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allocate memory for pool. in /var/www/blogs/wp-settings.php on line 179 Warning: include_once(): Unable to allocate memory for pool. in /var/www/blogs/wp-settings.php on line 179 Warning: include_once(): Unable to allocate memory for pool. in /var/www/blogs/wp-settings.php on line 179 Warning: include_once(): Unable to allocate memory for pool. in /var/www/blogs/wp-settings.php on line 179 Warning: include_once(): Unable to allocate memory for pool. in /var/www/blogs/wp-settings.php on line 179 Warning: include_once(): Unable to allocate memory for pool. in /var/www/blogs/wp-settings.php on line 179 Warning: include_once(): Unable to allocate memory for pool. in /var/www/blogs/wp-settings.php on line 179 Warning: include_once(): Unable to allocate memory for pool. in /var/www/blogs/wp-settings.php on line 179 Warning: include_once(): Unable to allocate memory for pool. in /var/www/blogs/wp-settings.php on line 179 Rough Draft | Historical Method 204

Rough Draft

I need to edit some of the footnotes and I’m still waiting to hear back about some additional primary sources that I think would make my argument a little stronger, but this is the first draft of my report.

The Lynchburg Ladies’ Relief Hospital and the Role of Southern Women in Civil War Hospitals

When the Civil War broke out in 1861, men on both sides of the Mason-Dixon line rushed to sign up for military service. Women were also eager to volunteer their time and services to their cause. Northern and Southern women alike organized relief societies and signed up to work in hospitals. Women faced prejudices that made it hard for them to be accepted as nurses in hospitals. Southern women especially, found they could not overcome certain social standards and many were turned away from volunteer work in medical institutions. Prejudice against Southern female nurses led a group of women, headed by Lucy Otey, in Lynchburg, Virginia, to establish their own hospital in 1862 for wounded Confederate soldiers. [1]

Strict social regulations made it hard for Southern women to volunteer their time as nurses. Young women especially were discouraged from working with wounded soldiers, out of concern for their reputations. Families objected to their young daughters or sisters compromising their reputations by dealing directly with possible male nudity and crude behavior. Northern women also faced difficulties in being accepted as nurses, however, in the North, there were fewer limitations and in general, greater acceptance from the public regarding women’s work. Class and social structure in the South were of such importance, that women would not often want to challenge public expectations on how women were supposed to act. [2]

In addition to moral concerns, women were also rejected from hospital work on issues of what they were believed capable of. Many surgeons regarded the presence of women as an annoyance, believing most women would disregard hospital rules and create more problems in the hospital. Public opinion was such at the time that it was believed that young, unmarried women would actually go to the hospitals to flirt with the soldiers, rather than care for them.[3] Despite the soldiers’ preference for female nurses, doctors tended to employ male ward attendants and nurses. Prejudiced doctors did all that they could to keep women out of hospitals, or at least to keep their presence at a minimum. [4]

For the concerns and prejudices against women, the formation of Ladies’ Relief Societies was encouraged. In these societies, what hospital work women did included rolling bandages, sewing soldiers’ clothes, or visiting with the patients under supervised conditions. Most of the work of ladies’ societies was completed at the homes of the women. Time was spent sewing or soliciting donations from the townspeople for the hospitals.[5]

Before the establishment of the Ladies’ Relief Hospital, Otey and about 500 women of Lynchburg organized the Ladies’ Relief Society in 1861.[6] Their duties included traveling to local hospitals to prepare and deliver food to the wounded, make bandages or mend clothing and assist the surgeons in any way possible. Women would also write letters for soldiers to relatives and see that the patients were kept comfortable.[7] However, the ladies of Lynchburg wanted to do more for their men and tried to volunteer as nurses in the local hospitals.

Upon arriving to a hospital one morning, a sentinel, under order of Dr. W. O. Owen, the head of Lynchburg military hospitals, denied entrance to Mrs. Otey. Dr. Owen ordered the removal of Otey and all women from the hospitals by stating, ‘no more women or flies were to be admitted.’[8] Lucy Otey and her organization of women in Lynchburg faced typical problems of Southern women. However, their solution was unlike many of their contemporaries. When Mrs. Otey was turned away from work in Lynchburg hospitals, she founded her own medical institution in the Old Union Hotel on the corner of 6th and Main Streets in Lynchburg. When Dr. Owen had turned the women away from the Lynchburg hospitals, Mrs. Otey immediately traveled to Richmond to talk to President Jefferson Davis to get his personal permission to found her own hospital, run entirely by female nurses. Davis agreed and issued her a surgeon, Dr. Thomas L. Walker.8

