A final stop for many who served


In 1865, the government of the United States purchased a hotel in Togus, Maine, for $50,000. The following October, it opened its doors as a home for disabled volunteer soldiers. The grounds were soon developed to include three-story brick dormitories, a recreation hall, barracks, a hospital, chapel, bakery, and dozens of other necessary structures.

The men who resided at the home signed their federal pensions over to the facility in exchange for their care. By 1878, there were almost 1,000 men living there who had suffered injury or disease as a result of serving in the Civil War. Eventually, more homes for disabled volunteer soldiers were opened across the country.

Several men from Johnston took advantage of what the Togus facility had to offer. William Driscoll was 21 years old when he enlisted in Company G, 58th Massachusetts Infantry in the fall of 1864. Once employed as a file-cutter, Driscoll lived at the home on two occasions. His first stay was due to chronic diarrhea, hyper-dilation of the heart and an opium habit. His final stay was due to chronic nephritis, and he died there in August 1907.

John Shields was 20 years old when he enlisted in Company D, 3rd Rhode Island Heavy Artillery in December 1864. Later, Shields suffered from an insufficient mitral valve of the heart, chronic bronchitis, a stricture of the urethra, rheumatism and malaria. He died at the soldier’s home of pneumonia in February 1908.

Edward Mann was 21 years old when he enlisted in Company G, 1st Rhode Island Light Artillery in April 1861. While in Virginia in 1864, he suffered a back injury. He also suffered from “head trouble” and was transferred from a psychiatric facility to the soldier’s home, where he died in March 1905.

Benjamin Kelton wasn’t a veteran of the Civil War but had enlisted to serve in the Mexican War in 1847 when he was 18 years old. Suffering from general debility, he died in March 1892 of grippe and was buried in the cemetery adjacent to the facility. A former clerk, he had served with Company A of the 9th United States Infantry.

Joseph Henry Staples was 15 years old when he enlisted in Company F, 12th Rhode Island Infantry in the fall of 1862. A former spinner, he was admitted to the home on two occasions with various complicated medical issues. He died in July 1903.

Charles Wilson Dewey was 17 years old when he enlisted in Company F, 10th Connecticut Infantry in October 1861. A former miller and housepainter, he was admitted to the home with stenosis of the mitral valve of the heart. He died in December 1919.

David Vallett was 50 years old when he enlisted in Company E, 5th Rhode Island Heavy Artillery in the fall of 1861. A former carpenter, he suffered from fever and shivering and died in October 1883.

The only remaining structure of the Togus branch U.S. National Home for Disabled Volunteer Soldiers is a 22-room house constructed on the grounds in 1869. In 1974, it was designated a National Historic landmark.


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