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REPORT OF THE INSPECTION OF THE SOLDIERS' HOME.
Washington, D. C., August 1, 1901. Sir: I have the honor to submit the following report of an inspection of the Soldiers' Home, District of Columbia, made from July 8 to July 12, 1901, in compliance with the act of March 3, 1883. Lieut. Col. Charles H. Heyl and Lieut. Col. Thomas T. Knox, inspectorsgeneral, accompanied me and rendered valuable aid in this inspection. Messrs. D. C. Spencer and A. B. Horner assisted in the examination of the disbursements and accounts.
The officers of the Home are: Governor, Brig. Gen. George D. Ruggles; deputy governor, Lieut. Col. R. F. Bernard; secretary and treasurer, Capt. Charles W. Taylor, Ninth Cavalry; and Maj. L. A. La Garde, surgeon, who is assisted by two civilian clinical assistants.
These officers have continued on duty since the date of the last inspection, and the general condition of the men, property, buildings, grounds, roads, records, etc., indicates a careful supervision and a painstaking care by all concerned.
On June 30, 1901, there were on the rolls of the Home 1,398 persons, and 830 of these were present at that time. The absentees were accounted for as follows: On outdoor relief..
407 In Government Insane Asylum.
27 In hospital at Fort Bayard.
58 Absent with leave..
559 A comparison of the figures of the absentees with those of last year shows that there are 21 less on outdoor relief, that the number in the insane asylum has increased by 5, and that there are now 26 more members undergoing treatment at the Fort Bayard hospital than there were at this time last year.
The average number present for the year is given as 864, a gain of but 32 over last year. The largest number present was 885, on February 21, 1901, and the smallest 792, on July 2, 1900. The average temporarily cared for during the year numbered 48 daily, and the total
cared for was 2,251. The average age is given as 594 years, and the youngest inmate was 21 and the eldest 94. Forty-one per cent of the inmates were born in the United States, 26 per cent in Ireland, 19 per cent in Germany, and the remaining 14 per cent, or 113 inmates, came from the other countries in Europe, with the exception of 12 from Canada and 1 from the East Indies. About 76 per cent of the inmates are pensioners, and they receive all the way from $6 to $72 per month, with $12 as the predominating figure.
Three hundred and forty-two, or about 40 per cent of the inmates present, were paraded in line, and as the visit was on the first cool day, and without much warning, they presented a rather exceptional appearance. Universal cleanliness, habitual among regulars, is not as easily maintained among the feeblest, but is general. It might be well if the cravats had greater uniformity, if worn.
Only a portion of the band was in line, and without instruments. Music on such occasions is beneficial.
There seems to be ample room for the accommodation of a considerable number of additional inmates. The present buildings are far from crowded, and it is said that there are now but about 120 more inmates than before the Spanish war. Unassigned beds were noticed in nearly all of the dormitories of the five barracks, and the following table shows how many men they were originally intended to accommodate, how many men now occupy them, and the available room in each:
It will be seen from the above that there is now room for nearly 200 additional men, without unnecessarily crowding, and considering the small increase shown in the average present during the past two years, the available room would seem sufficient for some time; but with the large increase in the Regular Army and the arduous and tropical service they are now compelled to undergo, a large increase in the applicants for admission is to be expected.
BUILDINGS AND GROUNDS.
The buildings generally were found in excellent condition, though some trouble about foundation and tendency to leakage was indicated; and careful attention and due regard appears to be given to the matter of sanitation, though the monthly report by the surgeon on all matters and buildings does not prevail here, as is habitual at military posts. During the year the steward's quarters have been enlarged. Concrete was being laid in the areas surrounding the Scott building. This is an essential improvement and replaces the old flagging, which is said to have allowed injury to the foundations, as the cracks leaked very badly. Similar improvement is contemplated in the basement of the King building, around which concrete walks have recently been
laid. An addition has been constructed to the cemetery gate lodge, and some of these gate lodges, like the east gate, should be supplied with modern water-closets and bathing facilities. The road from Whitney avenue gate to the Scott monument has been macadamized, and several new roads have been constructed in other parts of the grounds. A new band stand has been erected at the hospital, at a cost of $667.94, and the band is to give frequent concerts there, which will no doubt be greatly enjoyed by the sick. A new silo is being constructed at the dairy, and large and commodious stables have also been recently completed. The new greenhouse presents an attractive appearance. The tearing down of the old and erecting a new stable effects quite a transformation in that section. The expense of the changes in the aggregate and particulars is quite a study.
