Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Jackson Street Hospital in Augusta, Georgia

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.  


  1. I'm his decendant, you covered some ,but there much more, It was more considered Americas first colored hospital ,thats because a black couldn't go to a white hospital, free blacks went there as well ,thats why it's not labeled slave hospital ,but Americas first colored hospital. Dr. Campbell and his brother started it with their money and other donated by charitable loving people.Call me at 803 426-8656 wish you would revise that part , history get lost went told by so many. Regards Gerald Carroll

  2. Hi Gerald, Thanks for the comment. I'm not surprised to find that free blacks also used the hospital. However, I suspect that the vast majority of the patients were enslaved individuals since it was being advertised in a publication for planters.

    Generally speaking, free blacks were not the most popular segment of the Southern population in the slave states, it would seem somewhat strange that many whites would seek to benefit those they largely disdained. I would also be interested to know the free black population of Augusta at this time.

    1. These Campbell brothers were for the care of humans ,where another hospital would not allow tratment of Blacks. No my knowledge , they had no slaves, they are not plantation owners.Their whole staff was white! They are in the medical field. The city directory ,would show free and slaves most likely. There was a black store owner who owned a store in Augusta, his son enlisted into the Confederate Army..The brothers were born to Irish-Scottish parents. Dislike for English, which supported the South and cotten trade. These were great doctors, and deserve better Honored for their works. The civil war , made the doctors leav their Jackson St. hospital , to care for soldiers ,in Richmond,Va. little is known during that time. Gerald

  3. Tim , I 'm glad to see your interest in the first colored hospital, in 1852 . I sure it was done for the love and respect that all people have medical care. It is reconized in the Black History section , please veiw. It states the first colored hospital. Irish and Scots came to America for freedom from England. I wish you would correct the slave hospital portion to first colored hospital. These were great doctors, they donated their owns money for their love that anyone white or black to have medical care. Please respect what they done. The wordings Slave Hospital , ruins the true reason for the Jackon St. Hospital. They didn't own platations, and it was when the Doctors first started their care for patients,for colored which as the Black History Month calls it. I wish we could talk by phone ,I know much more. Jerry Carroll on Facebook