Today’s post is by Gail E. Farr, Archives Specialist at the National Archives at Philadelphia.
Among other projects, staff at the National Archives at Philadelphia have used recent telework hours to dig in and explore our digitized holdings. The National Archives Catalog allows anyone to tag and transcribe our digitized records, and so some of our staff have been doing just that with the series Sampled Case Files of Veterans Housed at the National Home for Disabled Volunteer Soldiers (NHDVS), 1869-1933, Southern Branch in Hampton, Virginia (National Archive ID 562694). This transcription work is helpful to our goal of making access happen, as it makes the contents of the digitized records keyword searchable in the catalog. As our work on this project reveals, these case files provide a valuable source of information both on individual veterans and on the institutions in which they were cared for as disabled servicemen.
The series consists of a total of 301 sampled case files, about half of which were scanned and added to the catalog by Shannon O’Malley, Summer Digitization and Metadata Intern in 2019. Archives Specialist Gail E. Farr transcribed 3 case files: those of James Cassady (Company A, 76th Pennsylvania Volunteers), Augustus P. Williams (Company M, 2nd U. S. Cavalry), and George M. Dow (Company B, 11th U. S. Infantry). Each case file contains an application for admission to one of the homes operated by the NHDVS (by 1870 the agency administered homes located in eleven states). They also contain correspondence, memorandums, and exchanges between the veterans and the institutional management. The applications include the applicant’s age and service history including city and state where enlisted. They also include a statement by a physician indicating the applicant’s current health status and the nature of any disabilities. Once applicants became members, they were required to abide by the rules of the house. Rules were enforced, which did not necessarily make for a comfortable recovery for everyone.
James Cassady spent the years 1871 -1881 transferring back and forth between the Central Branch of the Home at Dayton, Ohio, and the Southern Branch at Hampton, Virginia. Although disabled by an injury to one knee and the loss of an eye, he seemed to resist institutionalization and the supervision imposed at either site. Additionally, the governor of the Southern Branch insisted that he owed $79 to the NHDVS and refused to grant him an honorable discharge until he paid the amount due.
Augustus P. Williams, originally from Missouri, spent his second tour of duty in Company A of Border Sharp Shooters and was mustered out of duty from Fort Larned, Kansas. He suffered from a gunshot wound to the neck incurred at the Battle of the Wilderness in 1864. He entered the Northwest Branch of the Home at Milwaukee, Wisconsin in 1869 before transferring to the Southern Branch in 1871 from which he was discharged the following year.
George M. Dow had suffered from a gunshot wound which cost him the use of one hand. He was expelled at least 4 times from the Southern Branch between 1869 and 1874 until he was finally readmitted there, only to be “dropped” in 1877, due mainly to his chronic alcoholism.
While the case files in this series are just sampled from the many men who were members of the home, there are hundreds of volumes of Historical Registers of National Homes for Disabled Volunteer Soldiers, 1866-1938 that have been digitized and are available on Ancestry.com.
You can learn more about veterans housed at the National Home for Disabled Volunteer Soldiers Southern Branch in Hampton, Virginia by viewing these case files in the National Archives catalog and by checking out another series, Case Files of Veterans Temporarily Housed (National Archives ID 562691). Both of these series are found in Record Group 15, Records of the Department of Veterans Affairs.
Want to help make these records and stories more discoverable? Become a Citizen Archivist! Citizen Archivists are virtual volunteers who tag and transcribe records in the National Archives catalog. The work of Citizen Archivists helps the National Archives Catalog to become an even more useful resource for the public as it helps to make our digitized records more discoverable. Anyone can contribute to the National Archives Catalog as a Citizen Archivist by creating a free user account. Check out the “Register and Get Started” page to get involved!