A Lauderdale County Web
Long before the arrival of the Europeans in Mississippi, before the creation of Lauderdale County, Lauderdale Springs was a well known landmark. At various times in East Mississippi and West Alabama history, first Native Americans and then early Mississippi settlers gathered there to socialize, drink and relax. The natural springs in the area were popular for their "curative properties" and as a gathering place where families could enjoy a leisurely day. The location, sometimes known as White Sulphur Springs, was the site of several of these natural springs. The White Sulphur Springs themselves produced water said to be "good for the stomach", while the Spout Springs generated waters that allegedly healed kidney problems. Other springs produced waters used to treat constipation and skins diseases (Black Medicine Springs) and waters containing iron, magnesia and alum (Colebiate Springs). [Farley, 46]
In the early 1850s a hotel and resort was built near the site to take advantage of the popularity of the area. In the April 1854 edition of "The Lauderdale Republican" newspaper, Mr. B. B. Smith advertised that the resort hotel and spa would be opening under his management. The resort featured the main hotel building, reported to be 2 stories tall and several hundred feet in length, cottages and a large dance pavilion. In addition there were the bath houses where one could indulge in the restorative waters of the several springs. The resort was generally crowded with visitors through the summer months until the war. (Farley, 47)
The resort provided a "first class" stage line to ferry guests to the hotel and would make special trips, free of charge, to Lauderdale and Marion Stations to collect incoming clients. Eventually, the railroad built a spur line running from the so-called "Spring Depot" at Lauderdale onto the resort grounds. (Farley, 47)
During the War for Southern Independence, the resort was converted into a hospital for the treatment of Confederate soldiers. (Farley, 59) The former two story resort then became a busy hospital and was crowed throughout the period with the sick and wounded. The railroad spur was used to ferry inbound patients, instead of resort clients, to the hospital.
The hospital was well thought of throughout the war period. According to General Nathan B. Forest, it was "...admirably arranged and managed by Surgeon Thompson, of Kentucky, [and] was a credit to the Confederate service, as well as to the medical officers connected with it." (Jordon, 517) Other staff members, who served there during various periods of the war, were Dr. Bolivar A. Vaughn of Columbus, Mississippi, Dr. Benjamin H. Thomas, and Dr. William H. Doughty.
Dr. Vaughn, who was educated at the Franklin Academy in Columbus, Mississippi and the University of Virginia at Charlottesville, Virginia, completed his medical degree at Jefferson Medical College in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He graduated in 1854 and returned to Columbus. For a time during the war he served as Surgeon of the 14th Mississippi Regiment and Surgeon in Chief of the hospital at Lauderdale Springs. (Atkinson, 360)
Born in Tennessee in 1832, Dr. Thomas, attended the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia where he studied medicine, graduating in 1859. Early in the war, after the fall of Ft. Donelson (located Northwest of Nashville, Tennessee), on 16 February 1862, he then went to Lauderdale Springs, Mississippi. He was in charge of the hospital there for eighteen months. (Goodspeed, 158)
Dr. Doughty was born in 1836 in Augusta, Georgia, took his medical training at the University of Georgia, graduating in 1855. He was assigned as Surgeon in Charge to Walker's Division Hospital at Lauderdale Springs in 1863. (Atkinson, 216)
In the surviving documentation of the period, the hospital was sometimes referred to as belonging to the unit to which the Chief Surgeon was assigned. It was, as in the case of Dr. Doughty, referred to as Walker's Division Hospital or, at other times, Forest's Hospital at Lauderdale Springs. The name of the location, however, has come to be the predominant identification for this hospital.
Next to the hospital was the "death house" where soldiers who could no longer be helped by the limited medical skills of the era, went to live out their final hours. Up the hill, from the death house a cemetery was established. (Farley, 59)
Joseph Davis, brother of the President of the Confederacy, Jefferson Davis, and his wife Eliza settled at Lauderdale Springs after a Federal force over ran and destroyed their home on Davis Island. On 4 October 1863, Jefferson Davis, was touring the munitions center and defenses at Selma and Demopolis, Alabama. As his tour proceeded into Mississippi, he found his brother Joseph mourning the recent loss of his wife at Lauderdale Springs Hospital.
