Sally Louisa Tompkins
Sally Louisa Tompkins, 1833-1916
Born in "PoplarGrove," Mathews City., Va., 9 Nov. 1833, after her husband's death, Sally's mother moved the family to Richmond, where Sally lived at the outbreak of civil war.
When the government asked the public to help care for the wounded of First Bull Run, Sally responded by opening a private hospital in a house donated for that purpose by judge John Robertson. Robertson Hospital, subsidized by Tompkins' substantial inheritance, treated 1,333 Confederate soldiers from its opening until the last patients were discharged 13 June 1865.
Because the hospital returned more of its patients to the ranks than any other medical-care facility, officers tried to place their most seriously wounded men in Tompkins' care. She used her high rate of success to convince President Jefferson Davis to allow her hospital to stay open even as his orders shut down other private hospitals in the city. To circumvent the regulation calling for all hospitals to be run by military personnel, on 9 Sept. 1861 Davis appointed Tompkins captain of cavalry, unassigned, making her the only woman to hold a commission in the Confederate States Army. Her military rank allowed her to draw government rations and a salary to help defray some of her operating costs. Only 73 deaths were recorded at Robertson Hospital during its 45-month existence.
Tompkins remained a beloved celebrity in postwar Richmond, active in the Episcopal church and a popular guest at veterans' reunions and Daughters of the Confederacy meetings. The war, her continued charity work, and her generous hospitality to veterans eventually exhausted her fortune. In 1905 "Captain Sally" moved into the Confederate Women's Home in Richmond as a lifetime guest, dying there 26 July 1916, in her 83d year. An honorary member of the R. E. Lee Camp of the Confederate Veterans, she was honored with a full military funeral. 4 chapters of the United Daughters of the Confederacy are named in Tompkins' honor.