Civil War Federal Soldiers’ Homes

The first U.S. home for disabled veterans and orphans of soldiers was founded by Benjamin Fitch of Darien, Connecticut. He paid for almost all the expenses of the home built while the Civil War still raged in 1864. The facility was renamed “Fitch’s Home for Soldiers” when control was handed over the state in 1887.

The U.S. government bought the Togus Springs Hotel in 1866. The Maine hotel became the Eastern Branch of the National Asylum For Disabled Volunteer Veterans. Read more about this home here.

A building was erected in Minneapolis to provide a soldiers’ home in 1888. One cottage for women and five cottages for men were on the Minnesota Soldiers’ Home property near Minnehaha Falls by 1911.

The beautiful Minnesota land was meant to be a peaceful place. Soldiers didn’t receive medical care at the facility. World War I changed that policy, but didn’t make it a priority.

Colonel George Washington Steele introduced legislation in 1888. He hoped to establish a national home in Grant County, Indiana. Despite Steele’s worry that it wouldn’t pass, Congress approved it that year. Indiana citizens in Marion celebrated the passing of the bill on July 30, 1888, the city’s largest crowd ever.

The National Home for Disabled Volunteer Soldiers, Marion Branch, opened in 1890. The facility, also known as Marion National Home, enrolled 586 veterans that year. They built a hospital to treat patients there, hiring Cincinnati female nurses as part of the staff.

The facility grew beyond capacity with veterans sleeping on the floor in 1892. New buildings were erected. The need heightened with World War I veterans and about 60 new structures had been added by 1919. Among these were additional living quarters, warehouses, supply buildings, greenhouses, a fire station, and memorials.

White veterans and United States Colored Troops were welcomed into the homes.

Federal soldiers’ homes did not allow Confederate veterans.

-Sandra Merville Hart


“A Home for Volunteers: Togus and the National Soldiers’ Homes,” The Gettysburg Compiler, 2017/07/04

“History of Darien, Connecticut,” Wikipedia, 2017/07/04,_Connecticut.

“Minnesota Veterans Home,” Wikipedia, 2017/07/04

“National Home for Disabled Volunteer Soldiers, Marion Branch,” Wikipedia, 2017/07/04,_Marion_Branch.

“Togus, Maine,” Wikipedia, 2017/07/04,_Maine.



Civil War Federal Soldiers’ Home at Togus, Maine

The U.S. government bought the Togus Springs Hotel in 1866. The Maine hotel became the Eastern Branch of the National Asylum For Disabled Volunteer Veterans.

The hotel already had a bathing house, large pool, bowling alley, race track, and a stable. New barracks, a chapel, and a hospital were being erected for the 200 veterans living there by the middle of 1867 with three dormitories and recreation building following in 1868.

When the asylum opened, only Union soldiers able to prove that their injury was connected with their service were allowed to stay. Then War of 1812 and Mexican War veterans were accepted if they didn’t fight for the Confederacy. The facility never opened its doors to Confederate soldiers.

Togus residents wore blue army uniforms available from a surplus. It operated much like the military with military discipline and guardhouse confinements. The veteran’s entire pension was signed over to the home in payment for their care.

The National Home for Disabled Volunteer Soldiers constructed a bakery, brickyard, fire station, carpentry shop, sawmill, butcher shop, boot and shoe factory, blacksmith shop, soap works, store, library, harness shop, and an opera house theater. Residents earned money by working at the farm or shops if physically able.

The highest number of veterans living there was about 2,800 in 1904.

Civilians enjoyed the recreations at Togus. Large crowds flocked for military band concerts, baseball games, performances at the opera house, and even a zoo.

-Sandra Merville Hart


“A Home for Volunteers: Togus and the National Soldiers’ Homes,” The Gettysburg Compiler, 2017/07/04

“Togus, Maine,” Wikipedia, 2017/07/04,_Maine.


Civil War Confederate Soldiers’ Homes

Soldiers’ Homes were established for Civil War veterans who could no longer care for themselves. A few states provided separate homes for Union and Confederate veterans. The federal government didn’t provide funds for the Confederate soldiers. This obligation fell on the states.

Confederate veteran Jefferson Manly Falkner founded what became known as the Alabama Confederate Soldiers Home in 1901. Falkner wanted to provide a home for veterans and their wives. Widows were allowed to live there after 1915.

Falkner donated 80 acres in the summer resort area of Mountain Creek where between 650 to 800 people found a home. The home’s last veteran died in 1934. Five widows remained until October of 1939 when the home closed.

Atlanta’s Confederate Soldiers’ Home, built in 1890, was also known as the Old Soldiers’ Home. Henry W. Grady raised funds for the home at 410 East Confederate Avenue through subscriptions until it finally opened in 1900. Fire destroyed the building in 1901, but it was rebuilt on the same location a year later. The home’s last veteran died in 1941.

