"Gleeful As A Band Of Children"
- Civil War veterans’ Christmas at the Orting Soldiers’ Home -
In the early 1900’s, Washington State women’s patriotic organizations took great care to help provide a warm and cheerful Christmas for the former Civil War soldiers who resided at the state Soldiers’ Home in Orting. The residents of the Soldiers’ Home, referred to as “inmates” at the time, were most often aged or infirm but it was not simply a hospital. The facility was more akin to a modern senior care home than a medical institution. Social activity and celebrations like that of Christmas were welcomed and enjoyed by the veterans. During these peak years of the Civil War veteran population at the Home their number ranged from 250 to 400. Providing Christmas dinner, entertainment and gifts for them was quite a challenge but one that was eagerly accepted by the ladies of the state’s patriotic orders.
Not all the veterans stayed at the Orting Home during the holidays. Some were fortunate enough to take leave from the home to travel to spend the holidays with family or friends all around Washington State. Those who remained were still treated to an enjoyable holiday. The festivities normally occurred on the Sunday following Christmas Day. Sunday was the day that the weekly Home roll call was performed. After that formality concluded, the Home superintendent and officers would get things underway.
Beginning around noon, an elaborate dinner in the Home's dining hall was provided for the men. The annual fare was described as “most appetizing” and the tables were “laden with turkey and cranberry sauce, sweet potatoes, and a variety of other vegetables with pies, oranges, nuts and candies for dessert. Some years' menus included such items as Irish potatoes, peas, corn, onions with cream dressing, cucumbers, beets, celery, wheat bread, graham bread, corn bread, plum pudding, mince pie, cheese, ginger cake”. The turkeys were often from the home’s own farm. At the conclusion of this enjoyable repast, the men were often treated to holiday entertainment in the form of a program of music and recitations. In some years it was provided by the area's young folks, in others a performance from the Home orchestra was the day’s offering. These entertainments were always enjoyed and left the old soldiers in “high good humor.”
The Christmas observances concluded with the distribution of gifts to the Home's inmates. Great attention was paid to ensure that every single inmate, including those who were sick or invalid, received a gift. Normally, they all gathered around a “very prettily decorated” or even “dazzling” tree in the evening as the gifts were distributed. On at least one occasion, the presents were handed out by “Santa Claus in his usual fantastic dress.” The veterans were recalled as being “gleeful as a band of children” as they happily received their Christmas gifts.
Some of the presents came from friends and relatives, some came from the savings of pension money among the inmates themselves, and some from friends of the institution. Primarily, it was the Womans Relief Corps and the Ladies of the G.A.R., the women’s kindred groups to the Grand Army of the Republic, that took on the task of providing gifts, food and entertainment to the old soldiers at Christmas. The gifts came from W.R.C. and L.G.A.R. group all across the state. Spokane, Walla Walla, Vancouver, Seattle, Bellingham and practically every location between contributed. The groups published reminders to their members of “their duty to remember the dear old comrades at the soldiers’ homes.” They suggested what type of articles would be most needed and the ladies were most generous in their efforts to provide them. The gifts “in part consisted of cushions, head-rests, towels, handkerchiefs, slippers, pin cushions, strips of carpet, quilts, comforts, tobacco pipes, candy, nuts, oranges and apples, etc., in endless variety.” The men were invariably well pleased with their gifts. One observer described the feelings of the old soldiers, saying “If the ladies could have been present and seen the happy, smiling faces of the veterans as they received their gifts, they would have been amply repaid for their trouble.”
It is doubtful any of the ladies felt their efforts to provide a wonderful Christmas holiday to the aging Civil War veterans at the Orting Soldiers’ Home as “trouble.” For the Home’s veterans, Christmas was one of the most enjoyable days of the year.
Seattle Daily Times Dec. 1899 - 1915
Seattle Post-Intelligencer Dec. 1900 - 1915
The National Tribune Feb. 1900
A CIVIL WAR VET WITH A GAT
George Camp was not the only Civil War veteran to be arrested for illegally discharging a firearm in Seattle, but he was the only one to have a cartoon made about it.
