Civil War Wayside Hospitals

Casualties began soon after the Civil War started on April 12, 1861. Southern women established wayside hospitals as small field hospitals to give water, food, shoes, clothing, medicine and bandages to wounded soldiers.

Large buildings—schools, churches, barns—near railroad depots were used to treat the sick and wounded. If the soldier was too ill to continue on his journey, he remained at the wayside hospital until his condition improved enough for him to go home, or to a larger general hospital, or he died.

Women living in North Carolina, at great personal sacrifice, established and served at wayside hospitals in the railroad towns of Charlotte, Fayetteville, Weldon, Greensboro, Tarboro, Wilmington, Goldsboro, Salisbury, and High Point.

Most wayside hospitals offered meals and some nursing. Surgeons worked at larger hospitals with beds for overnight stays.

The Barbee Hotel in High Point was changed into a wayside hospital on September 1, 1863. 5,795 soldiers received care in that village before the hospital closed in May of 1865.

South Carolina’s first wayside hospital opened in Charleston in November of 1861. Raleigh, Orangeburg, Greenville, Sumter, and Florence also had these types of hospitals. Columbia Wayside Hospital, located at the South Carolina Railroad Depot, served about 75,000 soldiers, becoming the largest wayside hospital in the state.

Southern nurses often didn’t have the required medicines on hand to treat the soldiers. They fell back on homemade remedies, such as using jimson weed for fever or blackberry root for dysentery.

-Sandra Merville Hart

Sources

Downey, Tom. “Wayside Hospitals,” South Carolina Encyclopedia, 2017/07/04 http://www.scencyclopedia.org/sce/entries/wayside-hospitals/.

“North Carolina Nursing History,” Appalachian State University, 2017/07/04, https://nursinghistory.appstate.edu/civil-war-and-reconstruction-1861-1876.

Savage, Douglas J. Women in the Civil War, Chelsea House Publishers, 2000.