Mary Boykin Chestnut's Diary
Excerpts Regarding Robertson Hospital Service
A Diary from Dixie, as Written by Mary Boykin Chesnut, Wife of James Chesnut, Jr., United States Senator from South Carolina, 1859-1861, and Afterward an Aide to Jefferson Davis and a Brigadier-General in the Confederate Army.
New York: D. Appleton and Company, 1905.
Excerpts from Mary Chestnut’s Diary:
August 5, 1861
Went to Miss Tompkins's hospital. There I was rebuked. I deserved it.
Me: "Are there any Carolinians here?"
Miss T: "I never ask where the sick and wounded come from."
August 13, 1861
(taken from the original diaries and included in the 1949 version edited by Ben Ames Williams; not included in the 1905 version edited by Isabella D. Martin and Myrta Lockett Avary)
Went to Miss Sally Tompkins's hospital today. Mrs. James Alfred Jones [Mary (Henry) Jones, wife of a Richmond attorney] and Mrs. Carter [Martha Milledge (Flournoy) Carter, widow of Dr. John Carter of Augusta, Ga.] were assisting Miss Tompkins.
August 18, 1861
(taken from the original diaries and included in the 1949 version edited by Ben Ames Williams; not included in the 1905 version edited by Isabella D Martin and Myrta Lockett Avary)
Miss Sally Tompkins laughed at Mrs. Carter - whose face is so strikingly handsome the wounded men could not help looking at her, and one was not so bad off but he burst into flowery compliment. Mrs. Carter turned scarlet with surprise and indignation. Miss Sallie Tompkins said, "If you could only leave your beauty at the door and bring in your goodness and faculty."
August 23, 1861
Oh, such a day! Since I wrote this morning, I have been with Mrs. Randolph to all the hospitals. I can never again shut out of view the sights I saw there of human misery. I sit thinking, shut my eyes, and see it all; thinking, yes, and there is enough to think about now, God knows. Gilland's was the worst, with long rows of ill men on cots, ill of typhoid fever, of every human ailment; on dinner-tables for eating and drinking, wounds being dressed; all the horrors to be taken in at one glance.
Then we went to the St. Charles. Horrors upon horrors again; want of organization, long rows of dead and dying; awful sights. A boy from home had sent for me. He was dying in a cot, ill of fever. Next him a man died in convulsions as we stood there. I was making arrangements with a nurse, hiring him to take care of this lad; but I do not remember any more, for I fainted. Next that I knew of, the doctor and Mrs. Randolph were having me, a limp rag, put into a carriage at the door of the hospital. Fresh air, I dare say, brought me to. First of all we had given our provisions to our Carolinians at Miss Sally Tompkins's. There they were, nice and clean and merry as grigs.
August 25, 1861
A rose by any other name - that is, our Florence Nightengale - is Sally Tompkins. Went to her hospital today.
August 26, 1861
We went to Pizzini's, that very best of Italian confectioners. From there we went to Miss Sally Tompkins's hospital, loaded with good things for the wounded. The men under Miss Sally's kind care looked so clean and comfortable - cheerful, one might say. They were pleasant and nice to see. One, however, was dismal in tone and aspect, and he repeated at intervals with no change of words, in a forlorn monotone: "What a hard time we have had since we left home." But nobody seemed to heed his wailing, and it did not impair his appetite.