References to Richmond Hospitals [Robertson primarily] in Diary of a Southern Refugee, by Judith W. McGuire, 1867
p. 96 [2/23/1862] ...But to-day is Saturday, and I must go to the hospital to take care of our sick - particularly to nurse our little soldier-boy. Poor child, he is very ill!
p. 97 [3/7/1862] Just returned from the hospital. Several severe cases of typhoid fever require constant attention. Our little Alabamian seems better, but so weak! I left them for a few moments to go see Bishop Meade; he sent for me to his room. I was glad to see him looking better, and quite cheerful. Bishops Wilmer and Elliott came in, and my visit was very pleasant. I returned to my post by the bedside of the soldiers. Some of them are very fond of hearing the Bible read; and I am yet to see the first soldier who has not received with apparent interest any proposition of being read to from the Bible. To-day, while reading, an elderly man of strong, intelligent face sat on the side of the bed, listening with interest. I read of the wars of the Israelites and Philistines. He presently said, 'I know why you read that chapter; it is to encourage us, because the Yankee armies are so much bigger than ours; do you believe that God will help us because we are weak?" "No," said I, "but I believe that if we pray in faith, as the Israelites did, that God will hear us." "Yes," he replied, "but the Philistines didn't pray, and the Yankees do; and though I can't bear the Yankees, I believe some of them are Christians, and pray as hard as we do; ["Monstrous few on 'em," grunted out a man lying near him;] and if we pray for one thing, and they pray for another, I don't know what to think of our prayers clashing." "Well, but what do you think of the justice of our cause? don't you believe that God will hear us for the justice of our cause?" "Our cause," he exclaimed, "yes, it is just; God knows it is just. I never thought of looking at it that way before, and I was mighty uneasy about the yankee prayers. I am mightily obleeged to you for telling me." "Where are you from?" I asked. "From Georgia." "Are you not over forty-five?" "Oh, yes, I am turned of fifty, but you see I am monstrous strong and well; nobody can beat me with a rifle, and my four boys were a-coming. My wife is dead, and my girls are married; and so I rented out my land, and came too; the country hasn't got men enough, and mustn't stand back on account of age, if we are hearty." And truly he has the determined countenance, and bone and sinew, which make a dangerous foe on the battle-field. I wish we had 50,000 such men.
p. 102 [3/25/1862] Saturday Night. - Spent to-day at the hospital.
p. 104 [4/10/1862] 10th - Spent yesterday in the hospital by the bedside of Nathan Newton, our little Alabamian. I closed his eyes last night at ten o'clock, after an illness of six weeks. His body, by his own request, will be sent to his mother. Poor little boy! He was but fifteen, and should never have left his home. It was sad to pack his knapsack, with his little gray suit, and coloured shirts, so neatly stitched by his poor mother, of whom he so often spoke, calling to us in delirium, "mother, mother," or "Mother, come here." He so often called me mother, that I said to him one day, when his mind was clear, "Nathan, do I look like your mother?" "No, ma'am, not a bit; nobody is like my mother." The packing of his little knapsack reminds me of
THE JACKET OF GRAY.
[a lengthy sentimental poem, which was not transcribed.]
p. 110 [5/2/1862] ...Our young friend, J. S. M., is here, very ill; I am assisting to nurse him.
p. 111 [5/7/1862] ...I sat up last night at the hospital with D. L., who is desperately ill - his mother in the Federal lines. My companion during the night was Colonel M., of Maryland. While listening to the ravings of delirium, two gentlemen came in, announcing heavy firing on the river. We had been painfully conscious of the firing before, but remembering that Drury's Bluff was considered impregnable, I felt much more anxious about the patient than about the enemy. The gentle-men, however, were panic-stricken, and one of them seemed to think that "sunrise would find gun-boats at Rocketts." Not believing it possible, I felt no alarm, but the apprehensions of others made me nervous and unhappy. At daybreak I saw loads of furniture passing by, showing that people were taking off their valuables.
