Of Chimborazo Park

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<original clipping in the possession of The Museum of the Confederacy, Richmond, VA.>

Of Chimborazo Park

Dr. James B. McCaw gave it its name

How he came to give it the name -- interesting war history of the famous Hill.

The Richmond Traction Company having opened the beauties of Chimborazo Park to the Richmond public, by its splendid transportation facilities, it occurred to me that a short history as to how the Hill got its name would not be on interesting, and with this object in view I mention the fact to my old friend and neighbor, Dr. James B. McCaw, who immediately said: "Why I am the very man you want, for I gave it the name of "Chimborazo," and it happened in this way,"

"When the Federal troops moved in force on Centreville in 1862, and the real campaign opened, Gen. Joseph E. Johnston reported 9,000 would have to be sent back to Richmond, before the Army could move. Surgeon--General S. P. Moore, of the C. S. A., came to see me, an asked what could be done? I was not in the service at that time, but had enlisted in a cavalry company, which was being organized and equipped at our own expense, so I determined to do what I could to meet the emergency. The surgeon--general had only 2,500 beds in all, and I made the suggestion that we should take the hill forming the eastern prolong of Broad Street, and use it for hospital purposes.

We started in on the first of April, and in one week we had 2000, and in two weeks we had 4000 men in our hospital. We bought out the Grants, Mayos and other large tobacco manufacturers whose vocation was practically at an end for the period of the war, and made use of the boilers from their factories for making soup in our soup -- houses, and the large supply of splendid Lee seasoned wood for making tobacco boxes, etc., in these factories supplied us with materials for making beds and other furniture. We took charge of the hands employed in knees tobacco factories and used them in doing the manual labor incident to building, etc., in our hospital construction.

We organized five (5) large, well old until a kid hospitals with 30 wards to each hospital, each 100x30 feet, which dimensions allowed of two rows of cots on each side of a central aisle: These hospital buildings were not all built at once, but pari passu as needed to furnish comfortable quarters for the sick and wounded soldiers sent to to us. From the time of its inception to the date of its capture, all in the third of April, 1865, that total number of patients received and treated at Chimborazo hospital amounted to 76,000. It was the first medical organization in point of size in this country and in the world, the next largest hospital in this country being the Lincoln hospital at Washington D. C., which reported a total of 46,000 patients; and the next largest in the world at large was the Scutari hospital in the Crimea, which reported a total of 30,000 to 40,000 patients. The percentage of deaths at Chimborazo was a little over nine percent. Complete records were kept and are still in existence in the office of these surgeon -- general at Washington, D. C. upon which the name of every patient can be found when wanted, and the cause of death.

For the purpose of making our hospital and independent institution, the Secretary of War of this C. S. A. made "Chimborazo" an Army post, and I was made commandant. An officer and 30 men were kept stationed there, and everything was conducted there selon les regles.

These five (5) hospitals were organized as far as possible on State basis, troops from the same state being thrown together, and cared for by officers and attendants from their own state. The states represented at Chimborazo were Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, and Alabama.

Another very important fact was that we commuted our rations, and took the money with which we bought everything which we needed, and at the close of the war Confederate Government owed us 300,000 dollars, which Mr. Memminger, Secretary of the C. S. treasury agreed to pay in gold on the 29th of March, and on the third day of April the city of Richmond was surrendered.

In 1861, there was on what is now known as "Chimborazo Hill" but one solitary house, owned by Richard Laughton, and a small office. We built five soup -- houses, a bakery, brewery, five ice -- houses, etc. Mr. Franklin Stearns lent us his celebrated farm, "Tree Hill," for the pasturage of from 100 to 200 cows, and from 300 to 500 goats, which later proved to be the best subsistance we had, supplying us with kid neat, the most nutritious and palatable for sick in wounded men.

Among the staff were the following name the gentleman, John H. Claiborne, commissary; Col. A. S. Buford, quarter master; Charles Werthan, quarter master; Kent, Paine, and Kent, our commision merchants, and many others. Lawrence Lottier was in command of our trading canal boat, "Chimborazo," which traded between Richmond and Lexington, bartering cotton yarns, shoes, newbys, etc., for provisions.

