Wednesday, February 27, 2019

Hospital Sketches #2: Robertson Hospital Richmond

Hospital Sketches #3 
Virginia Cockscomb by Becky Brown

This flamboyant block recalls Robertson's Hospital in Richmond, a private facility that treated patients throughout the Civil War.

The hospital looked much like the white frame building on Main Street in this Alexander Gardner photo taken of the Confederate capitol during the war years.

Robertson Hospital was small--- 25 to 35 beds in a large house. The woman in charge, 28-year-old  Sally Louisa Tompkins, is sometimes referred to as a Civil War nurse but she was what we'd call a hospital administrator. 

After the war's first battle at Manassas Junction in July, 1861 Sally organized the women of St. James Episcopal Church in Richmond, found an abandoned mansion and went to work for five years treating over 1300 patients. Robertson Hospital, named after the home's last owner, dismissed their final patient in June, 1865.

Sally was proud of the hospital's mortality rate, much lower than other institutions large and small.
"Sally was almost obsessed with cleanliness. That obsession probably saved the lives of many in a time when the cause of infection was not understood...."
Frances H. Casstevens in Tales from the North and the South
She ran a tight ship on her own money.

Sally Louisa Tompkins
I Photoshopped a portrait  from about the time the Civil War began 
onto a quilt top attributed to her. The portrait is from the Virginia Historical Society, 
the quilt from the Tompkins Cottage Museum in Mathews County, Virginia, taken by
Becky Foster Barnhardt.

Poplar Grove in Mathews County. Sally was born
in this plantation house passed on from her mother's family. 

Diarist Mary Chesnut often visited Robertson Hospital in the first months of the war bringing food prepared by her slaves in Richmond and from her husband's family plantation in South Carolina. Southern hospitals were sometimes reserved for home state soldiers and Mary, perhaps thinking she'd favor Palmetto State boys, asked:
" 'Are there any Carolinians here?'
Miss T:  'I never ask where the sick and wounded come from.' 
Mary: I was rebuked. I deserved it."

Virginia Cockscomb by Janet Perkins

Hospital admissions were so chaotic people placed ads in
newspapers looking for relatives.

Chimborazo Hospital on a hill southeast of Richmond 
was purpose built with small single-story wards.

Richmond had many hospitals ranging from the giant Confederate complex called Chimborazo that treated 76,000 patients during the War to smaller private hospitals like Sally's. The Confederate government discouraged private institutions but Sally's persisted, probably due to her connections and her competence.

In 1864 Sally advertised in the Richmond Dispatch for information about missing "servant boy Peter who has been employed for some time past as butler at Robertson Hospital." He might have run away or "been impressed by the Government officials," which might have been a common fate. It's hard to see how old he was but he was only 4 feet tall.

Many theories have been written in the Lost Cause narrative after the war explaining why Sally received an appointment as Captain in the CSA from Secretary of War Leroy Pope Walker a week before he resigned his post. Perhaps to change her hospital from private to official?

Sally's appointment from the collection of the American
Civil War Museum in Richmond

The Block

 #3 Virginia Cockscomb
by Barbara Brackman

Three variations of the Cockscomb block in one quilt

We call it Cockscomb but  in 1908 the Ladies Home Journal 
called it The Olive Branch.

Quilts in the design were made long before 1908, and it seems
to have been particularly popular in Virginia.

For the background cut a square 18-1/2".
Add seam allowances to the pattern pieces if you are doing traditional applique.

 This month we have two pattern sheets.

To Print:
Create a word file or a new empty JPG file.
Click on the images above.
Right click on each and save to your file.
Print that file. Be sure the square is about 1" in size.

Album dated 1860 from the Steel and Ruth families for D.H.K. Dix
in Western Virginia, documented in the West Virginia project.
In 1860 Dix was a Methodist minister stationed in New Martinsville, Virginia.

See a post on the patttern here:

Sprouts #2
Sprouts is a version of the traditional pattern for the stitcher who
wants something quick. A separate quilt.

Sprouts 1 & 2 by Denniele

Sprouts #2
Denniele Bohannon
She is using a 9" finished background so has more room than the sketch below.

Cut a 9" square background.
Cut 1 A and 1 C and 4 B.
Cut 2 of leaf F from last months Periwinkle Wreath
You need a snippet of 1/2" finished bias for the stem.

After the War

Sally seated with unidentified women in the early 20th century.
Virginia Historical Society

After the war Sally Tompkins remained single, devoting herself to nursing in the more conventional sense of the word, caring for ill family members and friends. She was active in Richmond's Ladies' Hollywood Memorial Association and in funding the Home for Needy Confederate Women, where she lived for the last few years of her long life. After her death she continued to fund the institution. Women standing on street corners in Richmond sold "Sally Tompkins Buttons" in 1916.

The Robertson Hospital patients held a reunion in Richmond in 1896. See the register which is in the Library of Virginia.

Two quilts attributed to Sally from the 
Tompkins Cottage Museum in Mathews County, Virginia.

Sally's coat at the Tompkins Cottage museum

Women and children among the ruins of Richmond after the war

Virginia Cockscomb by Bettina Havig

Lorraine asked for a plan and that's a good idea so I've added a diagram of my quilt with blocks 1 & 2. Block 1 (non-directional) goes in the center. Block 2 (diagonal) goes in a corner. Could point in or out. The north/south axis blocks are not directional.


Wendy Caton Reed said...

Oh boy, can't wait to start. Becky's block is gorgeous and so out of the norm for her. I love your traditional colors. May have to make two versions!

Becky in VA said...

Wendy, you are so correct about my blocks being so out of the norm for me! My fabrics are all from my friend Vicki: I've been using small amounts of her hand-dyed fabrics in my applique quilts to give a little spark to reproduction quilts. For this quilt based on mid-19th century patterns which are typically done in red/greens/on light background I decided to jump way out of the box and use all hand-dyes in red(pinks)and greens - so it is my updated version of the classic red/green quilt. I used 3 different background fabrics. I'm really enjoying seeing what everyone is doing with these blocks.

Unknown said...

I find these articles fascinating! I was a nurse (not so much an administrator) and to read about this era and the women who served the men and their country is inspiring! I’m also a quilter and look forward to the challenge and tribute of these blocks!
Thank you

Themis Abdo said...

Thank you for so much teaching. I keep waiting for news emails every Wednesday and Sunday. Very inspiring.

Sandra Miller Pitts said...

As a retired VA nurse I have really enjoyed reading about nursing and the care given soldiers during war times. Even though I have committed to too many BOMs this year, this is one I had to do. I will post a picture on Facebook as soon as I finish the first block. Thank you for all your research, and the lovely pattern.

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