Wayside hospitals were formed across South Carolina during the Civil War as means to care for sick and wounded Confederate soldiers traveling throughout the state. Usually situated at depots or other railroad stopping points, wayside facilities provided a range of services to soldiers in transit. Most offered meals and basic nursing, while larger wayside hospitals contained overnight accommodations and were staffed with physicians or surgeons. All wayside hospitals in the state originated through private means, usually the efforts of local women and relief organizations. Although a few larger facilities were eventually placed under the supervision of Confederate medical authorities, all wayside hospitals depended in large measure on private donations of food, clothing, bandages, medicine, and labor.
Charleston opened the first wayside hospital in South Carolina in November 1861. Shortly thereafter the Young Ladies Hospital Association of Columbia organized its own wayside facility in the capital city. Relocating to the South Carolina Railroad depot in March 1862, the Columbia Wayside Hospital became the largest and most frequented facility of that type in the state, serving some 75,000 soldiers before being disbanded in February 1865. Other wayside hospital locations included Florence, Orangeburg, Sumter, and Greenville. While varying in size and scope, all wayside facilities were recognized for providing valuable services to the Confederacy, and thousands of soldiers blessed the memory of the care and comfort they received there. Sarah Rowe of Orangeburg received the official thanks of the General Assembly for her ceaseless attention to the sick and wounded traveling across the state, while Mary Amarinthia Snowden of Charleston was given a “just and hearty tribute” by the Confederate Congress for the hospital work of her and her colleagues. By the end of the war, wayside hospitals had become one of the most visible, and important, contributions of South Carolina women to the war effort.
Downey, Thomas More. “A Call to Duty: Confederate Hospitals in South Carolina.” Master’s thesis, University of South Carolina, 1992.