The old Kentucky Confederate Home was the former Villa Ridge Inn just outside the Pewee Valley Confederate Cemetery. There was a hospital, entertainment, and religious services. There was housing for 350 veterans and a total of 700 former Confederate soldiers eventually called it home.

There were a few prerequisites to living at the Kentucky home. Besides being a former Confederate soldier, residents had to be mentally stable, a resident of the state for at least 6 months, and not an alcoholic.

-Sandra Merville Hart


“Alabama Confederate Soldiers Home,” Wikipedia, 2017/07/04

“Confederate Soldiers’ Home,” Wikipedia, 2017/07/04

“Old Soldiers’ Home,” Wikipedia, 2017/07/04

“Peewee Valley Confederate Cemetery,” Wikipedia, 2017/07/04


Civil War Post-War Home of Confederate President Jefferson Davis

Widow Sarah Dorsey invited former Confederate President Jefferson Davis to stay at Beauvoir, her 608-acre cotton plantation in Biloxi, Mississippi. She provided a cottage for Davis to live in with his wife, Varina, and their daughter, Winnie.

Sarah, a novelist and author of biography of Louisiana Governor Henry Watkins Allen, aided Davis in writing his memoir. She organized notes and took dictation. Davis’s book, The Rise and Fall of the Confederate Government, published in 1881, two years after Sarah died.

Sarah willed her plantation to Davis and his daughter, Winnie.

The Davis family moved into the main house after the inheritance, where Davis lived until his dead in 1889. Varina wrote Jefferson Davis: A Memoir (1890) and then moved to New York City with her daughter in 1891.

After Winnie died in 1898, Varina owned Beauvoir. She sold a large portion to the Mississippi Division of the Sons of Confederate Veterans. It was to be a home for Confederate veterans and widows and then as a memorial to Davis.

The Sons of Confederate Veterans built a hospital, 12 barracks, and a chapel. About 2,500 veterans and their families lived there from 1903 to 1957.

Today this site is a Confederate Soldier Museum. Visitors will also see the former Confederate Veterans’ Home, cottage plantation home, the Jefferson Davis Presidential Library and Museum, historic Confederate cemetery with a Tomb of the Unknown Confederate Soldier.

-Sandra Merville Hart


“Beauvoir (Biloxi, Mississippi,)” Wikipedia, 2017/07/04,_Mississippi).



Tuckaleechee Caverns

Tuckaleechee Caverns earns its title of “The Greatest Sight Under the Smokies.” This treasure is found in Townsend, Tennessee, only a few miles from Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg in the Smokies.

My dad was from that area and I remembered him talking about Tuckaleechee Caverns. He said that it was a “whole different world down in the caves” and planned to take us but never made it. Remembering this, my husband and I took our daughter there and were very impressed.

With millions of formations seen throughout the tour, the cave also boasts of a Big Room which is greater than 400 feet long, 300 feet across, 150 feet deep. The highest ceilings in Kentucky’s Mammoth Cave, for comparison, are around 120 feet.

The cave also has a sparkling, clear stream running through it that leads to a double waterfall. Silver Falls is a beautiful surprise in this underground adventure. The falls has a 210-foot drop–the tallest subterranean waterfall in the Eastern United States.

Cherokee Indians, according to legend, knew of the caverns long before the white man discovered them in the mid-1800s.

Before local residents knew about the cave, they discovered breezes around a sink hole. Women toted their sewing and their children there during the heat of summer to enjoy the refreshing air.

The caves were found when sawmill workers watched water flow into the sink hole after heavy rains.

Two friends, W.E. “Bill” Vananda and Harry Myers, played in the caverns as boys. They pretended to be Tom Sawyer as they explored the cave carrying “homemade lamps—pop bottles filled with kerosene.”

While in college the men decided to open the cave as tourist attraction. It required hard work to prepare for tourists. The friends toted tons of cement, sand, and gravel to the cave so visitors would have steps and easy passageways to view the sights. Vananda and Myers opened the cave in 1953.

For those fearing that the wildfires of 2016 destroyed Tuckaleechee Caverns and the rest of the sights at Gatlinburg, put your fears to rest. Less than 10% of the park burned. My husband and I traveled there with family earlier this month. We filled a week with endless activity in the Smokies, Gatlinburg, Pigeon Forge, and Tuckaleechee Caverns. We hated to leave! There is plenty to see and folks who need to rebuild are coming back even stronger.

The mountains are beautiful any time of the year but especially so in the summer and fall.

