Locating Wilmington’s Civil War Hospitals

Where Was Confederate Hospital #4?

According to Robert Cooke’s wonderful transcription of Confederate Hospital #4’s records, 376 of the 51st North Carolina’s soldiers were treated at the facility. While I was transferring information from Mr. Cooke’s file to the regiment’s service records, I began to wonder where Hospital #4 was located. I knew it was in Wilmington, but exactly where in Wilmington?

My curiosity led to a quick internet search. The search turned into a major research effort. There was the Wayside Hospital. No, wait, there were two Wayside Hospitals. The Marine Hospital was located in Wilmington or Mount Tirzah (an abandoned plantation), a few miles south of Wilmington. The facility was officially called Confederate Hospital # 4, or maybe #5, or maybe Mt. Tirzah Hospital. The Seaman’s Home hosted Confederate Hospital #4, or was it #5? And the Naval Hospital sat at the foot of Chestnut Street.

After many hours of sifting through contradictory sources and piecing together scattered bits of information, I found my answer. Amazing that answering such a simple question required so much effort.

Wilmington’s Hospitals

Before the war, Wilmington had a United States Marine Hospital and a Lazaretto (or Pest House). Shortly after the war started, the citizens of the port city set up a wayside hospital near the Wilmington and Weldon Railroad terminal. A few months after that, the Seaman’s Home was converted into a hospital.

The Seaman’s Home and the Marine Hospital were taken over by the Confederate government and designated as Confederate Hospitals #4 and #5, respectively. The government also established Wayside Hospital #5 near the railroad terminal after the original wayside hospital was disbanded. Where were these facilities located?

The Marine Hospital

In 1798, the Federal government established a fund for the care of sick merchant mariners. The fund was used to build hospitals in major ports. The first hospital was established in Boston 1800. For the next 50 years, the citizens of Wilmington lobbied to have a Marine Hospital built in their port city.

Finally, in 1857, Congress authorized the funds for construction of a Marine Hospital in Wilmington. The hospital was completed in 1860. The facility and its grounds occupied a large area between 8th and 13th Streets, and Nun and Ann Streets. On April 18, 1861, a local infantry company, the Rifle Rangers, seized the hospital for the State of North Carolina.

In September 1862, North Carolina turned all its hospitals over to the Confederate Government. The Marine Hospital became Confederate Hospital #5. There are conflicting sources about whether or not the facility was Hospital #4 or Hospital #5. In the August 27, 1863, edition of the Fayetteville Observer, page 2, an article describes a donation by the Ladies’ Hospital Association to the Marine Hospital. The donation is acknowledged by J. C. Walker, Assistant Surgeon at Confederate Hospital #5.

The Seaman’s Home

The Seaman’s Home was located on the southwest corner of Front and Dock Streets. The home was established by the Seaman’s Friends Society in 1853 for the benefit of mariners passing through Wilmington.

In October 1861, Dr. James Waring inspected the medical facilities in the Wilmington area. Waring, the Confederate Army Medical Director for North Carolina, was not pleased with what he saw. He “found a large number of sick exposed upon a bleak coast in tents and badly built cabins….” The doctor established a General Hospital at the Seaman’s Home, capable of caring for 200 soldiers.

In September 1862, the Seaman’s Home became Confederate Hospital #4.

The Wayside Hospitals

In the summer of 1862, the citizens of Wilmington established a Wayside Hospital at the Wilmington and Weldon Railroad depot. The hospital provided food, beds, and baths for sick and wounded soldiers passing through the port city.

The citizens’ hospital was apparently a temporary endeavor, probably a response to the battles raging in Virginia during the summer of 1862. On March 31, 1863, the State opened a Wayside Hospital “in a large brick building of Mr. Edmonson’s, near the depot.” This facility was meant to be “a permanent institution.” By October, the new hospital had been taken over by the Richmond government and designated as Wayside Hospital #5.

The Other Two Hospitals

Just prior to the Civil War, the Seaman’s Friends Society set up a quarantine hospital (Pest House, or Lazaretto) at Mount Tirzah. This hospital cared for sick sailors on inbound vessels.

There was also a Naval Hospital at the foot of Chestnut Street. This hospital, presumably, treated naval personnel in the Wilmington vicinity.

A Note about Hospital #5’s Records

I contacted the National Archives about obtaining copies of the records for Confederate Hospital #5. I had in mind transcribing the records as Mr. Cooke did for Hospital #4. I got this response:

[T]he four volumes indicated above have not been digitized and therefore are not available online in the National Archives Catalog at this time. This is an ongoing project and these records are closed for digitization. Since these records are closed for digitization, we are no longer able to scan/photograph copies of any bound volumes. There is no timetable as to when these volumes will be digitized in the National Archives Catalog.

Hopefully, the records will be available online in the not-too-distant future.

Sources

Clark, Walter, ed. Histories of the Several Regiments and Battalions from North Carolina in the Great War 1861-’65. 4: 624. Available at www.archive.org.

Fayetteville Observer, 17 Aug. 1863

Schenk, Nicholas W. Diary. 126. Nicholas W. Schenck Diary (uncw.edu)

Wilmington Journal: 17 Apr. 1857, 25 Apr. 1861, 21 Nov. 1861, 7 Aug. 1862, 25 Oct. 1863.

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