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Rev. William G. Turner, Chaplain, 1870-1873
Rev. Father Smythe, 1870-

Col. Ephraim Asbury Ludwick (Ludwig), Chaplain, 1870-1873

In the early days of the Soldiers' Home, the Milwaukee Sentinel mentions Col. E.A. Ludwick as conducting services, especially at Thanksgiving and Christmas, organizing observances of Decoration Day and the 4th of July, and serving as master of ceremonies for entertainers and dignitaries.

A native of Pennsylvania,  Ludwick enlisted at Hanover, NY;  was commissioned an officer in Company K, New York 112th Infantry Regiment on October 27, 1862; and promoted to Major on June 1, 1864. He lost his right arm in late 1864 after receiving a severe injury at Chapin's Farm, Virginia. He was promoted to Lt. Colonel on November 26,1864, and Colonel on January 18, 1865. He mustered out on June 13, 1865 at Raleigh, North Carolina. (New York: Report of the Adjutant-GeneralThe Medical and Surgical History of the Civil War.)

Documents in the collection of Chaplain Ludwick's family include his correspondence with members of the National Board of Managers to ensure dignified burial of each Home member, including his call for a small pillow in the deceased veterans casket and military honors for every funeral.

A particularly touching account of Chaplain Ludwick appeared in the January 15, 1872, Milwaukee Sentinel:

It is not often that the service of the infant baptism is performed under as peculiarly interesting circumstances as it was yesterday (Sunday January 14th.) at the chapel of the National Asylum. The father of the little girl baptized, Sgt. Lair, and the godfather, Sgt. O’Brien, and the Chaplain, Col. Ludwick, all had given their right arms in defense of their country, while the hushed audience that filled the chapel was largely composed of war-scarred and maimed soldiers deeply interested in the consecration to God of the child of their comrade.  The most appropriate and heartfelt remarks with which the Chaplain prefaced the ceremony, especially as he referred to his own double consecration in childhood by his long since sainted mother, moistened many an eye that had bashed defiance back into the face of death on the battlefield, and vividly brought to mind many a forgotten prayer beside a fond parent’s knee.

Few men can touch the tender chords of the soldier’s heart as does Col. Ludwick, for few are able or competent to speak from the soldier’s standpoint, or in such perfect sympathy with his needs and highest and noblest aspirations.  That this is appreciated is shown by the large and constantly increasing audience of both, and by the close and earnest attention given to all religious exercises at the Asylum.

By 1873, following a controversy involving Deputy Home Governor John Woolley, Ludwick was out of a job:

The Board of managers of the National Home for Disabled Soldiers have dismissed Dr. J L Herrick and Chaplain Ludwick from serving at the Home for good and sufficient reason.  It will be remembered that these men preferred against Gen. Woolley the charges which led to his disposal as Governor of the Asylum. This is still fresh in the minds of our people, as well as the suffering and death of the noble officer, while engaged in the work of disproving the paltry accusations of the schemers against his honor, dearer to him than life. Herrick and Ludwick will ever be remembered in connection with this affair.

Ludwick transferred to the Eastern Branch, Togus, Maine, and later to the Sailor's Home in San Francisco. He died at age 50 on September 27, 1887, and is buried at San Francisco National Cemetery.

Read an account of Chaplain Ludwick and life at the Soldiers' Home in 1871 in Plank Road Winter, a young adult historical novel by Hilda and Emily Demuth.

George W. Barber, Chaplain, 1873-

Rev. E. Purdon Wright, chaplain, 1903-1909

Author Elizabeth Corbett admired the Episcopal chaplain and his wife, describing them in several sections of Out at the Soldiers' Home.

Most of the officers and their families attended the Episcopal service at eleven. The Governor and the Treasurer had pews off to the right and facing the choir. Other officers and civilian employees occupied the right half of the nave; custom allotted them their private pews. The members of the Home sat in the left half of the nave.

The Episcopal Chaplain was a great friend of the children’s out of hours. In church, he inspired them with a certain awe. He was a wonderful-looking old man with a snowy beard, and he wore the most beautiful shiny surplices that any clergyman ever wore. He had the natural dignity of the high-bred Englishman, with a little gleam in his eye which suggested that he had some Irish blood. He read the service so beautifully that he spoiled Bebby for any other clergyman.

All the ladies at the Home had their “days,” carefully chosen not to interfere with one another. But the Chap­lain’s wife’s Thursday was the only “day” that meant a real party every week.

It was the only one, too, at which the husband as­sisted. The Chaplain was always on hand to help enter­tain; and he made the tea himself. Being English, he knew the importance of fine tea; he always sent to New York for a special brand which could not be bought west of the Atlantic seaboard.

