Did you know Wilson was the site of a Confederate hospital?
Its remnants stand at the corner of Lee and Goldsboro Streets.
In 1954, North Carolina Department of Cultural Resources’ North Carolina Highway Historical Marker Program installed a marker near the original site of the hospital, and the agency’s website features the startling essay below.
“The Confederacy organized its Medical Department late in 1861 and within months, in April of 1862, the North Carolina General Military Hospital No. 2 was established in Wilson in what had once been the Wilson Female Seminary. Dr. Solomon Sampson Satchwell, who had graduated from Wake Forest College and studied medicine at New York University before serving as a military surgeon with the Twenty-fifth North Carolina Infantry, was appointed Surgeon-in-Charge. In the 1864 Confederate States Medical and Surgical Journal the Wilson hospital was listed as one of twenty-one principal hospitals in North Carolina. It served those wounded in fighting along the coast.
“The hospital made Wilson known outside of the state of North Carolina. Employing thirty-five to forty people, it also boosted the local economy. Most nurses and orderlies were unskilled soldiers; however, at least seven local women were known to have worked at the hospital as matrons. Their duties included food preparation and cleaning. The Atlantic Coast Line Railroad that ran through Wilson provided the military hospital with supplies, including ice and turpentine, used to treat fevers.
“Fighting never broke out in Wilson, but, on July 20, 1863, ‘an immense armament of negroes and Yankees’ advanced on Wilson. Reportedly, a group of invalids from the hospital and local militia defended Wilson by destroying the bridge over the Toisnot Swamp to halt the invaders. All of those who died at the hospital were buried in a mass grave. The hospital closed at the end of the war. When Wilson created a town cemetery, they were re-interred there with a Confederate monument erected over the site. Wilson Female Seminary reopened in the former hospital and received a charter as Wilson Collegiate Institute in 1872.”
The interpretive signboard in front of the building, erected by the North Carolina Civil War Trails program (and badly in need of a good wash), reads:
“This is the only known surviving portion of one of Wilson’s earliest school buildings, the Wilson Female Academy, which also served as a Confederate hospital during the war. Wilson’s location on the Wilmington & Weldon Railroad, the principal north-south line that was linked to Virginia in Weldon by the Petersburg Railroad, made the town a good site for a hospital after the war began. On April 1, 1862, Confederate authorities seized the building for use as a general military hospital.
“Dr. Solomon S. Satchwell, the surgeon in charge, turned the forty classrooms and other rooms into wards and treated hundreds of patients there. The frame, two-story building had a two-hundred-foot-long facade and a large one-story rear addition. It also had dozens of large windows, essential for summer ventilation.
“Soldiers who died there of wounds or disease were buried near the academy grounds. In 1894, they were reinterred under a burial mound in Maplewood Cemetery two blocks north of here. The Confederate monument on top of the mound was dedicated on May 10, 1902.
“Edmund G. Lind, a British architect who emigrated to New York in 1855 and subsequently practiced in Maryland, North Carolina, and Georgia, designed the Italianate-style school building. It was completed in 1859 about two blocks south of here. After the war, the former female academy and hospital served as Wilson Collegiate Institute from 1872 until it closed in 1898, when the building was separated into housing units. This section, part of the school’s rear addition, was moved here in 2005 and rehabilitated.”
Typically, the historical marker essay makes no mention of the men and women performing the hospital’s essential grunt work. Enslaved men and women toiled as nurses, cooks, and laundresses, and the reports Dr. Satchwell was required to file regularly reveal their names.
Daniel, Samuel, Benjamin, Edy, Annie, Sarah, William, Francis, Flora, Eli, Jerry, Matilda, Harmon, Hoyt, Martha, Dorcas, Laura, Mary, Oliver, Alvana, Alfred, George, America, Isabella, Harriet, Rachel, Henry, Joseph, General, Ansley, Tilda, Minerva, Delphia, Maria, Mahala, Nicey, Chaney, Esther, Eliza, Tom, and Charles cooked, cleaned, and cared for wounded Confederate soldiers over the next two years. Pomeroy P. Clark, a Connecticut-born buggy manufacturer who arrived in Wilson in 1851, had a near-monopoly over the provision of enslaved people to the hospital, supplying almost all of the men and women named above.
Muster Roll dated 1 April 1862 showing enslaved people, at bottom left, rented to the Confederate Hospital.
This is curious. P.P. Clark is listed in 1850 slave schedule of Nash County, North Carolina, as the owner of four enslaved people. In the 1860 census of Wilson, Wilson County, he is described as a lumber manufacturer with $2000 in personal property, but is not listed in the slave schedule. We know that in 1860 Clark bought four enslaved people from John P. Clark as trustee of Nancy B. Clark. The adult in this group of four, a woman named Peggy, is not named as a hospital laborer. Peggy had once belonged to Henry Flowers, whose daughter was Nancy B. Clark. Flowers’ estate also included enslaved women named America and Isabelle, and an enslaved man named Henry (known as Harry), who married a woman named Flora around 1859. These four match names of people put to work at the Confederate Hospital, but who were the others? If Clark (who himself worked at the hospital as steward were acting as a broker for other enslavers, would Dr. Satchwell have recorded the workers as “Negro slave hired of P.P. Clark”?
In addition to enslaved people, a few free people of color worked at Confederate Hospital No. 2. On 26 May 1864, Lemon Taborn and William Jones were hired to perform unspecified work at $11.00/month. Alexander Jones was hired five days later at the same rate and, on June 1, Mord. Hagans came aboard for $10/month. The Jones cousins appear in the 1860 census of Old Fields township, Wilson County, and Mordecai Hagans in the 1860 census of Nahunta township, Wayne County.
Muster Rolls, Hospital Department, Wilson, N.C., 1862-1864, War Department Collection of Confederate Records, National Archives and Records Administration; photos by Lisa Y. Henderson.