Alexander Hunter, 17th Va. Inf., Johnny Reb and Billy Yank, pp. 563-565

The three days I spent in that hospital [Chimborazo] were the most terrible of my life; with nothing to do but to fight away the bloated flies which clung to the wounded spots until they were mashed. I am convinced that a month in that Hades would either have killed or maddened any patient. Like many, I sank into a listless melancholy and cared for nothing on this mundane sphere.

On the third day my sister, accompanied by the surgeon of the post, found me, and within an hour I was transferred to a private hospital in Franklin Street.

This home was the result of the efforts of a devoted woman who, without money, collected enough by persistent endeavor from the Richmond people to found a hospital, which was supported entirely by voluntary contributions. The most seriously wounded soldiers were treated there.

Miss Sallie Tompkins was the heroine and she threw her whole soul into her work; her hospital, "The Robertson," was incomparably the best in Richmond, and lucky the soldier whose form rested upon the snowy sheets of this retreat.

Miss Sallie as a quartermaster would have been worth her weight in gold; she was a born forager, and no matter how scarce vegetables might be in the beleagured city, she always managed to secure enough for her patients; indeed, fed them so well that some of them actually grew fat and refused to go home on a wounded furlough because they had such a royal time at The Robertson, which, by the way, was situated in the most fashionable part of the city.

If the sanitary side of the house was complete, the medical department was no less so under the management of one of the most eminent surgeons in the Confederate States, and his skill was only equalled by his kindness and great heart.

Doctor A. Y. P. Garnett was probably the most popular man among the soldiers in the South. He effected wonderful cures at The Robertson, and would stay by the seriously wounded day and night, fighting death step by step.

Surely if all the wounded that Dr. Garnett pulled through and made whole would join ranks, there would he a very strong brigade of staunch, lusty fellows, who but for him would have made rich the soil.

To have been born a gentleman and reared as such, to prove worthy of oneís birth and training, is to have reached the summit of every manís high ambition. Coming from a race whose blood was pure for generations, Dr. Garnett inherited also the bright brain of his ancestors, and by his talents made a name which has ever been famous in Virginia.

He was the family physician of Mr. Jefferson Davis and of General Robert E. Lee, and an intimate social friend of the leaders of the Confederacy. Indeed his influence over Mr. Davis was second to none, and he was often chosen by officers high in rank to broach schemes to the President which conspired for the benefit of the country.

Miss Sallie made a set of rules and expected obedience from her soldier pets, who loved her, every man of them. At eight A. M. breakfast was served; at ten the lady visitors came, bringing food, wine and flowers, and many remained all day, reading to or writing for the disabled, or assisting Miss Sallie about the house. At two dinner was served in the patientsí rooms and in the dining-room; at seven supper, and until nine those patients who were able were allowed to leave the hospital for recreation or visiting; but they were to be back punctually at the stated hour or the door was locked; but repeated summons always brought Miss Sallie in person. She would not say much, but before those rebuking eyes the bravest soldier in the Confederacy would quake.

Miss Sallie trusted to the honor of her patients, and it was laughable to see some half-tight six-footer blush and stammer his excuses before the reproving four feet ten inches of femininity.

There were hundreds of the wounded sent home daily from the various hospitals, and nearly every farm-house in southside Virginia had one or more patients to attend to.

A party of ladies from the country came to The Robertson to choose convalescents to take back with them. I was drawn by a Colonel Ashlin, and was to leave the next morning, Miss Sallie promising to have my ticket and passport ready.

Now I wanted my comrade, Will Edelin, to go along, Dr. Garnett having good-naturedly said that a little rusticating would not hurt him; hut he looked too rotund and rosy to pass off for a patient under treatment. I told Edelin that he should go, but he said that without his furlough and medical passport it was impossible.

He helped me into the canal boat the next morning, and when the lines were being cast off, the mules touched up and the guard was driving everybody ashore whose papers were not en regle, I was taken with a succession of fainting spells, and hung on to Edelin so tightly and implored the guards so piteously not to take him from me, that despite his orders he weakened, and my friend was soon sitting on deck under the awning, as blithe as a cricket.

Page last updated on 02/12/2008