Tuesday, February 22, 2011

National Soliders Home - Johnson City, Tennessee/ Part 1

I was doing some ancestry research I found out that my Great Great Grandfather served in Co "B" 1st regiment Md. Infantry Volunteers. He died in the Mountain Branch of National Home for "Disabled Soldiers in Johnson City, TN.

I did some searching on the home and this is what I found and wanted to share.

Approved by an Act of Congress on January 28,1901, the Mountain Branch of the National Home for Disables Volunteer Soldiers was created through the work of Tennessee Congressman Walter P. Brownlow (1851-1901). Known locally as Mountain Home, the original site comprised 447 acres and opened in October 1903. Peak enrollement reached over 2,500 Civil War and Spanish-American
War veterans. In 1930, the National Soldiers' Home system became part of the Veterans Administration.

The early efforts to reward this country's war veterans were based on England's policy of giving land grants to the victors. During the first part of the Civil War, it was the concern of women in northern states that led to the first civilian sponsored "homes" for disabled veterans. Men were being discharged by the hundreds to the streets with physical problems that kept them from finding employment. Some were so severe; they later died from complications of their wounds. Such "homes" were created in Boston, Philadelphia, Cleveland and Chicago. These ladies raised funds to operate the "homes" and raised community interest in the plight of the disabled veteran. "With malice toward none; with charity toward all; with the firmness in the right, as God gives us the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in; to bind up the nation's wounds; to care for him who shall have borne the battle, and for his widow and his orphan-to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace, among ourselves, and with all nations." With these few words in the Second Inaugural Address, Abraham Lincoln established a benchmark and pointed this coountry in a new direction related to the federal government's responsiblity toward our veterans. His legislative agenda for this second term (1865) included a National Soldiers Home with several branches spread across the United States.

President Lincoln was assassinated before he could put this idea into law but a grateful nation did not forget. The National Home for Disabled Volunteer Soldiers was established by Congress in 1865 with the first Branch built by 1867. Eleven board members, appointed by Congress governed the "Home" and eight original Branches were built (Togus,Maine: Hampton,Virginia; Dayton, Ohio; Marion, Illinois; Milwaukee, Wisconsin; Leavenworth, Kansas; West Los Angeles, California; and Danville, Illinois). After these Branches were built, Congress decided that individual states could finance their own Soldier's Homes if they wished but there would be no more Federal funding for new Branches.

Congressman Walter P. Brownlow represented the people of the First District of Tennessee (an early version of Jimmy Quillen). He had already secured federal funds to build bridges and roads in this area as well as the National Fish Hatchery in Erwin and the Andrew Johnson National Cemetery in Greeneville. He was determined to have a branch of the National Soldiers Home built in this District. The Board of Governors mentioned earlier refused to give him an audience reminding Brownlow of the national policy (No New Branches!). He requested five minutes of their time and actually took only three. In those three minutes he reminded the Board of three things: (1) East Tennessee furnished the Union 30,000 volunteers, more than any other state in the South. There were currently 18,250 Union pensioners living in the First District. (2) The Board had already built a Branch in Hampton, Virginia, a state where there were no Union Volunteer soldiers of record and (3) The Congress had recently approved the construction of a million dollar federal prison in Atlanta. Weren't our volunteer Union soldiers deserving of as much as these convicts? The Board took an immediate vote and recommended to Congress that a Branch be built in the First District.

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