The Patient Library, or Putnam Library, (Bldg. 120) was erected in 1880 and was originally used as the Quartermaster’s Building. In 1891, it was converted into a library to house the Putnam and Thomas Libraries. Both Libraries were originally kept in the Headquarters Building when the libraries accumulated so many volumes that space was at a minimum and more space was needed.

The first floor was used as a reading room and circulation area. The Putnam Library was placed on the second floor and the Thomas Library was placed on the third floor. The new building provided the space needed for the growing collection of books. By 1905, there were a combined number of 24,524 books in the libraries.

Several improvements were made to the Library. In 1904 the south wing was completed and a cement floor was put in the basement. In 1937 the west porch was remodeled with the removal of the original wooden supports and replacement with the brick columns. New pipe rails were also installed. In 1955 a brick porch, a concrete ramp, and pipe railing were added to the east wing of the building.

Initially Building 120 was the Quartermaster Building. It was converted to the Patient Library in 1891 to accommodate an ever-expanding book collection. The Patient Library was used as such until it closed in May 2000. The building was rededicated in April 2003. The American Veterans Heritage Center was given permission to Headquarter there and in January 2006, Miami Valley Military History Museum opened. In addition to the museum and AVHC office, the building is also the meeting place for several other groups, including the Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War.

“The Putnam Library, is the gift of Mrs. Mary Lowell Putnam of Boston Mass., to the Veterans of the National Home for Disabled Volunteer Soldiers, near Dayton, Ohio as a memorial to her gallant son, Lieutenant William Lowell Putnam of the Twentieth Regiment Massachusetts Volunteers, who fell mortally wounded at the battle of ball’s bluff, Virginia, and died the following day; thus offering up his young and beautiful life to maintain the honor and integrity of his country.”

So begins the text of the introduction to the Putnam Library Catalog and written by Chaplain William Earnshaw, who was also the Librarian.
Chaplain Earnshaw continues; “There could be no more fitting illustration of the patriotic heroism that characterized the young men of our country at the time when the national flag was fired upon, than that furnished by the young soldier whose honored name this superb Library bears. Though very young, he had spent seven years in Europe, completing his education, and traveling over most of the Continent; but, at the first sound of war, he hastened home, to place himself in the front ranks of his country’s defenders; and in less than three months, from the time he enlisted, his name was placed in the bright galaxy of the “Martyrs to Liberty.

And those of us who had the honor to serve in the same glorious cause, and have so fortunately survived to enjoy the blessings he died to purchase, may look upon his face (so finely delineated by the artist), which adorns the beautiful Hall, where the rich gifts of his loving mother are treasured, and ever revere his memory and strive to emulate his noble example.

‘At the age of eighteen,’ writes Dr. Guepin of Nantes, ‘he returned to us as a young poet and serious thinker, under the form of a tall, handsome youth as modest and reserved in society, as firm and courageous in the practice of his duties. His dream for the future had not changed-it was still that of serving the interests of his country and humanity, as a historian.’

In addition to the fine collection of Standard and Illustrated Books in the Library, Mrs. Putnam has presented about three hundred paintings, steel engravings, chromos and other pictures, in appropriate frames, making a most interesting and valuable collection, and furnishing elegant adornment for the walls of the room; also, a superior camera for viewing pictures; all of which she has delivered at the Home free of any expense.
That this munificent gift is duly appreciated by the inmates of the Home is shown by the constant use of the Books-the number of volumes taken out being greater in proportion than that of many larger collections-while the admiration and encomiums of thousands of visitors form a perpetual tribute to the noble donor.”

WILLIAM EARNSHAW, Chaplain and Librarian
Beginning in 1868, Mrs. Putnam sent boxes of books to Dayton’s Soldier’s Home five times a year as a memorial to her son, William Lowell Putnam, Jr. who fell in 1861 at the battle of Ball’s Bluff. The Veterans in the Home constructed the massive bookcase of black and white walnut in the Putnam Library. She sent a wreath to hang above William’s portrait on the bookcase at each anniversary of her son’s death.

William L. Putnam was a law student when the Civil War began. He was commissioned Second Lieutenant, Company E, Twentieth Regiment Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry, on July 10, 1861, and mustered on July 22, 1861. He was mortally wounded in his bowels at Ball’s Bluff, Virginia, on October 21, 1861. This regiment suffered 194 casualties that day, thirty-eight of them killed or mortally wounded. Lieutenant Putnam was transported across the Potomac River to the regimental hospital in Maryland, where he died the next day. His comrade, Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr., was also wounded and brought to the hospital.

Note that the inscription gives the name and date of the battle, although official sources state that he actually died the following day, at his regimental hospital in Maryland. His remains were transported to Massachusetts, to be buried at Mount Auburn Cemetery, Cambridge.

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