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
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
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
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.