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"Our Country's Love"

A reflection by J. Blekkink, c. 1878

[Paragraph breaks have been added for readability.]

During the wars of the U.S., many  of our soldiers were wounded so severely that there was not prospect in the future of restoring them either to perfect health or to a condition in which they would be able to support themselves. The Nation seeing this and taking compassion on the suffering heroes, with a glance in the future, made provisions for them. Lands were purchased; houses were erected; and the gates of these were opened to them as a place of retirement after they had fulfilled their mission on the field of battle, in offering their choicest possessions on their country's altar; their health and youthful vigor.

The "Homes" as they are called, and, indeed they are homes to the suffering soldier, were erected in different parts of the Union. One of these find in Ohio, one in Wisconsin, and one in another place. I will now try to describe the one in Wis., it being the one with which your correspondent is acquainted to some extent, and notice some of the excellent provisions the Nation has made for her suffering sons.

The place is located west of the city, Milwaukee, scarcely outside of the city limits. The whole is encircled by a heavy picket fence. The number of acres enclosed are upwards of a thousand. The grounds are beautifully situated. It is an undulating plane. Small hillocks covered with fine shrubs and flowers may be seen on all sides. A small stream comes from the north end and empties in a small lake from whence it flows to the east end. The lake, though small, affords great pleasure to the there residing soldiers.

The number of soldiers there at present is about seven hundred. Most of these are able to enjoy the pleasures there offered, but there are also others who are still confined to their rooms and even those who scarcely ever have the privilege of beholding the light of day. They have been prostrate on the bed of sickness ever since the civil war, and received treatment at the hands of others. They are entirely helpless.

There are a number of buildings on the grounds. One of these, which is called the main building, is very large and is several stories high. It has a tower of several [hundred] feet, beautifully erected and elegantly furnished. The building is used as a dining hall in the rear and a reception room for strangers and guests in the front from 9-12 in the forenoon and from 1-6 in the afternoon. The other buildings are the Hospital, the Engine house, and many other private buildings.

The pleasures there offered are numerous, and are adapted so well to the taste that all who are able enjoy the same. If there is a desire for a boat ride, the lake contains several boats. Croquet sets are numerous, and many other games, which other people would not think of, are here exhibited. There is no compulsion whatever in regard to manual labor. They are supported by the Government with an abundance of food and clothing. Although not compelled, the greater part of them do labor. Small wages are received by those who work, from the Government, and in that way a great part of the soil is cultivated. These products are used by them, and as they fall short, the Government provides that which is lacking. The flower-beds are preserved in the same way, and the various gravel walks receive their improvement from the same source. They are allowed to spend the money they received for whatever purpose they may wish. Consequently, those who work have spending money, and those who do not, have not.

The relics and curiosities are many. Among the most inspiring is the American eagle: for he reminds them of the past. When the 14th regiment of Wis. marched [sic: 8th Regiment], he went with them, when they fought, he was on the battle field. He was in the war three years, enduring all the dangers of shot and shell as they. He is penned up in a beautiful cage near the main building. Other relics which were made, years ago, by the soldiers such as benches, chairs, and seats from the roots and branches of trees are to be seen under every tree.

They are almost, so to speak, an independent class of people. Their government and regulations are, to some extent, in the hands of the Country, but as far as practice is concerned, it belongs to them. They have several officers, such as police, firemen, and managers of other affairs, but all these are chosen from their own number, and thus they rule themselves through their own citizens. Taking these things in consideration (I have only mentioned a few of them) how clearly does our Country's love appear, in every nail that is driven, in every brick that is laid, and in every improvement that is made.

"Our Country's Love" appeared in the November 22, 1878, edition of The Excelsiora, a student publication of Hope College, Holland, Michigan. Hope College was founded in 1866 by Dutch settlers. Reprinted with the permission of the Joint Archives of Holland and Hope College.

 
The Venerable Eagles of the Soldiers' Home

The following article appeared in the December 27, 1891, edition of the Milwaukee Sentinel.

The memory of  Old Abe the eagle of the 8th regiment is kept green at the Soldiers home by another eagle, “Fighting Joe Hooker,” whose eyes flashed as brightly and whose screams sometimes sounded like Old Abe when flying above the fighting regiment in time of war. The bird now at the home was captured by Joe Cabeen, a veteran soldier in 1869 in Bay View, and a year or two later was presented to the soldiers at the home.

The story of the capture and confinement of Joe is an interesting one. He is of the bald-headed variety and supposed to be about 15 years old. In the winter of 1869 he used to be seen soaring around the Town of Lake. The bird was too wary to be shot and for a long time eluded any endeavor to capture or kill him. One evening though, just as it was growing quite dark, the huge bird pounced upon a chicken in the farmyard of Mr. Cabeen and a moment later lighted on a branch of tree nearby and began to eat his victim. He seemingly did not notice the approach of the farmer with a big gun until too late and a moment later the big bird dropped to the ground with a broken wing, both barrels having been discharged at short range.

Then the fun began. The bird fought with his talons and his screams of rage could be heard half a mile away. Finally with the assistance of a hired man and a long rope, the bird was dragged to a barn and shut in. A big cage was made for him and he was put in it when weak from his broken wing. In time the wing grew strong again and with a long clothesline tied to his leg, Joe Hooker was let out of his cage.

His wings measured 7 feet from tip to tip. He never forgot Farmer Cabeen and would scream with rage and hate at his captor every time he approached the bird. One day a big Newfoundland dog got within reach of the eagle. Joe Hooker pounced on him and with his claws and powerful wings almost killed him.

At this time Forepaugh’s Circus was in Milwaukee and the bird was sold to the circus man for $10. That night their tent blew down, and they refused then to accept their purchase. Mr. Cabeen then offered the bird to Gen. Wooley the governor of the Soldiers’ Home and a short time after, in 1871, about a dozen of the old soldiers came in with an ambulance and took the eagle to the home where Joe Hooker has since remained.



Read more! Purchase Milwaukee's Soldiers Home, a new volume in Arcadia Publishing's Images of America series.
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