Eliza Davis had passed away a few weeks earlier at the hospital of typhoid fever. Davis indicated that she had, at least, been under the care of the Chief Surgeon at the hospital, a friend of the family, and had the comfort of Episcopal Bishop William Green who was also a refugee from the Yankees. She was buried in the Lauderdale Cemetery, just across the road from the Confederate Cemetery. After the war, her remains were moved back to her home on Davis Island.
Personal tragedy notwithstanding, President Davis could not tarry long to support his brother, he had to inspect the defenses of Mobile, which were always in danger of attack. Mobile was the South's main port in the Gulf Coast and the prize, the defense of which, led Confederate General Polk to withdraw leaving the transportation center of Meridian defenseless to General Sherman's devastating attack later in February of 1864. (Allen, 369)
After the war, although the building and grounds were used by the Mississippi Baptist Convention for the Confederate Orphans' Home of Mississippi, the cemetery was gradually neglected and the property was sold. When the Winnie David Chapter Number 24 of the United Daughters of the Confederacy was organized in 1896, they learned of the existence of the cemetery and its lack of care and, in 1897, they purchased the 2 acre grounds. Since that time the cemetery has been under the care and protection of that organization. (Jones, 99)
Lauderdale Springs is the burial site of more than 1,100 soldiers who died there. There are 1020 CSA and 80 Union buried on the site (Calhoun, 1) and, while the names of many of those interred there have survived, most of the burial sites, that have been marked, contain only the inscription "Unknown." The soldiers were members of various Mississippi army units who fell in their native state and the Army of Tennessee fighting in Mississippi. Also the many honored dead who fell at Shiloh, Corinth, Iuka, Jackson, Raymond, Baker's Creek, Vicksburg and the battles of the gallant General N. B. Forest in North Mississippi. (Jones, 99)
The Winnie Davis Chapter of the United Daughters of the Confederacy, and the W. D. Cameron Camp of the Sons of Confederate Veterans, occasionally observe Confederate Memorial Day with a service at Lauderdale Springs Confederate Cemetery or one of the other two Confederate cemeteries in the county. Identifying the graves of the unknown soldiers is a project of the two organizations. (Calhoun, 1)
Lauderdale Springs Confederate Cemetery is
on Lauderdale-Kewanee Road, a mile east of Lauderdale. There are highway
markers at the Lauderdale exit from Highway 45 North and along the route
that will direct visitors to the location.
On the page linked below, is a list of nearly 900 deceased soldiers treated at the Lauderdale Springs Confederate Hospital. The page is large and may take some time to fully load if you are visiting the web site using a dial-up connection.
Fairley, Laura Nan and James T. Dawson, Paths to the Past Meridian: Lauderdale County Department of Archives and History, Inc., 1988
Allen, Felicity Jefferson Davis, Unconquerable Heart Columbia: University of Missouri Press, 1999
Atkinson, William B. ed. "The Physicians and Surgeons of the United States" Philadelphia: Charles Robson, 1878
Calhoun, Ward. "Civil War buffs observe Confederate Memorial Day" The Meridian Star 26 April 2006
Goodspeed Publishing, History of Tennessee, illustrated : Giles, Lincoln, Franklin and Moore counties. Nashville: Goodspeed Publishing Company 1979
Jones, R. W. "Confederate Cemeteries and Monuments in Mississippi." Publications of the Mississippi Historical Society 7 (1904): 87-119
Jordon, Thomas and John P. Pryon, "The
Campaigns of Lieutenant General N. B. Forrest, and of Forrest's Cavalry"
New York: Blelock and Company, 1868
Page Last Updated: Saturday, 19 August 2017
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