along with her sister, Emily Demuth, has written a book for young readers
on the Mikwaukee Soldiers' Home, entitled "Hattie's War".
This document commemorates the 50th Anniversary of the start of
the Civil War. It was presented by the surviving Turner veterans.
Their names are listed at the bottom.
(Historical information provided by John Thielmann.)

This poster honors the surviving members of Turners who made themselves
available ad hoc to protect Abraham Lincoln as he travelled to his first
inauguration in Washington, D.C., in March of 1861 (the Secret Service
would not exist for another four years).
Lincoln's Turners: Champions of Freedom
(Historical information provided by John Thielmann.)

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