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Wednesday, March 13, 2013

The Slaves of Chimborazo Hospital

From: The U.S. National Library of Medicine
 
African Americans, free and enslaved, provided care for wounded soldiers in Union and some Confederate hospitals. The survival of the military hospital was dependent upon their work. Employed in white-only and black-only facilities, African Americans were able to move beyond the confines of private employment to a more public environment. Hospital work represented change and opportunity for many African Americans
 
Chimborazo Hospital in Richmond, Virginia, the largest Confederate hospital, relied on the slaves of local plantation owners and hospital surgeons to fill positions such as nurses, cooks, and laundresses. With over 5000 beds in 150 buildings and tents, Chimborazo treated over 77,000 patients during the war. After the fall of Richmond in 1865, it became a hospital for black Union soldiers
 
James Brown McCaw was the chief administrator and surgeon-in-charge of Chimborazo Hospital during the Civil War. McCaw recognized the necessity of employing blacks at the hospital for the hospital's own survival.
 
Hundreds of African Americans, mostly male and enslaved, served as nurses at Chimborazo Hospital. George Cox, and a woman known only as Candis were among the few free blacks that worked there. Their wages were paid directly to them while slave owners received the wages for the work of their slaves. Enslaved African Americans working in Chimborazo had a chance to move from a private to a public work environment where they worked alongside free blacks.
 

"I have at this time only two hundred and fifty-six cooks and nurses [slaves] in my Hospitals, to take care of nearly 4,000 sick soldiers.  . .it will be entirely impossible to continue the hospital without them." James Brown McCaw.

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