Mrs. Tompkins, a wealthy twenty-eight year old widow, was living in Richmond when the first battles of the war began filling the streets with wounded soldiers. She organized a hospital in a home donated for that purpose and poured her own financial resources into it. Robertson Hospital quickly gained a reputation for providing the best care available, prompting military authorities to send to her their most seriously injured.
By late 1861, War Department regulations requiring that all hospitals treating soldiers be operated by the military forced the closing of private facilities. The wounded would now be admitted to the sprawling, 3,000-bed Chimborazo Hospital. Mrs. Tompkins appealed to the Confederate president. Recognizing the quality and extraordinary success rate of her little hospital, Jefferson Davis determined to keep it open by outflanking his bureaucrats. Davis commissioned Sally Tompkins a captain of cavalry (unassigned) in the army of the Confederate States! Her hospital would continue saving lives for the duration of the war, under the direction of the Confederacy’s only female army officer.
After the war she continued to do all she could to help former soldiers of the Confederacy. Her final years were spent in Richmond’s Women’s Home. Having dedicated her life and exhausted her resources in the service of her country and its veterans, “Captain Sally” died in 1916. She was given a funeral with full military honors, as befitted a soldier of the South.
“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven …” Matthew 6-19-20a
South Carolina League of the South