p. 120 [6/9/1862] ...Each telegram that is brought into the hospital makes me blind with apprehension, until it passes me, and other countenances denote the same anxiety; but we dare not say a word which may unnerve the patients; they are rejoicing amid their pain and anguish over our victories. Poor fellows! dearly have they paid for them, with the loss of limb, and other wounds more painful still. They want to be cured that they may be on the field again. "Thank God," said a man, with his leg amputated, "that it was not my right arm, for then I could never have fought again; as soon as this stump is well I shall join Stuart's cavalry; I can ride with a wooden leg as well as a real one."
p. 125 [6/27/1862] ...The citizens - gentlemen as well as ladies - have been fully occupied in the hospitals. Kent, Paine & Co. have thrown open their spacious building for the use of the wounded.
p. 169-170 [11/7/1862] ...A number of coverlets, made of the most elegant Brussels carpeting, were sent by Mr. B., of Halifax County, the other day, to our hospital, with a request to Miss T. that blankets should be given from the hospital to the camp, as more easily transported from place to place, and the carpeting retained in the hospital. This was immediately done. The blankets that could be spared from private houses were given last winter. How it gladdens my heart when I see that a vessel has run the blockade, and arrived safely at some Southern port, laden with ammunition, arms, and clothing for the army!
p. 170 [11/12/1862] 12th. - Spent yesterday at the hospital - very few patients.
p. 188-189 [2/12/1863] ...Since I have been so occupied in nursing B. I have not had as much time for the hospital, but go when I can. A few days ago, on going there in the morning, I found Miss T[ompkins] deeply interested about a soldier who had been brought in the evening before. The gentleman who accompanied him found him in the pouring rain, wandering about the streets, shivering with cold, and utterly unable to tell his own story. The attendants quickly replaced his wet clothes by dry ones, and put him into a warm bed; rubbing and warm applications were resorted to, and a surgeon administered restoratives. Physical reaction took place, but no clearing of the mind. When soothingly asked about his name, his home, and his regiment, he would look up and speak incoherently, but no light was thrown on the questions. He was watched and nursed during the night. His pulse gradually weakened, and by the break of day he was no more. That morning I found the nameless, homeless boy on the couch which I had so often seen similarly occupied. The wind had raised one corner of the sheet, and as I approached to replace it a face was revealed which riveted me to the spot. It was young, almost boyish, and though disease and death had made sad ravages, they could not conceal delicately-carved features, a high, fair forehead, and light hair, which had been well cared for. He looked like one of gentle blood. All seemed so mysterious, my heart yearned over him, and my tears fell fast. Father, mother, sisters, brothers - where are they? The morning papers represented the case, and called for information. He may have escaped in delirium from one of the hospitals! That evening, kind, gentle hands placed him in his soldier's coffin, and he had Christian burial at "Hollywood," with the lonely word 'Stranger" carved upon the headboard. We trust that the sad story in the papers may meet some eye of which he had once been the light, for he was surely "Somebody's Darling."
p. 201-202 [3/27/1863] ...One of the ladies of the hospital, seeing this morning two rough-looking convalescent soldiers sitting by the stove, exhorted them to observe the day by prayer and fasting. They seemed to have no objection to the praying, but could not see the "good of fasting," and doubted very much whether "Marse Jeff fasted all day himself - do you reckon he does?" The lady laughingly told him that she would inquire and let them know, but she reckoned that such was his habit. In the course of the morning she met with Mrs. Davis, and told her the anecdote. "Tell them from me," said Mrs. D., "that Mr. Davis never eats on fast-day, and that as soon as he returns from church he shuts himself up in his study, and is never interrupted during the day, except on public business." Of course this was soon given as an example, not only to the two convalescents, but to the whole hospital.
p. 207 [4/15/1863] 15th. - Spent yesterday in the hospital. I am particularly interested in two very ill men. One is a youth of seventeen years, who has been seventeen months in service. Poor boy! he is now sinking with consumption, and has lately been brought to our hospital from another. His case elicits great sympathy and kindness. His name is Stansberry, and he is from Baltimore. We have reason to hope that he is prepared to meet his God.
p. 207-208 [4/17/1863] 17th. - On going to the hospital yesterday, I found that young Stansberry had died, surrounded by sympathizing friends, and having a bright hope of a blessed immortality. We are anxious about our armies everywhere, from the Mississippi to the seaboard...
