Soldier’s 1915 Poem Expresses Opinion of Brownlow Soldiers Home

The Sept. 20, 1915 edition of the Comet newspaper included a section titled, “Soldiers Home News Notes,” containing a page with numerous comments about residents of the Johnson City military facility:


Soldiers' Home Musicians

“Major W.P. Jackson, Uncle Sam’s inspector general of the army, arrived suddenly on payday, and commenced operations by inspecting barracks at one p.m. sharp. He introduced a new wrinkly by having us all lined up out of doors for a thorough inspection of uniforms. The major is a pleasant gentleman, not overloaded with unnecessary red tape and we now hope he will call again when not so busy.”

Another one offers this tidbit: “If a veteran could read his own biography, it would probably surprise him more than anyone else. But such is human nature and it is always well not to speak ill of the dead. Uncle Sam furnishes grave stones for all of us, he is fair and square with all, tells no lies, gives rank and service but nothing else.”

The most revealing item on the page was a poem, titled “The Brownlow Soldiers Home,” providing a poignant reflection of one soldier’s assessment of the Johnson City military facility. Professor W. F. Willard of Company G, 45th Pennsylvania Infantry, wrote the poet:

“I’ve traveled this country over fifty years or more. I’ve been from the Atlantic to the Pacific shore. And many hardships I’ve had as long as I did roam. But at last my lot is cast in the Brownlow Soldiers Home. There’s plenty here to eat and drink and soldier’s clothes to wear. And officers whose duty is to see that I get my share. Of everything a soldier needs and I hope I’ll never roam. If you want to work or if you have a trade. You’ll be enumerated so don’t be afraid. The work is by no means hard – it will never make you roam. But simply occupy your mind in the Brownlow Soldiers Home.

“Should sickness overtake you and bind you in your chains. There are women there to care for you and oft times ease your pain. They will rub you with their lotions and oft times cease your moans. And will always change your notions of the Brownlow Soldiers Home. There are chaplains there to visit you and they will pray at your bedside. They will speak to you consoling words (until) you are satisfied. And if you don’t desire them and you wish to be alone. You can ease your mind and go it blind in the Brownlow Soldiers Home.

“When then breath it does leave you and you have no more to say. Your comrades there most tenderly will bear your corpse away. There’s very little weeping and you seldom hear a moan. At any of the funerals in the Brownlow Soldiers Home. Now the battle of life is over and he is lowered in his grave. His comrades fire a last salute for the soldier true and brave. With the stars and stripes half-mast and great respect is shown. To every vet that meets his death in the Brownlow Soldiers Home.

“Long wave the sentry banner, the emblem of the free. Beneath its fold those warriors bold did gain sweet liberty. For our country ‘tis most grateful which on these grounds have shown. The blessings and the comforts of the Brownlow Soldiers Home.”

This interesting rhyme is a fitting tribute to the dedicated efforts of Walter Brownlow, a Tennessee U.S. representative from 1896 to 1910, for getting the Home approved for Johnson City. The beloved congressman died on July 8, 1910.