Civil War hospital to be razed
Prior to the Civil War, Lynchburg, also know as the City of Seven Hills, was a bustling little city on the James River. Several railroad lines passed through the city as well as the city’s canal system made Lynchburg a transportation hub in its day. Being a transportation hub made it easy for the tobacco farmers, lumber barons and factory owners to transport their products to market. As the anti-slavery movement started gaining momentum the economy of Lynchburg was changing from agricultural to manufacturing. The riverfront and downtown saw massive tobacco warehouses, often four or more stories tall taking up the better part of a city block, as well as huge brick factories and foundries supporting the local economy. The population of Lynchburg was approximately 6,853 and enjoyed a good standard of living. Local doctors working from their store front offices made house calls to keep the population healthy as there were no hospitals in town.
When the Civil War broke out, Lynchburg’s population dropped by about a quarter as many of the able-bodied men enlisted in the Confederate Army. Those that remained behind ran the factories and worked the fields. Train loads of food, clothing, ammunition and supplies left the docks and trains of Lynchburg. As war raged on, the boxcars returned to Lynchburg full of wounded soldiers, both Union and Confederate. Prior to the Civil War, the wounded were treated on the battlefield. Due to the extensive network of railroads throughout the South, the wounded during the Civil War were transported to hospital cities. Lynchburg went from a city with no hospitals to a city with 32 hospitals. 19 of the huge tobacco barns were converted to hospitals as were other factories and warehouses. The few doctors that were in Lynchburg were assisted by the remaining townspeople, mostly women, who oversaw the care and treatment of the wounded. At any given time during the Civil War, the hospitals were treating 3,000-4,000 soldiers. Unfortunately, many of them never made it back to the battlefield or home as we didn’t have the lifesaving technologies we have today.
Today, only two of these tobacco warehouses stand and soon there may be only one. Over the decades most of them were torn down. The Miller Building, circa 1845, on Dunbar Street was a tobacco warehouse which operated as a hospital and morgue during the Civil War. For the last several years it has been vacant and as water leaked through the roof the building became unstable. Last week a four story section of the exterior wall collapsed. The owners of the building would love to save this part of history but have indicated they don’t have the financial resources to restore the building and may be forced to tear it down if they can’t figure out a way to save it.
Lynchburg and the surrounding area if full of history. On your next visit to the area plan on staying at the Carriage House Inn Bed and Breakfast in downtown Lynchburg. The home was built by Richard Thomas (R. T.) Watts who served in the Civil War. R. T.’s horse was shot out from under him near Fredericksburg, Virginia during the battle of Spotsylvania Courthouse. He was captured and spent the rest of the war in a POW camp in Delaware. After the war he returned to Lynchburg and built this fine home. Rather than just visiting historical sites, plan on spending the night in one of them. For reservations call: 434-846-1388 or visit our website: http://www.TheCarriageHouseInnBandB.com
Statistical information for this blog was taken from “A Prototype of a Confederate Hospital Center in Lynchburg Virginia” by Peter Houck.
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