In January 1914, a former Union army soldier, George Lowe Camp, was overtaken by what Seattle newspaper described as a “warlike spirit” that ended in gunfire, a fatality, and ultimately Mr. Camp’s arrest. The 79 year old veteran of the 92nd Ohio Volunteer Infantry had been part of some of the Western Theater’s hardest fighting at Chickamauga, Missionary Ridge, the Atlanta Campaign and the March to the Sea. He was taken into custody on a warrant alleging that he had discharged a firearm illegally within Seattle city limits. His guilt was undisputed. He had most certainly fired the weapon and was in fact responsible for the fatality. However, he was not to be charged with murder.
The Desk Sergeant that booked Camp into custody was Roy Olmstead, who became infamous himself a decade later as the "King of the Puget Sound Bootleggers." Sgt. Olmstead inquired if he had hit his intended target. Mr. Camp replied indignantly, “Hit him? Of course I hit him. Think I served 3 years in the war for nothing?” The victim of this accurate gunshot had been stealing his chickens, so Camp had “laid for him and plugged him from the upstairs window.” A neighbor, W. C. Kitely, had lodged the complaint with the police that led to Mr. Camp’s arrest and confirmed the facts of the fatality.
The old veteran's well placed shot was an unfortunate end to a poor black cat’s life. George Camp was released from custody on his own recognizance. It does not appear that there were any further incidents involving George and his “warlike spirit.”
Two days later, the Seattle Daily Times newspaper commemorated the event with a comical cartoon and the following piece of inspired prose:
“A Civil War vet with a gat,
Took a shot at a very black cat,
The night was as dark,
As a Stygian park,
But he hit the said feline at that!”
Seattle Post-Intelligencer January 11 1914
Seattle Daily Times January 13 1914
100 years ago today, November 11, 1921, an unknown American soldier killed in World War I was buried in Arlington National Cemetery, Washington D.C. A large procession and ceremony marked this important and historic occasion. Known since as The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, it has become an important and powerful symbol of the patriotism, courage and sacrifice of the American soldier.
Frank M. O’Brien, writing in the New York Herald, explained its significance. “It is an entombment only in the physical sense. It is rather the enthronement of Duty and Honor. This man who died for his country is the symbol of these qualities; a far more perfect symbol than any man could be whose name and deeds we knew. He represents more, really, than the unidentified dead, for we cannot separate them spiritually from the war heroes whose names are written on their gravestones. He – this spirit whom we honor – stands for the unselfishness of all.”
In October, Seattle Civil War veteran Corporal Asbury Farnum Haynes had received an invitation from the War Department to be present for the ceremony. All surviving Medal of Honor men were invited to be part of the procession bearing the body of the Unknown Soldier to Arlington and to be present for the burial ceremony. Haynes received the Medal of Honor during the Civil War for his courageous actions in capturing the battle flag of the 21st North Carolina infantry at the Battle of Saylers Creek in April of 1865. Haynes recounted the experience, “I remember as yesterday, my Captain sent me to Washington with the flag I had captured. I walked into the office of Secretary Stanton and I said, ‘Secretary, I have the honor to present you with a captured flag.’ He replied, ‘Corporal, I salute you and I thank you in the name of the people of the United States and the President of the United States.’ Then I got my medal.”
The 79 year old Seattle veteran was extremely honored and anxious to be present in Washington D.C. for the ceremony.
In an unfortunate turn of events, just a week before he was to depart for the nation’s capital, he received a second letter from the War Department, this one informing him that due to a technicality, there was actually no funding available for his trip and the government would not be providing for him to make the journey. The War department informed him, despite being invited, they would only be covering expenses for those who had received their Medals of Honor during the World War. Haynes was devastated and heartbroken. He took his sad case to Addison Hastie, a leading man in Seattle’s Grand Army of the Republic, for assistance. Mr. Hastie helped begin some fundraising efforts and was able to gather together a portion of the funds required, but it was far from sufficient. The Daughters of the GAR and the United Daughters of the Confederacy helped, as did private citizens, but still the funds were insufficient for him to make the trip. On November 1, the Seattle Times wrote in an article about Haynes situation, “Shall an old soldier of the United States, a Medal of Honor man of the Civil war, be thwarted of his supreme desire to go to Washington D.C. to attend the burial of America’s unknown soldier November 11th in Arlington Cemetery? Shall a few dollars stand in the way of the fulfillment of Asbury F. Haynes desire?”