18th. - ...Yesterday spent in the hospital; some of the men are very ill. I go back tomorrow.
p. 213 [5/16/1863] ...I have been in Richmond for two days past, nursing the wounded of our little hospital. Some of them are very severely injured, yet they are the most cheerful invalids I ever saw. It is remarked in all the hospitals that the cheerfulness of the wounded in proportion to their suffering is much greater than that of the sick. Under my care, yesterday, was one poor fellow, with a ball embedded in his neck; another with an amputated leg; one with a hole in his breast, through which a bullet had passed; another with a shattered arm; and others wit slighter wounds; yet all showed indomitable spirit; evinced a readiness to be amused or interested in everything around them, and gloried in their late victory; and expressed an anxiety to get well, that they may have another "chance at them fellows."...
p. 218 [5/28/1863] May 28. - Hospital day. The wounded cheerful and doing well. I read, distributed books, and talked with them. They are always ready to be amused, or to be instructed. I have never but in one instance had an unpleasant word or look from any whom I endeavored to treat with kindness in any way. Bible reading is always kindly received. J. J. Has returned home, as usual much interested in hospital work.
p. 225 [7/3/1863] ...Spent yesterday in the hospital; the wounded are getting on well. The city was put into a blaze of excitement by the report that General Dix was marching on it from the White House...
p. 230 [7/14/1863] ...To-day spent in the hospital; a number of wounded there from the fatal field of Gettysburg.. They are not severely wounded, or they could not have been brought so far...
p. 233 [7/23/1863] ...Spent the day at the hospital. Mr. --- has just received a post chaplaincy from Government, and is assigned to the Officers' Hospital on Tenth Street. For this we are thankful, as the performance of the duties of the ministerial office is in all respects congenial to his taste and feeling. I pray that God may give him health and strength for the office!
p. 237 [8/26/1863] August 26. - A week ago I was called to Camp Jackson to nurse ----, who has been very sick there. It is under the supervision of Surgeon Hancock, whose whole soul seems engaged in making it an attractive home to the sick and wounded. The beautiful shade-trees and bold spring are delightful to the convalescents during this warm weather. Fast-day was observed there with great solemnity. I heard a Methodist chaplain preach to several hundred soldiers, and I never saw a more attentive congregation.
p. 266 [5/12/1864] ...My time, when out of the office, is much absorbed by the hospital. Many wounded are brought in from both sides of the river...
p. 267 [5/13/1864] ...The funeral [of Gen. J. E. B. Stuart] took place this evening, from St. James's Church. My duty to the living prevented my attending it, for which I am very sorry; but I was in the hospital from three o'clock until eight, soothing the sufferers in the only way I could, by fanning them, bathing their wounds, and giving them a word of comfort. Mr. ---- and others of our household were at the funeral. They represent the scene as being very imposing.
p. 307 [9/18/1864] ...I went with Mr. ---- as usual this morning to the "Officers' Hospital," where he read a part of the service and delivered an address to such patients among the soldiers as were well enough to attend. I acted as his chorister, and when the services were over, and he went around to the bedsides of the patients, I crossed the street, as I have done several times before, to the cemetery - the old "Shockoe Hill Cemetery." It is, to me, the most interesting spot in the city. It is a melancholy thought, that, after an absence of thirty years, I am almost a stranger in my native place. In the cemetery I go from spot to spot, and find the names that were the household words of my childhood and youth; the name of my father's and mother's friends; of the friends of my sisters, and of my own school days. The first that struck me was that of the venerable and venerated Bishop Moore, [McGuire here gives a wonderful description of some of the graves in Shockoe Cemetery, but this was too long to transcribe.]
p. 310 [9/28/1864] ...[describing her new quarters] We have a long walk to our offices, but it is very near my hospital. Mr. ---'s hospital is very far from every point, as it is on the outskirts of the city; but he thinks the walk is conducive to his health, so that we are, upon the whole, very comfortable.