This surgeon--general said I don't know what name to give you, as you are not in the Army. I said don't call it "General Hospital," but let's give it a distinctive name and call it "Chimborazo."

The medical organization: first Virginia division, Dr. Brown, of Accomac, in charge. First Georgia division, Dr. Habersham, of Savannah Georgia, in charge. First South Carolina division, Dr. E. H. Seabrooke. Alabama, Dr. S. N. Davis.

We had an examining board which passed upon questions of furloughs and discharges. Dr. E. Harvie Smith was in charge of the North Carolina hospital. Every man did his whole duty and everything went without a hitch.

Mrs. Dr. Minge was chief matron. We had many interesting characters among our matrons, and one in particular laws Mary Pettigrew, who was chief of the Virginia division: she was a sister of General Pettigrew, of North Carolina, and was about 20 years of age. Then there was Miss Pemlen and Miss Gordon, of Georgia. There were 45 in all.

The medical staff averaged 45, among whom were Drs. George Ross, Dr. H. C. Tabb, Dr. John Trevillian, Dr. Edward Wiley, Dr. Stratton, about 120 in all.

Chaplin: Rev. Mr. Patterson, who was a Greek by birth, and came to this country when a grown man; he was a very valuable officer.

We made scap of the grease taken from the soup-house: Our lye we imported through the blockade. We made beer by a large scale. We often brewed 400 kegs at a brew, and in order to keep it we built these cavernous cellars on the eastern end of the hill.

When we [newspaper chipped away] separated from Church Hill by the Bloody Run Gulley, and we built the street across the ravine, and completed the formation of the street, or continuation of Broad street.

In addition to our 150 buildings we had 100 Sibley tents, in which we put 8 to 10 convalescent men. These tents were spread upon the slope of the Hill, and presented a very imposing appearance; not less than 17,000 wounded men were treated there, of which number during the four years about 7000 died; we created Oakwood, which up to that time had been comparatively bought a small burial place.

This city of Richmond was surrendered on Monday, April 3rd, 1895 (sic). General Weitzel's brigade in the van of the advancing Federal Army: the General rode up the hill and through the post; he was received by our whole corps of officers in full uniform. Dr. Alexander Mott was chief medical director on the staff of General Weitzel, and as the staff rode into the post, he exclaimed: "Ain't that old Jim McCaw?" I said "Yes! and don't you want a drink?" He said, "Yes and the General will take one too, if you will ask him!" And it goes without saying that the invitation was duly extended and accepted con amore. Mott said that General wants to do anything he can for you which you may want him to do. I asked for a general permit to pass in and out of the lines for myself and for all of my officers, which was promptly granted. As a proof of the good feeling which always existed from the beginning to the very end of the war, General Godfrey Weitzel halted his staff, and gave a general free pass to the commandant and his entire medical corps, and took them all under his protection, and issued a verbal order that all Confederate soldiers there should be taking care of under all circumstances. Gen. Weitzel further offered to put the commandant in the general service of the United States, so that he might issue requisitions, etc., and have the same filled as any other medical director in the U. S. A. But I respectfully declined the proffered appointment, as General Lee had not then surrendered, and I was still in the service of the C.S.A., but voluntarily continued to perform all the duties incident to the position I held, and never solicited anything at all from them other than the passes in and out of the lines.

As to the capacity of our bakery some idea of its dimensions may be formed from the fact that from 7000 to 10,000 loaves were issued per diem. A loaf per man and attendants would not go around.

We never drew fifty dollars from the Confederate States Government, but relied solely on the money received from commutation of our rations. I had my subsistence department and medical department organized all to themselves.

The idea of such an organization as this resulted from the study of the "Phalanxing," of Robert Dale Owen, who contended that give us 5000 human beings of a fair average, and you would have a self-supporting institution. This experiment, and afterwards Jackson's Hospital, prove the correctness of his theory, combine with military discipline and martial law.


Page last updated on 02/12/2008