At this point, just days before he was to depart for the East, the Seattle Times newspaper stepped in and promised to meet any and all remaining funding needs to send Corporal Haynes to Washington. The Times announced its intentions, saying that the “supreme desire of the old soldier’s heart will be gratified. Irrespective of the amount raised by others on Haynes’ behalf, be it much or little, the Times will make up the balance. Mr. Haynes will go to Washington as Seattle’s G.A.R. Medal of Honor man to march from the Capitol to Arlington Cemetery during the ceremonies there.”
Upon receipt of this news, Haynes was overcome with emotion replying through tears and with a trembling voice “I shall be very proud to represent the good people of Seattle. I wish to thank them all for their kindness and generosity.” He was noted as being the “happiest man in Seattle” once his fortunes had been reversed regarding the trip to Washington.
It was Haynes' expressed wish to wear a uniform in the procession that was the same as he had worn during his last time in the nation’s capital in 1865. He searched the stores of Seattle for an appropriate suit of blue and a sky blue overcoat, which he was able to locate with some persistence. At 7pm on the evening of November 5th, Corporal Asbury boarded a train east.
Seen off by friends, comrades and supporters, with tear-filled eyes he told them “Good bye, my friends, may God Bless you. I don’t know who I must thank most. The Times, Mrs J.H. Connell, or my friends in general. I guess I owe thanks to all.” He continued, “I’m going to march right along with the young fellows and show them what kind of men we have out here in Seattle.” Finally, he added that he would “like to meet President Harding. The trip would be complete if I could shake hands with that great man.”
Once arrived in Washington, Corporal Haynes took accommodations at the Soldiers Home among old comrades of the Civil War. On the day of the procession and ceremony, Haynes donned his sky blue overcoat and marched in the front rank of the Medal of Honor men in the line of march. The Medal of Honor men marched 8 abreast and held a spot towards the middle of the procession being just ahead of the United States Senators and Representatives. Haynes’ being the only one wearing a Civil War style overcoat, he stood out among the others marching and he received notable cheers as the observers recognized him and having been a Medal of Honor man from the Civil War. The men also were just ahead of the horse and carriage that transported former President Woodrow Wilson and his wife. Due to poor health, former President Wilson was the only living person drawn by carriage in the procession. As that portion of the procession passed near the White House, the carriage left the line of march to return the ailing former president indoors at his residence. Despite his frail health, he was still determined to take part in the procession and did so just behind the Medal of Honor men and Asbury Haynes. The procession was delayed at this point as they redirected former President Wilson’s carriage and the group was paused just in front of the White House gate from which President Harding was viewing. During the delay, President Harding then walked out into the street to shake the hands of the Medal of Honor men individually. Asbury Haynes also received his wish of getting to meet President Harding. The procession continued on and ended at the amphitheater where the ceremony and internment of the unknown soldier took place.
100 years ago this day, Corporal Asbury Haynes, Civil War Medal of Honor recipient of the 17th Maine Infantry and long-time Seattle resident proudly fulfilled his role in honoring all of America’s fighting men at the burial of the unknown soldiers, November 11, 1921.
Seattle Daily Times November 1-11, 1921
New York Herald Nov 11, 1921
Tacoma News Tribune Nov 11, 1921
Join SCWL and the Bothell Historical Museum for a free walking tour at the Bothell Pioneer cemetery. The tour will discuss Bothell's many Civil War veterans, their families and other civilians who participated in or were impacted by the Civil War. The tour will begin at 1 pm.
The Bothell Pioneer cemetery is located at 10816 Valley View Rd, Bothell WA. The tour is free but donations to the Bothell Historical Museum are welcome. The tour will be outside at the cemetery, but please observe appropriate social distancing and masks are encouraged for the health and safety of all attendees.
