Sunday, August 9, 2015

Jackson Street Hospital in Augusta, Georgia

By Tim Talbott, 2-11-2014

When it comes to primary sources few things catch me by surprise anymore. However, looking through the May 1860 issue of the Southern Cultivator, an antebellum agricultural publication produced in Augusta, Georgia, I came across an advertisement for the Jackson Street Hospital in Augusta.  That, of course, is not the surprising part; the surprising part is that the advertisement claimed this medical facility was a "SURGICAL INFIRMARY FOR NEGROES."

Immediately, I thought that this hospital was not solely for free people of color. Perhaps they treated free people of color, but why would a hospital for free blacks advertise in a planter's journal? It appears to me that this hospital was mainly for the treatment, rehabilitation, and cure of afflicted enslaved individuals. Is that not fascinating?

The ad strikes me as particularly intriguing because of some of the language that is included in it. First, the opening sentence clearly states that this hospital "is an acknowledged advantage to the Patient, the Owner, and the attending Physician." It clearly states the word "owner," which, of course, means it was for slaves. Secondly, it states that the hospital was established due to the "great need in the State of Georgia, and in the adjoining States." This phrase is strengthened by the next one. That is, that the infirmary "was established, ten year ago" just "for such a purpose." Now, if the Jackson Street Hospital was not proving successful and was being underutilized it is doubtful that it would have existed for a decade. Owners apparently saw the hospital beneficial and effective in the treatment of their slaves.

The ad also makes note that it is located near the town's railroad depot so owners could seemingly send their sick, diseased or worn out enslaved workers via train to be treated. Hospital amenities are enumerated as well: "rooms are furnished with proper bedding and accommodations; and Hot, Cold shower Baths, are at all times, convenient on each floor of the building." Mentioned also is the attending staff of "Resident Physician, and both Male and Female nurses" that are "in constant attendance, and every effort made to render the patients comfortable."

Patients were received by locomotive, as mentioned above, or by steamboat. And, it only cost $10 per month for room, board, and nursing per patient. To give a comparison, in 1860, field slaves often were rented for about $10 per month.

I wasn't able to find much information on the named doctors, Henry F. Campbell and Robert Campbell, but I did find that they were brothers. The 1860 census shows Henry as a 36 year old physician with a wife named Sarah and a daughter in the household. Robert is listed as a 34 year old physician with wife Caroline and six children. Henry was worth $25,000 in real estate (likely the value of the hospital building) and $5,000 in personal property. Robert owned $8,500 in real estate and an amazing $20,900 in personal property. I was not able to find out if the brothers were slaveholders.

One source, a book on Augusta's history and published in 1890, claimed Jackson Street Hospital had 50 beds and an auditorium for clinical lectures. The book mentioned in common Lost Cause terms that "its [the hospital's] ample patronage and support well vindicated the kindness and humanity of the Southern people, in the care and attention they were willing to secure, at liberal cost, for the sick and afflicted among their dependents."  On one level I see what the author was saying here, and it certainly fits well with the paternalistic label that some owners reveled in. But on the other hand it appears, too, that owners were likely seeking to heal and cure their slaves for another motive - that is to get more labor from them. This source says that the Jackson Street Hospital operated until after the Civil War when Freedmen's Bureau hospitals took over, "supported out of the public funds."

This article also states that Dr. Henry F. Campbell was educated at the Medical College of Georgia, graduating in 1842. During the Civil War Dr.Campbell apparently secured a position as an army doctor and served in the hospital that attended to Georgia soldiers in Richmond, Virginia. After the war he served on the faculty of the New Orleans School of Medicine and also worked at Charity Hospital. Later he returned to teach at the University of Georgia. He also published numerous articles on various medical issues.

In all of my reading on slavery I had never heard of a hospital that advertised in a planter's magazine. I often had read that owners went to great expense paying for the heath care of their enslaved populations, and why wouldn't they, being such a valuable investment. But that health care usually involved a local doctor making house calls at the slave quarters to attend to sick or diseased slaves or assist in a difficult birthing. The idea of an actual slave hospital is something that is totally new to me, but this evidence proves that regardless of owners' motive - benevolent or otherwise - the health of some masters' slave work force was important enough to go great expense and effort.



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