The Chaplain’s wife didn’t care for tea. When she sat down at the tea-table, she used to pour herself a nice cup of hot water, which she drank with every appearance of enjoyment.

Their whole married life was conducted along those lines. They were an elderly couple, and had been mar­ried late in life; and they were the most congenial couple that ever lived, though nobody could ever dis­cover that they had a single taste in common.

She was a hearty eater, and loved coffee. He was abstemious, and preferred tea. They didn’t even eat the same kind of bread; brown suited his digestion better, and she couldn’t endure any except white. When they got on the street-car to go downtown, he always sat on the shady side, and she on the sunny.

But even Mr. and Mrs. Jack Sprat could have been happy if they had respected each other’s idiosyncrasies, instead of each trying to remold the other, as most married couples seem to. Doctor and Auntie Georgie made little jokes out of the divergencies which in all too many households would have passed into bones of contention.

The following account of Chaplain Wright's ministry at the Home appeared in the Annual Report of the National Board of Managers for the Fiscal Year ended on June 30, 1903.

Annual Report of Rev. E. Purdon Wright, Chaplain

Eighty-two public services were held in the chapel. Twenty-one celebrations of the holy communion, of which 9 were held in the hospital for the sick and dying. Seven persons were baptized. Ninety-two funerals were held, at which the attendance in summer of our excellent band is highly appreciated and renders the pageant military in its character.

Special sermons were preached, and appropriate music rendered by our choir, upon Memorial Day and Flag Day. The Grand Army posts, the Union Veteran League, and the Cushing Association of Naval Veterans attended these services and apparently were deeply interested.

The dedication of the new soldiers' monument by Col. John L. Mitchell upon Memorial Day was an occasion of special interest.

The chaplain finds his residence close to the chapel a great convenience, rendering access to him easy when his services are required by the sick and dying. It also affords an opportunity for any who may desire to consult with him in private.

The temperance society meets regularly every Tuesday evening and has a roll of over 50 members.

Rev. Michael Joseph Huston, Catholic Chaplain, 1903-1933

Michael Joseph Huston was born in Ireland September 29, 1864, and immigrated to the United States in 1884. He entered St. Francis Seminary in Milwaukee, and on was ordained on June 24, 1893. His first assignment was at St. John the Evangelist Cathedral, July 22, 1893.

On July 1, 1903, Father Huston was commissioned to the Catholic chapel of the Soldiers’ Home, the first Catholic resident chaplain at the home. Under a government regulation in 1932, he was ordered to retire at the age of 70.

Father Huston left for Ireland in August 1933, revisiting the scenes of his youth. Returning in November, he was stricken with a heart attack in Chicago. Later he was brought to Milwaukee where he died of heart disease on February 3, 1934, at St. Mary’s Hospital. Burial was in Calvary cemetery.

“Station Order, No. 10”, Veterans Administration, February 6, 1934.
“Rev. M. Huston is dead here,” Milwaukee Journal, February 4, 1934.
Other sources of information include news clippings from unknown papers, copies in the VA Scrapbook, 1930-1936, 174-175: “Soldiers’ Home colony mourns for chaplain”, February 7, 1934; “Father Huston, Soldiers’ Home ex-chaplain, dies”; "Army, clergy pay respects to Fr. Huston.”

Chaplains Judson Titsworth and Michael John Huston, 1916 Souvenir Book
Chaplain Gustav Stearns and the extended Soldiers' Home

Rev. Judson Titsworth, Chaplain, 1909-1910 and 1911-1913
Rev. Marcellus W. Darling, Chaplain, 1910-1911
Rev. William A. Cutler, Chaplain, 1913-1914

Rev. Gustav Stearns, Protestant Chaplain, 1934-1947

Another well-known person associated with the Chapel was Reverend Gustav Stearns, who served as Protestant Chaplain from 1934 to 1947. He was Chaplain of Wisconsin’s 32nd Division in World War I and served as Captain, 127th Infantry, 32nd Division, for 22 months.

Chaplain Stearns and members of the congregation celebrate a baptism.

Chaplain Stearns introduced a pre-Memorial Day Massing of the Colors at the Soldiers Home, a tradition that continued for many years. From 1936 to 1941, he assembled the largest flag collection in the United States, which included flags from 103 foreign countries. These flags were displayed in the Chapel. Of course, the most important function of the Chapel over the years has been to provide military funerals for veterans buried in Wood National Cemetery. Full military honors are accorded each veteran. In the 1980’s there was an average of 75 burials per month.

Learn about today's VA Chaplains.

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