p. 311 [10/28/1864] 28th. - Very much interested lately in the hospitals; not only in our own, "the Robertson hospital," but in Mr. ----'s, "the officers' hospital." [next paragraph offers a lengthy anecdote regarding a dying patient at the officers' hospital.]
p. 316 [11/21/1864] 21st. - We attended hospital services yesterday as usual. There are few patients, and none are very ill. On Friday night a most unexpected death took place, under very painful circumstances. A young adjutant lost his life by jumping out of a window at the head of his bed, about ten feet from the ground. His attendants were a sister, brother, and two servants. His suffering with a wound in his foot had been so intense that he would not allow any one to touch it except the ward-master, who handled it with the greatest tenderness. Yet while his attendants were asleep (for they thought it unnecessary to be up with him all night) he managed to get up, raise the window, and throw himself out, without disturbing one of them. His mind was no doubt unsettled, as it had been before. He lived about an hour after being found His poor sister was wild with grief and horror, and his other attendants dreadfully shocked.
p. 328-330 [1/8/1865] ...[describing the custom of "starvation parties" in Richmond] When returning from the hospital, after witnessing the dying scene of a brother, whose young sister hung over him in agony, with my heart full of the sorrows of hospital-life, I passed a house where there were music and dancing. The revulsion of feeling was sickening. I thought of the gayety of Paris during the French Revolution, of the "cholera ball" in Paris, the ball at Brussels the night before the battle of Waterloo, and felt shocked that our own Virginias, at such a time, should remind me of scenes which we won't to think only belonged to the lightness of foreign society....[p. 330] A soldier in our hospital called to me as I passed his bed the other day, "I say, Mrs. ---, when do you think my wound will be well enough for me to go to the country?" "Before very long, I hope." "But what does the doctor say, for I am mighty anxious to go?" I looked at his disabled limb, and talked to him hopefully of his being able to enjoy country air in a short time. "Well, try to get me up, for, you see, it ain't the country air I am after, but I wants to get marries, and the lady don't know that I am wounded, and maybe she'll think I don't want to come." "Ah," said I, "but you must show her your scars, and if she is a girl worth having she will love you all the better for having bled for your country; and you must tell her that
"'It is always the heart that is bravest in war,
That is fondest and truest in love.'"
He looked perfectly delighted with the idea,; and as I passed him again he called out, "Lady, please stop a minute and tell me the verse over again, for, you see, when I do get there, if she is affronted, I wants to give her the prettiest excuse I can, and I think that verse is beautiful."
p. 334-340 [3/10/1865] ...To-day I have spent in the hospital, and was very much interested in our old Irishman. He has been there for more than two years; first as a patient sent from Drury's Bluff, with ague and fever. Though apparently long past the military age, he had enlisted as a soldier in a Georgia regiment, but it was soon discovered that he was physically unable to stand camp-life; he was therefore detailed to work in the gardens, which supplied the soldiers at the Bluff with vegetables. He got well, and returned to the post, but was soon sent back again, too sick for service. Miss T[ompkins] employed him as gardener and market man to her hospital. We all became interested in him, because of his quiet, subdued manner, faithfulness to his duty, and respectful bearing. Some months ago his health began to decline, and day after day he was watched and cared for by the surgeon and the ladies with deep interest; but he steadily declines in strength, and is now confined to his cot, and it is but too evident that his end is approaching. We had all remarked that he never alluded to his early history, and was singularly reserved with regard to his religious faith; yet, as long as he was able to go out, he might be seen every Sunday seated alone in a corner of the gallery of St. James's Church. This evening, as I was walking around the room in which he lies, and had just administered to him some nourishment he said to me: "When you get through with the men won't you come back and let me talk to ye?" When I returned and took my seat by him, he looked earnestly in my face, and said; "Mrs. ----, you have an Irish name - have you friends there?" "No, my husband's grandfather was from Ireland, but we have no relatives there now.." "Yes," was his reply, "it is a good name in Ireland, and you have been kind to me, and I want to talk to you a bit before I die. You know that I am a Protestant, and I have been constantly to Mr. Peterkin's church since I came here, because I like the church, and I like him; and I hope that now I am prepared to die. But I was not brought up an Episcopalian in the old country - our house was divided, like. [at this point the man tells his tale of woe, relating to his departure from Ireland and settlement in America. Very long and depressing, and was not transcribed.]
