National Asylum for Disabled Volunteer Soldiers
The National Soldiers Home Historic District, in Milwaukee, is the birthplace of federal veteran care in America and is a soldiers’ recuperation and living settlement established just after the Civil War. This 90-plus acre district rests on the grounds of the Clement J. Zablocki VA Medical Center in Milwaukee between what is now National Avenue and Bluemound Roads, directly west of Miller Park.
The National Asylum for Disabled Volunteer Soldiers, as it was originally named, was established in 1865. The establishment of a system of National Soldiers Homes, including Milwaukee, was one of the last pieces of legislation signed by President Lincoln before his assassination. In his second inaugural address, President Lincoln had asked the nation “to care for him who shall have borne the battle.” These words and the persistence of many citizens including women from Milwaukee’s Soldiers Aid societies, mark the beginning of the mission of the present-day Department of Veterans Affairs.
It was the ladies of Milwaukee’s West Side Soldiers Aid Society—already operating a hospital on Plankinton Avenue in Milwaukee—who led, and paid a big portion of the way toward Milwaukee’s Soldiers Home. Inspired by President Lincoln’s charge, the ladies organized a 10-day fair in June 1865 to raise money for a permanent Wisconsin Soldiers Home. They raised more than $100,000 and were persuaded to turn their assets over to the federal government. The women stipulated that the Milwaukee property would not have exclusions and, specifically, would admit federal veterans from all conflicts to a home that would be used solely for the care of soldiers. In May 1867, the first 36 soldiers moved into what came to be known as the “Old Soldiers Home.” Click here for more...