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Sunday, August 25, 2013

The Nation's First Home for Soldiers

Excerpted from: Darientimes.com, Darien, Connecticut
By Marian Castell


Fitch’s Home for Soldiers, on Noroton Avenue where the Allen-O’Neill Moderate Income Family Homes are now, was built using personal funds, by Benjamin Fitch, one year after the Battle of Gettysburg. For years it served as a shining example as the first and only home for soldiers in the U.S.

Facilities for orphans were included as the number of disabled soldiers declined, and room became available for the many children of the veterans. Due to the influx of children, the home then became the newest and most up to date school in town, and the state legislature incorporated it as Darien School District No. 5.

It was a prominent part of Darien for the next half century and served as a home, hospital and refuge for needy veterans of all wars. Blue-uniformed Civil War veterans were still a presence in town well into the 20th Century. Currently the headstones of hundreds of these veterans are visible in the state Veterans Cemetery across from the Darien police station.

Darien also has two Civil War Medal of Honor recipients buried in town. David Scofield is in the Slawson Cemetery and Oscar Peck, awarded the Medal of Honor at 14 years old, rests in the state Veterans Cemetery.

IMAGE: Many Civil War veterans made the Fitch Home for Soldiers in Darien their home after the war. It was the first such home for American veterans.

Mrs. Castell is the town historian and a member of the town Monuments & Ceremonies Commission.

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