His story was done. He looked at me, and said, "You have all been so good to me, particularly Miss T. God bless you all for it! I am now almost at my journey's end. When I looked up I found the men subdued and sorrowful. The story, and the weak, sad tone with which it was told, had touched them all, and brought tears from some.
p. 350 [4/6/1865] ...I have been nowhere since Monday, except to see my dear old friend Mrs. R., and to the hospital. There I am not much subjected to the harrowing sights and sounds by which we are surrounded. The wounded must be nursed; poor fellows, they are so sorrowful! Our poor old Irishman died on Sunday. The son of a very old acquaintance was brought to our hospital a few days ago, most severely wounded - Colonel Charles Richardson, of the artillery. We feared at first that he must die, but now there is a little more hope. It is so sad that after four years of bravery and devotion to the cause, he should be brought to his native city, for the defence of which he would have gladly given his life, dangerously if not mortally wounded, when its sad fate is just decided. I love to sit by his bedside and try to cheer him; his friends seem to vie with each other in kind attentions to him.
p. 352 [4/12/1865] ...I went to the hospital, as was my duty. My dear friend S. T. [Sally Tompkins] cheers me, by being utterly incredulous about the reported surrender. As usual, she is cheerfully devoting her powers of mind and body to her hospital. For four years she has never thought of her own comfort, when by sacrificing it she could alleviate a soldier's sorrow. Miss E. D., who has shared with her every duty, every self-sacrificing effort in behalf of our sick and wounded soldiers, is now enduring the keenest pangs of sorrow from the untimely death of her venerable father. On the day of the evacuation, while walking too near a burning house, he was struck by a piece of falling timber, and the blow soon closed his long life. Alas! the devoted daughter, who had done so much for other wounded, could do nothing for the restoration of one so dear to her.
p. 351 [4/13/1865] ...Our wounded are doing well - those who remain in our hospital and the convalescents have been ordered to "Camp Jackson." Indeed, all the patients were included in the same order; but Miss T. Having represented that several of them were not in a condition to be removed, they have been allowed to remain where they are.
Colonel R. is improving, for which we are most thankful.
p. 354 [4/14/1865] ...Good Friday. - As usual, I went to the hospital, and found Miss T[ompkins] in much trouble. A peremptory order has been given by the Surgeon-General to remove all patients. In the opinion of our surgeon, to five of them it would be certain death. The ambulances were at the door. Miss T. and myself decided to go at once to the Medical Director and ask him to recall the order. We were conducted to his office, and, for the first time since the entrance of the Federal army, were impolitely treated. On two occasions we had been obliged to make application to officials, and had been received with great respect and consideration, and we believe it has been uniformly the case; and we were, therefore, very much surprised when a request which seemed to us so reasonable was at first refused most decidedly. We could not give up our application, as it seemed to be a matter of life and death; so we told him what our surgeon had said, and that we hoped he would reconsider his order. He replied, that he should send a surgeon with the ambulances, and if in his judgment they could be removed, it should be done without hesitation, as he was determined to break up all the small hospitals which you have all about town, (ours is the only small hospital in town,) and that he had ordered neither rations nor medicines to be issued to them. Miss T. told him that nothing of the sort was necessary; she had never asked nor received rations from the Federal government; that she had now but five men under her care, and they were desperately wounded, and she would greatly prefer that the hospital should be considered in the light of a private establishment, which we could take care of without asking help. A change came over his countenance, but not his manner; he brusquely told us that he would 'see about it." In an hour afterwards the surgeon and the ambulance came, but after what seemed to me rather a pompous display of surgical examination and learned medical terms, addressed to the lady-nurses, he determined to leave our dear mangled soldiers to our care. One of them is in a dying condition; he cannot survive many hours.
...Mr. ----[McGuire] went to the hospital by the request of Col. Richardson, and had prayers in his room. Ambulances are constantly passing with horses in the finest possible condition - even finer than ours were in the beginning of the war.