Among the contemplated improvements, it is rumored that the Anderson building may be demolished to make room for an addition to the Scott building, which is now a huge pile. This addition, it is said, is to provide room for the different location of the amusement hall. The rooms now used for that purpose in the several buildings are located in the basements, as of the Sherman or Scott building, are considered too small and illy ventilated, and the only partially occupied old dining room is not preferred for the purpose, and the new marble building has uses of its own. While an amusement hall of greater capacity and better ventilation is probably needed, it is suggested that with the acreage involved and sites available for additional buildings, it seems a pity that the demolition of such a historic and traditional building as the Anderson building should be entertained for a moment. That building stood before General Scott collected the nucleus of $118,791.19 for this humane institution, levied by him in his triumphant march into Mexico during the war with that Republic. It harbored the pioneer member, Martin Fullman, of the Third Artillery, who entered the Home July 25, 1851, fifty years ago. In fact, it dates back until few can tell, and still remains as a typical structure, in good condition and repair. But this is not all. It was the summer home of the martyr President Lincoln during the stirring times of the civil war, and for this alone should be carefully preserved and revered by all, though other Presidents of the United States, like Buchanan, Hayes, Garfield, and Arthur, were wont to spend a portion of their summers there. To build an amusement hall is one thing and to demolish a building with such traditions as these is very different. Other available sites seem to be quite as eligible, and at some of the Volunteer Homes the amusement hall is thought to be better as a separate building, devoted only to this purpose, or united, as at the Marion Branch, in a new building for a mess hall and kitchen, which may appear to be needed.
The building used for the office of the governor and treasurer seems crowded and entirely too small for the purpose, and an administration building of adequate size appears essential.
The chapel is to be enlarged the coming year, at a cost of $4,500.
A statement is given below of the cost of repairs, etc., on the different principal structures at the Home for the past ten years:
$205.00 $2,995.58 $3,531. 21
3,506.76 443.59 469.92
451. 12 666. 37 239.66 1895.
2, 270.66 253. 96 320.57 237.97 20.22 212.77 2.00 161. 16 1896.
1, 208.65 202.52 38. 32 181.81 449.46 59.37 1.99 303.80 1, 237.27 1897. 431. 45 233. 39 169. 17 81.33
88. 39 49.93 2, 253. 48 3, 307.14 1898. 144. 15 680.55
1,814.54 3, 389.62 18991 2,528. 84 343.96
2,253.00 600.61 1,988.49 729.75 8,444.65 1900.. 1,001.37 1,080.34 465.08
758.70 5, 362.04 1901 1, 259.04 | 4,059.96 1,353.77
6,498.97 | 14, 248.98 Total.. 6,998.809, 031.84 2,510.29 3,232.18 5,529.40 2,913.78 16, 290.69 46,506.98
$1.74 4. 67 3.09 1.78 1.81 4.57 4.51 10.44
6.44 16. 49
1 From October 1 to June 30.
For full information as to the dimensions, construction, cost, etc., of the buildings, attention is invited to Exhibit T in the appendix.
The first sergeants, floor sergeants, and Home police enforce the discipline in the buildings, and the watchmen, provost sergeant, and Home police look after the grounds. Some of the Home police are mounted on bicycles and wear a badge similar to the city police. They are regularly deputized by the superintendent of the District police, and are empowered to make arrests.
Ninety-one per cent of the members committed no offense during the year; last year the figures were 80.5 per cent, showing a commendable improvement.
To mention feeble and old men's irregularities at all may seem to give them undue prominence, as their uniform does.
Drunkenness, for which there were 124 trials, is, like at all institutions of this character, the most numerous offense, and 98 members were tried for it, 26 of whom offended more than once. Thirty members deserted during the year, and 58 were tried for absence without leave. The penalties attached for breaches of discipline are dismissal, suspension, and light labor on the Home grounds. The longest sentence being served at the time of the inspection was 30 days' light labor. Passes are granted whenever applied for, excepting to the inmates who are undergoing punishment.
The amusements appear more ample and of better variety than formerly. They consist of billiards, pool, bagatelle, chess, backgammon, checkers, cards, dominoes, quoits, golf, theatrical performances, lectures, and concerts. The old men clustered on the lawn when the band plays present quite a tableau.
Billiards, pool, cards, and checkers are liberally patronized and best liked, though no particular amusement is objected to and all are indulged in.