-Sandra Merville Hart


“Tuckaleechee Caverns,” Tuckaleechee Caverns, 2017/09/16


The Making of Brooms

Today’s post is written by fellow author, Sandra Ardoin. A broom factory figures prominently in her novel, A Reluctant Melody. Welcome, Sandra!

 We all use them, those handy brooms to sweep the dirt from our floors. They’ve been around in one form or another since the dawn of housecleaning. In the early days, it could have been something as simple as a branch or backyard brush—whatever was handy at the time.

Then in 1797 a New Englander by the name of Levi Dickenson decided to make a broom for his wife from sorghum tassels (minus the seeds). Today, we call it broom corn. Like all good inventions, it needed improvement after it fell apart too easily to suit Levi. Even so, his neighbors were impressed and insisted he make them one. This started an industry as he went on to invent a machine with a foot-treadle for ease in filling the orders he received.

In the mid-19th century, the Shakers, who were always an innovative lot, improved Levi’s process, using wire rather than heavy twine to bind the material to the handle. Brooms originally had a round form, but the Shakers employed a vise to flatten the broom and give it shoulders. Then they applied the stitching. They increased the function of their product by also creating the whisk broom.

As the 19th century wore on, small shops across the United States became broom factories and broom corn growth moved to the states we normally think of as being most agricultural. In the first quarter of the 1900s, broom factories began to close. By the end of the 20th century, most of the brooms available to Americans were made outside the U.S.

Though many of the brooms purchased today are made of synthetics, some people continue to craft them the old-fashioned way with the original types of materials—a wooden handle and broom corn—on machines over a hundred years old.

-Sandra Ardoin


Sandra Ardoin writes inspirational historical romance. She’s the author of The Yuletide Angel and the award-winning A Reluctant Melody. A wife and mom, she’s also a reader, football fan, NASCAR watcher, garden planter, country music listener, and antique store prowler. Visit her at and on the Seriously Write blog. Connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Goodreads, and Pinterest. Join her email community to receive occasional updates and a free short story.

A Reluctant Melody

A pariah among her peers, Joanna Stewart is all too eager to sell her property and flee the rumors that she sent her late husband to an early grave. But she will let the gossips talk and the walls of her rundown property crumble around her before she’ll allow Kit Barnes back into her life. When a blackmailer threatens to reveal her long-held secret, she must choose between trusting Kit or seeing her best friend trapped in an abusive marriage.

Civil War Southern General Hospitals

Around 1,000 Southern women nursed ill or wounded Confederate soldiers during the Civil War, most of them working in their own towns and neighborhoods.

These resourceful women started wayside hospitals near railroad depots to care for ailing or wounding soldiers. The Confederacy soon took over all military hospitals.

Seeing the benefit of women serving in hospitals, the Confederacy passed laws to designate women in positions at military hospitals.

Two matrons were given oversight of the hospital’s food and medicine, each woman earning $40/month. Two assistant matrons laundered patients’ bedding and clothing for $35/month. Two ward matrons served each ward by feeding, administering medications, and bathing patients. Earning $30/month, ward matrons also assisted in letter writing. Nurses received $25/month.

There were 13 general hospitals in North Carolina by war’s end. Fairgrounds Hospital in Raleigh was the first general hospital established in the state, but it later became known as General Hospital #7, with a total of 3 in Raleigh.

Other cities/towns with general hospitals were Kittrell Springs, Fayetteville, Salisbury, Greensboro, Charlotte, Wilmington, Goldsboro, and Wilson.

Pettigrew Hospital (General Hospital #13) in Raleigh was specifically built as a hospital, the only one in North Carolina with this distinction. It had 400 beds, a bathhouse, guardhouse, dispensary, laundry, and stable.

Pastors often announced when several cars of wounded were expected at churches and then gave the congregation an intermission so that those who wanted to leave and prepare food for the soldiers could do so.

-Sandra Merville Hart


Downey, Tom. “Wayside Hospitals,” South Carolina Encyclopedia, 2017/07/04

“North Carolina Nursing History,” Appalachian State University, 2017/07/04,


Civil War Wayside Hospitals

Casualties began soon after the Civil War started on April 12, 1861. Southern women established wayside hospitals as small field hospitals to give water, food, shoes, clothing, medicine and bandages to wounded soldiers.

Large buildings—schools, churches, barns—near railroad depots were used to treat the sick and wounded. If the soldier was too ill to continue on his journey, he remained at the wayside hospital until his condition improved enough for him to go home, or to a larger general hospital, or he died.

Women living in North Carolina, at great personal sacrifice, established and served at wayside hospitals in the railroad towns of Charlotte, Fayetteville, Weldon, Greensboro, Tarboro, Wilmington, Goldsboro, Salisbury, and High Point.

Most wayside hospitals offered meals and some nursing. Surgeons worked at larger hospitals with beds for overnight stays.