Southern hospitals lacked central organization during the Civil War. Several types of buildings were converted to take in wounded soldiers. Untrained civilians would often run these temporary facilities. Private hospitals were also common. Corruption and mismanagement became a frequent issue in Confederate hospitals. The Confederate government eventually ordered the shutdown of all medical institutions that were not under direct government control. If a hospital was not headed by a commissioned officer, who had a rank of at least a captain, than the soldier had to be moved to an institution where such a figure existed. In order to keep her hospital running, Mrs. Otey was named a Captain in the Confederate Army by President Jefferson Davis. Only one other woman received a commission in the Confederate Army. This other woman was Sallie Tompkins, who ran a hospital in Richmond, Virginia, one of the few other women who ran their own hospitals during the Civil War.[9] The fact that these two women received commissions in the Confederate Army is very surprising given the role of Southern women during the war. Because only two of these women were given rank to keep their hospitals running, it shows not only the extremely rare exception to the role of women, but also how few hospitals existed that were run by women.

The 500 women for the Relief Society made up the Ladies’ Relief Hospital. Lucy Otey was elected as president. The following women made up her staff: the first Vice President, Mrs. John M. Speed; second Vice President, Mrs. Commodore Rudd; Secretary and Treasurer, Mrs. C.J.M. Jordan; and Matron, Mrs. Phoebe Feazle.[10]

Letters written by Lucy Otey were reproduced in an 1895 Southern Literary Messenger. In these letters, dated from early 1864, written to an unnamed friend, Mrs. Otey describes some of the duties and responsibilities of the women nurses from the Ladies’ Relief Hospital. As head of the hospital, it was Otey’s duty to oversee the food supply for the institution. Otey had to respond to contributors by sending letters and checks. Otey also had to make sure that workers, including slaves, were taken care of. In one letter, Otey expressed concern about running out of money for food for both the workers and the injured soldiers. Another source from Otey lists names of contributors and what they donated to the hospital. The most common kinds of donations included cash, fruits and vegetables. Otey thanks contributors and pleads for donations of bandages. She applied both to the people of Lynchburg and nearby counties.[11]

The women who staffed the hospital cared for the soldiers by performing several of the duties performed by relief societies, as well as more hands-on duties, including the dressing of wounds and assisting with surgeries. The Ladies’ Relief Hospital had room for 100 patients at a time, in terms of the number of beds that were at the institution, but oftentimes, the hospital had more men to care for. One scholar claims that the hospital at times exceeded capacity by fifty percent. The ladies’ hospital had a high success rate. The institution became so well known that severely wounded soldiers were sent to Otey’s hospital for treatment.[12] The United Daughters of the Confederacy magazine reprinted memoirs of women who had worked at the Ladies’ Hospital. One woman, Mrs. Fosberg, wrote “it became an unwritten law during the war to send the worst wounded men to the Ladies’ Hospital” (Bjelovucic, 21). Mrs. Fosberg recalls how 120 men were brought in on stretchers after the Battle of the Wilderness in May of 1864. She recounts the goods that were donated to the hospital to care for the soldiers. “Ladies all over town sent food… officers who survived and went home sent groceries and pure liquor” (22).[13] The women differed from male nurses in other hospitals by making sure that soldiers were comfortable, in ways that soldiers were not taken care of in military hospitals. Patients who died were dressed properly for burial, and the mothers of the dead soldiers were sent a lock of the patient’s hair. This Lynchburg hospital was unique in its care of soldiers because it was run entirely by female nurses.12

Doctor Owen, who had kicked women volunteers out of Lynchburg hospitals, continued to work against the local women of the Ladies’ Relief Hospital. However, Otey and her staff did not have to report to Dr. Owen as other Lynchburg hospitals had to. The Ladies’ Relief Hospital reported to Richmond with their success rates and statistics.12

By the end of the war, the Ladies’ Relief Hospital felt a great stress as to the amount of patients arriving and the lack of supplies. Mrs. Fosberg’s memoir states that, “as the war drew to a close, improvisation was the operative word” (Bjelovucic, 22). Nurses had to make fake coffee, make their own soap from boiled lye and hog fat, get quinine from willow bark, make their own lamp wicks, and create lamp oil from pork remains.13 As Union troops occupied the town of Lynchburg, just before the end of the war, troops did not disturb the Ladies’ Relief Hospital. Mrs. Otey kept the hospital running until the last patient was cared for. At this time, Otey turned the building over to another owner, and the hospital was shut down.11

