As a railroad fountainhead encompassing points west to Bristol, Tennessee, north to Gordonsville, Virginia and east to the Tidewater, and a crossroads of several major turnpikes, along with its proximity to the James River and Kanawha Canal, Lynchburg quickly became the destination for thousands of sick and wounded Confederate soldiers. They were transported to Lynchburg from battlefields like Seven Pines, the Wilderness, and High Bridge. Facing a shortage of military hospitals and competent military physicians, as early as July 30, 1861, Lynchburg citizens were offering to care for ill soldiers in their homes. By war’s end, nearly 20,000 sick and injured had rumbled into Lynchburg for treatment in the city’s thirty-two building hospital system. Sadly, Lynchburg’s City Cemetery became the final destination of over 2,700 Union and Confederate souls.
From 1821 until 1841, when she and her husband moved to Lynchburg, Mrs. Lucy Mina Otey presided over Sandusky, which was then within the borders of Campbell County. Mother of seven Confederate sons, Mrs. Otey, president of Lynchburg’s only independently-run hospital, placed newspaper advertisements requesting indigenous plant materials as substitutes for scarce traditional medicines. In contrast to the dark, dirty, and airless tobacco warehouses appropriated by the Confederate government to house patients, the Ladies’ Relief Hospital coddled its sick and wounded in a clean, comfortable, and light-filled former hotel. Matrons employed Florence Nightingale’s theories of cleanliness, wholesome food, and fresh air and sunlight to increase survival rates. After Lee’s surrender, Union leaders supported her efforts, and likely all of Lynchburg’s hospitals, until the last convalescent departed and the hospitals closed.
Receipt of Medical Supplies
Dispensary “Way Hospital” Lynchburg
Surviving documents confirm that Confederates maintained organizational logistics at least six months before the final curtain call of the Confederacy. In fact, Wayside Hospital Surgeon A. C. Smith, received his requested supplies and more on the heels of a surprise Confederate attack in the Shenandoah Valley.
Marilyn S. Kraje, The Challenge to Care: Lucy Mina Otey and the Ladies’ Relief Hospital in Lynchburg, Virginia During the Civil War (2015)