THE SOLDIERS' HOME, RICHMOND, VIRGINIA
"The Origin and History of This Noble Institution"
(From the Richmond Dispatch, November 27, 1892)
In none of her monuments erected since the war, more than in Lee Camp Soldiers' Home, does Virginia teach the reverence she bears those who stood by her in her hour of sorest trial. None of her monuments speak more eloquently of the cause for which so many of the flower of the South laid down their lives ; none of them appeal more powerfully to the generation now upon the stage to cherish the memory of the deeds and sacrifices of their fathers.
The Home is now in better condition financially and in respect of accommodations than it has been since its establishment, and to-day is fulfilling its noble mission more thoroughly than it has ever done. But that is not saying that it is compassing its sphere of possible usefulness. The calculation is that within the next quarter of a century most of the youngest of those who served in the Confederate army will have answered the last roll-call and grounded their arms in the citadel of graves. Yet within the next ten or twelve years the numbers whom exposure and wounds will have incapacitated for work will materially increase, and it follows that any further donations to, or enlargement of the facilities of the Home would be in the line of patriotic duty.
HISTORY OF THE HOME
The inception of the Home and the inception of Lee Camp Confederate Veterans are coeval and their histories run parallel. In March, 1883, seven gentlemen met in this city and informally talked over the matter of raising funds to support a few disabled Confederate veterans whose condition had been brought to their attention. They decided to put an advertisement in the city papers calling upon all Confederate veterans who felt an interest in the matter to assemble on April the 18th following. To this call thirty-eight men responded, and then and there organized Lee Camp, No. 1, Confederate Veterans. The purpose for which the camp was organized was to take care of needy ex-Confederate soldiers, and no time was lost in giving this purpose practical shape. Captain Charles U. Williams was elected First Commander of the Camp.
In May, 1883, a bazaar was held in the armory with Mrs. Lewis N. Webb as manager, assisted by about one hundred other ladies, and Colonel H.C. Jones, N.V. Randolph and Colonel J.B. Purcell as a committee from the Camp. this enterprise was kept open for nineteen nights and netted $24,0000.
THE HOME OPENED
On the 12th of November, 1884, the Home property, consisting of thirty-six acres and an old house, was purchased for $14,000, and on January 1, 1885, the institution was opened, the first inmate being a Mississippi man.
Soon thereafter Mr. Robert I. Fleming, of Washington, at a cost of $2,500, enlarged, improved and remodelled the building on the grounds, and gradually handsome and commodious cottages were built and donated to the Home by Major Lewis Ginter, Hon. W. W. Corcoran, of Washington, Captain A. G. Babcock, Mr. Mark Downey, Mr. James B. Pace, Mr. W. H. Appleton, of New York, and the children of ex-Governor William Smith. In 1888 the board raised by private subscription from the people of Richmond about $5,000, with which they built and furnished the picturesque and handsome Home Chapel. The additional buildings erected by the board, including the mess hall, stable, &c., and the hospital, which last-named was completed this year, cost $35,000.
SITUATION AND SURROUNDINGS
The Soldiers' Home is one of the most attractive places about Richmond, and in the summer it is a favorite drive. Located in a grove of original growth, it is, from the road, the picture of restfulness and peace. The cottages and chapel are to the left of the main building as one approaches, and the new hospital to the right, and everything is as neat as a pin. On a nearer inspection, however, the frowning guns upon the lawn and the maimed and battle-scarred veterans carry one back to anything but a scene of peace. Many of the inmates are totally disabled for work of any sort, and all they can do is to fight their battles over. They staked all on the South's great issue and lost all save life. Those who are able to perform physical labor police the grounds and wait upon the sick in the hospital. The entire premises are regularly inspected twice a week.
Since the establishment of the Home it has cared for 484 veterans. In addition to Virginians there have been on the rolls: From New Jersey, 1; South Carolina, 7; Georgia, 2; West Virginia, 5; District of Columbia, 2; Maryland, 3; North Carolina, 5; Florida, 1; Alabama, 1; Tennessee, 1; Texas, 1, and Mississippi, 1. As may well be imagined, the number of deaths in proportion to the inmates has been very large.
The affairs of the Home are administered by a Board of Visitors elected by Lee Camp, to which are added the Governor, the State Treasurer, the Auditor of Public Accounts and the Judge of the Circuit Court of Richmond. The first president of the board was Captain Charles U. Williams, and the first Executive Committee consisted of N. V. Randolph, Colonel J. B. Purcell, and Colonel Henry C. Jones. Captain Williams resigned after serving about a year, and General Fitzhugh Lee succeeded him. General Lee retired about a year before his term as Governor expired, was succeeded by General John R. Cooke, who served until the time of his death, and the next president was Mr. N. V. Randolph, the incumbent.
The present board is as follows: Major N. V. Randolph, president; Lieutenant-Colonel A. L. Phillips, first vice-president; Major T. A. Brander, second vice-president; James B. Pace (president Planters National Bank), treasurer; Captain J. W. Pegram, secretarty; Governor P. W. McKinney, A. W. Harman, Colonel Morton Marye, Judge Beverley R. Wellford, Colonel H. C. Jones, General W. H. Payne, Joseph W. Thomas, Colonel Archer Anderson, Major Lewis Ginter, Captain John Maxwell, Joseph B. McKenney, Judge E. C. Minor, Colonel John Murphy, Colonel J. W. White, James T. Gray, Colonel E. P. Reeve, Colonel Hugh R. Smith, Major W.A. Smoot, Captain Washington Taylor, Colonel J. H. Hume, Portsmouth; Colonel D. M. Lee, Fredericksburg; Captain R. M. Booker, Hampton, Virginia ; Colonel Alexander W. Archer.
Executive Committee: Major T. A. Brander, Colonel John Murphy, Joseph W. Thomas.
GENERAL W. R. TERRY
For some months after the opening of the Home the direct executive office was Captain James Pollard, the present adjutant. In the latter part of 1885 General William R. Terry was elected superintendent, and has held that position ever since, but on the 8th of November, 1892, owing to physical infirmities resulting from wounds received during the war, tendered his resignation, to take effect January 1st next. General Terry was one of the most gallant officers in the Confederate army. He was born in Liberty, Virginia, in 1827 and educated at the Virginia Military Institute. At the breaking out of the war he entered the service as captain of cavalry, but was soon thereafter promoted to the colonelcy of the Twenty-fourth Virginia regiment. In May, 1864, he was made a brigadier-general and was assigned to the command of Kemper's brigade, the former commander having been desperately and permanently disabled at Gettysburg.
For the first two years of its existence the Home was supported entirely by voluntary contributions and such funds as the board could beg. Then the State came to the relief of the institution, and up to February 12, 1892, the board had received from the source $60,000.
In March last the Legislature passed a bill would appropriate to the Home $150 a year for each inmate for a period not exceeding twenty-two years, no annual appropriation to exceed $30,000, and that at the end of the twenty-two years the State was to take possession of the property under a deed from Lee Camp. This arrangement afforded greatly-needed financial relief, and enabled the Home to increase the number of its inmates. Yet, as above stated, there is still a wider field before it if the hands of the board are upheld by further substantial aid.
The labor of those who have managed its affairs has been truly a labor of love and of patriotism, in which, in season and out of season, they have made sacrifices of time and money. Owing to a mistake in the bill above referred to the Home was entirely without revenue for three months and had to incur a debt of $4,000.
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