Mrs. Otey’s Ladies’ Relief Hospital in Lynchburg, Virginia as a Civil War hospital run entirely by female nurses was extremely rare for its time. Southern women faced certain prejudices that made it difficult for them to volunteer as nurses in military hospitals. These prejudices forced women out of Lynchburg hospitals and required them to found their own hospital in 1862. The Ladies’ Relief Hospital was a very unique institution both in his makeup and its treatment of soldiers. The women of Lynchburg faced problems typical of all women during the war, yet their reaction was one that is rarely seen in the history of the Civil War.

Works Cited

Bacot, Ada W. A Confederate Nurse: the Diary of Ada W. Bacot, 1860-1863. Ed. Jean V. Berlin. Columbia: University of South Carolina, 1994.

Bjelovucic, Harriet T. “Lucy Mina Otey: 1801-1866.” Ed. Dorothy Edgar. The United Daughters of the Confederacy LVI.3 (1993).

Buck, A. Trueheart, ed. “Mrs. Lucy Mina Otey.” The Southern Literary Messenger 1, no. 3 (1895): 15- 18.

Denny, Robert E., “The Distaff Civil War.” Ed. Victoria B.C. (Trafford, 2001), 65.

Holzman, Robert S. “Sally Tompkins: Captain, Confederate Army.” American Mercury, March 1959, 127-130.

Janney, Caroline E. Burying the Dead But Not the Past: Ladies’ Memorial Associations and the Lost Cause. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2008.

“Lynchburg’s Confederate Women.” The News: Lynchburg VA, February 14, 1960, p. B-2.

Massey, Mary Elizabeth. Women in the Civil War. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1966.

Ott, Victoria E. Confederate Daughters: Coming of Age during the Civil War. Carbondale: Southern Illinois UP, 2008.

Schultz, Jane E. Women at the Front: Hospital Workers in Civil War America. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2004.

University of Virginia Library.  “Lynchburg Hospital Association.” Hearts at Home: War Work (1997). http://www2.lib.virginia.edu/exhibits/hearts/warwork.html.


[1] Buck, A. Trueheart, ed. “Mrs. Lucy Mina Otey.” The Southern Literary Messenger 1, no. 3 (1895): 15- 18.

[2] Schultz, Jane E. Women at the Front: Hospital Workers in Civil War America. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2004.

[3] Massey, Mary Elizabeth. Women in the Civil War. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1966.

[4] Bacot, Ada W. A Confederate Nurse: the Diary of Ada W. Bacot, 1860-1863. Ed. Jean V. Berlin. Columbia: University of South Carolina, 1994.

[5] Ott, Victoria E. Confederate Daughters: Coming of Age during the Civil War. Carbondale: Southern Illinois UP, 2008.

[6] “Lynchburg’s Confederate Women.” The News: Lynchburg VA, February 14, 1960, p. B-2.

[7] University of Virginia Library.  “Lynchburg Hospital Association.” Hearts at Home: War Work (1997). http://www2.lib.virginia.edu/exhibits/hearts/warwork.html.

[8] Janney, Caroline E. Burying the Dead But Not the Past: Ladies’ Memorial Associations and the Lost Cause. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2008.

[9] Holzman, Robert S. “Sally Tompkins: Captain, Confederate Army.” American Mercury, March 1959, 127-130.

[10] Buck, A. Trueheart, ed. “Mrs. Lucy Mina Otey.” The Southern Literary Messenger 1, no. 3 (1895): 15- 18.

[11] Buck, A. Trueheart, ed. “Mrs. Lucy Mina Otey.” The Southern Literary Messenger 1, no. 3 (1895): 15- 18.

[12] Denny, Robert E., “The Distaff Civil War.” Ed. Victoria B.C. (Trafford, 2001), 65.

[13] Bjelovucic, Harriet T. “Lucy Mina Otey: 1801-1866.” Ed. Dorothy Edgar. The United Daughters of the Confederacy LVI.3 (1993).

One Response to “Rough Draft”

  1. Hello, my name is Joseph McCullough. I am a descendant of Lucy Otey, through her daughter Lucy. I run a blog: http://whatcolorisbutternut.blogspot.co.uk/ where I collect information on my Civil War ancestors and I wondered if I could reprint your paper there? Please contact me at joe5mc(at yahoo.com

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