The Barbee Hotel in High Point was changed into a wayside hospital on September 1, 1863. 5,795 soldiers received care in that village before the hospital closed in May of 1865.

South Carolina’s first wayside hospital opened in Charleston in November of 1861. Raleigh, Orangeburg, Greenville, Sumter, and Florence also had these types of hospitals. Columbia Wayside Hospital, located at the South Carolina Railroad Depot, served about 75,000 soldiers, becoming the largest wayside hospital in the state.

Southern nurses often didn’t have the required medicines on hand to treat the soldiers. They fell back on homemade remedies, such as using jimson weed for fever or blackberry root for dysentery.

-Sandra Merville Hart


Downey, Tom. “Wayside Hospitals,” South Carolina Encyclopedia, 2017/07/04

“North Carolina Nursing History,” Appalachian State University, 2017/07/04,

Savage, Douglas J. Women in the Civil War, Chelsea House Publishers, 2000.


Civil War U.S. Christian Commission

The War Between the States began in 1861. To meet the spiritual needs of Federal soldiers facing death, the Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA) established the United States Christian Commission on November 14, 1861.

The Commission distributed thousands of New Testaments and prayer books to Union soldiers. They gave tracts and pamphlets. They operated portable libraries for the men. The organization also furnished free envelopes with their stamp and “Soldier’s letter” in one corner.

Commission workers were not paid. More than 5,000 gave freely of their time to serve as field volunteers to aid the chaplains ministering to soldiers. Citizens stitched clothes, raised money, and put kits together for Northern and Southern soldiers.

The Commission raised $3,000,000. Commission delegates requested donations of supplies.

Christian Commission workers provided medical supplies to field hospitals and were at Gettysburg after the battle.

The Ladies Christian Commission started in 1864. Louisa May Alcott, author of Little Women, was one of these workers. Georgia McClellan also served on this commission. Georgia’s sister, Jenny Wade, had been killed during the Battle of Gettysburg.

-Sandra Merville Hart


Billings, John D. Hard Tack and Coffee, George M. Smith & Co., 1887.

“Civil War Christian Commission Was Formed,”, 2017/07/04

Davis, William C. The Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Civil War: The Soldiers, Generals, Weapons, and Battles, The Lyons Press, 2001.

“United States Christian Commission,” Wikipedia, 2017/07/04


Scottish Influence in American & World History

Today’s post is written by fellow author, Norma Gail. A large part of her contemporary romance is set in the beautiful country of Scotland.

I first became fascinated with Scotland when I discovered a Scottish great grandmother in a family tree as a child. Since then, I’ve discovered many Scottish ancestors. Following a visit in 2006, I can truthfully say, “My heart’s in the Highlands …” (Robert Burns)

Americans of Scottish ancestry make up more than half of the American population. Almost half of the signers of the Declaration of Independence had Scottish or Scots-Irish ancestry, including Thomas Jefferson, Patrick Henry, and Alexander Hamilton. Scots comprised three quarters of Washington’s army, and along with Scots-Irish, made up half of his officers. Nine governors of the original thirteen states were Scottish.

Following the disastrous Battle of Culloden in 1745 in their nation’s quest to be free, English victors forcibly removed large numbers of poor Scots from their homes. English aristocrats and wealthy Scots who supported the British cause received large estates in reward for service. Over 40,000 Scots emigrated to the United States between 1763 and 1775.

Scots have changed our world. Scotland played a key role in the Protestant Reformation through the influence of John Knox. Famous inventors include James Watt, inventor of the steam engine and Father of the Industrial Revolution; Alexander Fleming, discoverer of penicillin; Alexander Graham Bell, inventor of the telephone; John Logie-Baird, inventor of the television; Thomas Telford and John Loudin McAdam, both of whom contributed to modern road building technology; Alexander Cumming, inventor of the flush toilet; William Cullen, the refrigerator; Alan McMasters invented the toaster; Charles MacIntosh, inventor of the waterproof macintosh; Alexander Bain, inventor of the electric clock; and the list goes on.

Today, 20 to 25 million Americans claim Scottish ancestry. It is impossible to look at the history of America without including the great contributions of the Scottish people and their descendants.

-Norma Gail

Author Bio:
Norma Gail’s contemporary Christian romance, Land of My Dreams, set in Scotland and her home state of New Mexico,  won of the 2016 Bookvana Religious Fiction Award. A Bible study leader for over 21 years, you can connect through her blog, or on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, Goodreads, or Amazon.

Book Blurb:

Land of My Dreams:

An American college professor struggling for faith and finding love when she least expects it. Land of My Dreams travels from New Mexico’s high desert mountains to the misty Scottish Highlands with a story of overwhelming grief, undying love, and compelling faith.

Amazon buy link