From the Richmond Times-Dispatch, 6/2/1907, p. 11, c. 1
Capt. Sally Tompkins and Lieut. Antonia Ford Only Officers.
IN SPITE of the fact that the women of the Confederacy did as much for the “Lost Cause” as the men of the South, and set an example of devotion and loyalty which has never been surpassed in history, but two of this noble band received commissions in the army of the Confederacy as marks of consideration at the hands of the government.
Of these two, Miss Sallie Tompkins, of Richmond, was commissioned a captain on account of her services in caring for ill and wounded soldiers, and Miss Antonia Ford was commissioned first lieutenant of cavalry and aid on General J. E. B. Stuart’s staff on account of signal services rendered the cavalry leader in securing information which saved his army.
Capt. Sally Tompkins.
In a spacious, comfortable apartment, looking out on Grace Street from the second floor of the Home for Needy Confederate Women, No. 3 East Grace Street, this city, sits Captain Sally Tompkins, so commissioned by President Jefferson Davis during the War between the States.
Home in Richmond.
Captain Tompkins is one of the very few Southern women who ranked as an officer in the Confederate army. Certainly, she was most justly rewarded for her love and devotion to the cause of the Confederacy and its heroes.
She was known during the days of the war as the “Angel of the Hospital,” and more than one poet has essayed in eloquent numbers to tell of how, as she passed gently from cot to cot within the whitewashed walls, she comforted the weary, upheld the dying and prayed that the Good Shepherd would shelter them “in His all-encircling arms,” and so bring them to “the green valleys of immortal rest.”
No more honored or beloved figure will appear at the approaching Confederate Reunion than that of Captain Tompkins.
She is bright, cheery and active, interested in all that goes on, and always glad to see the many friends who count among their pleasures, a visit to Captain Tompkins and a chat with her in her room, which reflects the individuality of its occupant.
Captain Tompkins is the daughter of the late Christopher Tompkins, of “Poplar Grove,” Matthews county, Va. She has made Richmond her home continuously since the year 1852, except for two years spent in the home of Mrs. Thomas H. Carter, at the University of Virginia.
She established a private hospital at the corner of third and Main Streets, in what was then Judge Robertson’s house, ten days after the first battle of Manassas.
In referring to her motive for opening the hospital, Miss Tompkins said to a recent visitor: “My aim and object was to help all I could, not to be paid for it.”
And then she repeated with genuine feeling and emphasis:
“What I did for the wounded and ill Confederate soldiers was entirely a work of love; I never took any pay – never.”
Quite a number of private hospitals were established, but, unlike Miss Tompkins, charges were made by some of them for services rendered.
In course of time abuses crept into the system, and President Davis, believing that the men were returned to duty less promptly than from public institutions, ordered them all closed except that over which Miss Tompkins presided.
Commission as Captain.
In order to make an exception, because the Confederacy could not afford to dispense with the valuable help she rendered, President Davis ordered a commission as captain in the Confederate army to be issued to Miss Tompkins. Though hers was a government hospital from that time on, Captain Tompkins conducted it as before, paying the expenses incurred out of her private purse.
Among the 1,390 soldiers who were nursed under the captain’s direction were many Marylanders.
“The were most anxious,” says Captain Sally, “that I should call mine a Maryland hospital. But I said I could not because I was a Virginian, and too loyal to my State.
Mr. Halladay, of Maryland, who was disabled by a wound received at the first battle of Manassas, remained in the hospital for a year, filling the position of hospital steward to Captain Tompkins. She also received appreciated help from Mrs. Sims and Mrs. Mary Page, a daughter of General Richardson.
“The dangerously wounded or ill Confederate soldiers were sent to me,” Captain Sally affirms, “because President Davis said they received such careful attention in my hospital.”
The captain tells a good joke on herself about a friendly conspiracy among her Richmond admirers that resulted in the war-time picture appearing in The Times-Dispatch of to-day, being taken.
“Two young girls from Mathews county, relatives of mine, had come to Richmond,” says Captain Tompkins. “One was staying with me and one with Mrs. Crump. I took my young guest to the photographer’s for the purpose of having a picture taken.”
“When she had gotten through with her sitting, and we turned to leave, imagine my surprise when I found the door locked.”
“What do you mean?” I asked of the photographer. “Are we prisoners?”
“I have orders to hold you as such, Captain Tompkins,” said he, “until I can get your photograph.”
“And that is the reason,” declares Captain Sally, laughing, “that there is a photograph of me in existence. I just had to get back to my sick boys, and I paid the price of having the door opened.”
[remainder of article describes the life and deeds of Lieutenant Antonia Ford, an honorary aide on JEB Stuart’s staff, and was not transcribed. – MDG]