Fantastic Friday To Ye’ Faithful Rehabbers!
As alluded to in Issue #16 of this series, this Issue #17 will explore the brief Civil War history that occurred on Dix Hill. We will also tie the Civil War aftermath to the compassion of the North Carolina Legislature who supported its veterans through the development of a prosthetic limb distribution program after the war to help with the rehabilitation of those who lived through the extremely gruesome events of warfare of that era.
HOSPITAL IN SERVICE TO SOLDIERS
We will begin our story in 1862 when the “Asylum” (Dorothea Dix Hospital) admitted four soldiers because of “war excitement” and two others that suffered “acute and violent mania.” While the hospital had reportedly rejected some civilians because of overcrowding and supply shortages, soldiers were not turned away.
SOLDIERS OF THE CONFEDERACY ENCAMPED ON DIX HILL
According to the map below encountered on display in a small museum downtown, Raleigh, the soldiers of the Confederacy were at one time encamped on Dix Hill prior to their evacuation on the evening of April 12, 1865.
GENERAL WILLIAM T. SHERMAN PAYS A VISIT TO DIX HILL ON HIS MARCH TO THE SEA
As Union General William T. Sherman and his troops ravaged the South on their March to the Sea, their reputation preceded them. North Carolina Governor Zebulon Vance chose to deal directly with Gen. Sherman in an attempt to save the city of Raleigh. A delegation appointed by Vance met the advancing Union troops at the summit of the hill south of Walnut Creek with a white flag of surrender and a request for protection for its noncombatants and public and private property. General Judson Kirkpatrick, a notorious Federal cavalry commander, agreed to protect all that complied and to destroy all that resisted. Union soldiers occupied the city on April 12. The only resistance came from a Confederate Lieutenant from Texas that fired five shots at the Union troops. The ensuing Union troops chased him around the Capitol grounds, caught him on Hillsborough Street, and promptly hung him in Burke Square.
General Sherman arrived that night and occupied the Governor's Mansion. On the morning April 17th, Sherman received a telegram announcing Lincoln's assassination at the hand of thespian John Wilkes Booth. Word spread quickly through the troops surrounding Raleigh. According to a diary entry in one Indiana officer's diary, a mob of two thousand angry Union soldiers charged down from their camp on Dix Hill. Union General John Logan met them at the foot of the hill and threatened to shoot anyone that didn't return to camp. The men turned back. The city of Raleigh was spared from a fiery inferno.
At one time there were 17,000 men encamped on Dix Hill surrounding Dix Hospital. Union soldiers also occupied Spring Hill, which was the plantation home (featured in Issue #16) owned by Theophilus Hunter (also seen on the map above).
The gardens of Dix Hill which were previously used to help feed the patients were decimated by the soldiers and civilians. At the war’s end the hospital’s condition was described as “deplorable” by Governor Jonathan Worth, who subsequently helped restore the hospital. Legislators authorized the expenditure of up to $35,000 from the public treasury to make repairs in 1866.
NC LEGISLATURE HAS COMPASSION ON AMPUTEE VETERANS OF CIVIL WAR
About 75 percent of the operations performed by surgeons during the Civil War were amputations. For those who survived amputation and the resulting infections, the pursuit of artificial limbs was natural. Artificial legs, and to a lesser extent, arms, also helped the amputees get back to work in order to support themselves and their families. The United States government assisted Union amputees after the Civil War, but Confederate veterans were considered the responsibilities of the states. The North Carolina Legislature responded quickly to the needs of its citizens and became the first of the former Confederate states to offer artificial limbs to amputees.
On January 23, 1866, the North Carolina General Assembly passed a resolution asking Governor Jonathan Worth to contract with a manufacturer of artificial limbs to fulfill the needs of the state’s Confederate amputees. Doing so, North Carolina became the first of the former Confederate states to offer artificial limbs to amputees. The state contracted with Jewett’s Patent Leg Company, and a temporary factory was set up in Raleigh. A system was developed so that the amputees encountered no out-of-pocket expenses in visiting Raleigh for prosthetic fittings. Because artificial arms were not considered to be very functional, it was another year before the state offered artificial arms.
During the five years that the state operated the artificial limbs program, 1,550 Confederate veterans contacted the state for help. According to records in the state archives, the total cost of the artificial-limbs program to the state was over $81,000. [Editor's note: this is equivalent to approximately 1.1 million in 2017 dollars]
Currently, the North Carolina Medicaid program and NC Division of Vocational Rehabilitation Services are two programs applying state appropriated matching funds to carry on the tradition of assisting its citizens to live, work and participate within the NC Community through full or partial sponsorship of prosthetic limbs of a much more improved and functional nature. The NC Legislature is to be commended for their continued support of its citizens with disabilities. NC Division of Vocational Rehabilitation Services is pleased to be one of their resources for extending compassionate assistance to those who require these devices for employment purposes.
We hope that through this issue you have learned a few interesting historical facts about the NC DVRS' current storied location for its central office operations. The Division of Vocational Rehabilitation Services central office team will continue its journey from Dix Hill to new locations as a result of Dix Hill’s recent sale to the City of Raleigh. Unlike General Sherman’s march of destruction to Savannah, NC DVRS will leave a legacy of healing and creative problem solving for North Carolinians with disabilities who require our assistance to regain their footing in life’s important activities.