October 13th at 6pm SCWL will be hosting a Facebook livestream discussion with authors Dr. Lorraine McConaghy and Judy Bentley to discuss their book, Free Boy. Free Boy tells the story of an enslaved young man who made his escape to freedom from the Washington territory prior to the Civil War. This captivating bit of Washington history will be discussed as well as the general state of affairs in the Washington territory in the lead up to the outbreak of the Civil War. You won't want to miss this one!
Here is the direct link to the Facebook event page.
The program will be posted to our youtube channel later, as well.
Please join SCWL for the next installment of our free walking tours for 2021. Spend time under the beautiful golden autumn colors of the Grand Army cemetery's majestic old oak trees and learn about the unique history of the austere Capitol Hill cemetery park and the veterans of the Civil War that are buried there. The tour will begin at 1 pm and should last about 90 minutes. We will also be joined by the Capitol Hill Historical Society to talk with us about what work they do involving Capitol Hill history and how you can support them and get involved.
The Grand Army of the Republic Cemetery park is located at 1200 East Howe Street, just north of Volunteer Park and the historic Lake View Cemetery.
Visit our Facebook event page for additional information on this tour:
Visit the Capitol Hill Historical Society website:
Seattle headstone dedication ceremony for Iron Brigade officer John Marshall Hoyt 7th Wisconsin Infantry
Please join SCWL and others are we gather for a ceremony to remember the gallant Civil War service of Captain John Marshall Hoyt, 7th Wisconsin Volunteer Infantry, of the famed Iron Brigade. Since his burial in Mount Pleasant cemetery in 1924, Captain Hoyt's grave site had remained unmarked and nearly forgotten over the course of the last 97 years. In 2021, SCWL spearheaded an effort to obtain for Captain Hoyt a proper federal government issued veteran's headstone in recognition of his service to the United States Army and a grateful nation. On September 4th, 2021 at 1 pm at Captain Hoyt's grave site in Seattle's Mount Pleasant cemetery we will gather to pay remember and pay respects to his exceptional career of service in one of the Civil War's most famed fighting organizations, the Iron Brigade. Below is a flyer for the event as well as a map showing the location within the historic Mount Pleasant cemetery where the site is located. Mount Pleasant cemetery is located at 700 W. Raye St Seattle WA 98199. Additional details can be found at the SCWL Facebook page: https://fb.me/e/4Ae9p5yZa
We hope you'll join us!
In 1912, 12th Massachusetts Infantry veteran William Rugg gave his thoughts on Memorial Day and his own mortality. Willliam H Rugg was a resident of the Washington Soldiers Home in and buried in the Soldiers Home cemetery in Orting WA. A hard fighting veteran of the 12th Massachusetts Infantry, Corporal Rugg was captured by Confederate forces during the first day's fighting at Gettysburg as the 12th made a valiant stand, bayonets fixed, as they were out of ammunition and hopelessly outnumbered in the face of an overwhelming assault that July afternoon. Rugg spent more than 20 months confined in squalid southern prison camps, among the longest terms of imprisonment of any Union soldier in the entire war. Late in life, William Rugg was a resident of the Washington Soldiers Home in Orting. He is buried in the cemetery there. He didn't die there, however. His death occurred on July 10 1913 on the train carrying a contingent of Washington State veterans home from the 50th Anniversary reunion of the Battle of Gettysburg, held on the battlefield at Gettysburg in July 1913. William Rugg had premonitions of his death and was quoted earlier in 1913 saying he didn't think he would survive the trip, but was going to go anyway, so intent he was on reuniting with his old comrades in arms, even if it would cost him his life. It did.
Seattle's Civil War Legacy presents the history of Seattle's Civil War veterans. Over 2500 Civil War veterans resided in Seattle and King County area in the decades following the Civil War. Each of these veterans have their own individual history but there is also a greater collective history of this generation of veterans who came to Seattle. These men helped build the city both literally and figuratively. The mission of SCWL is the study and sharing of that history by way of written articles, video, public history and tours.