Located on a hill named after a volcanic mountain in Ecuador, Chimborazo Hospital was one of 50 makeshift hospitals set up in Richmond during the Civil War and treated more than 78,000 sick and wounded Confederate soldiers. A complex of more than 100 buildings, Chimborazo was one of the largest Civil War hospitals and was established after the bloody battles of Manassas and the Peninsula Campaign and was filled to capacity by the battles that raged around Richmond throughout the war.

Barracks originally built on Chimborazo Hill to house Confederate soldiers were instead put into use as hospital wards with large tents increasing the capacity of the hospital as needed. Tobacco crates sitting unused during Richmond's wartime suspension of tobacco trade provided lumber for other buildings. Patients were fed from cows and goats that grazed on Chimborazo Hill, and the Chimborazo canal boat navigated up and down the James River bringing supplies from as far away as Lynchburg to the hospital.

Chimborazo Medical Museum Richmond Civil War Hospitals

A panoramic photo taken just after the fall of Richmond that is on display at the Chimborazo Medical Museum uses yellow flags denote Civil War hospitals located through the city.

Sick and wounded men from the battles of Northern Virginia were carried by rail through Fredericksburg to Richmond and through Gordonsville to hospitals in Charlottesville and Lynchburg. The Exchange Hotel in Gordonsville was converted to a receiving and distributing hospital during the Civil War.

Medical procedures were performed quickly by doctors who received only basic training in surgery. A 'circular' amputation of a limb was performed in five minutes or less after administering a cocktail of alcohol, morphine, and ether to the patient and twisting on a tourniquet. Nearly all serious wounds were caused by muskets firing high velocity 'minie balls' that shattered bones upon impact leaving no other remedy than amputation.

Chimborazo Medical Museum Civil War Surgeons Kit

A Civil War surgeon's kit on display at Chimborazo Medical Museum contains probes, knives, forceps and a saw.

Located in the Richmond National Battlefield Park Visitor Center, the Chimborazo Medical Museum is located in Chimborazo Park in the scenic and historic Church Hill section of Richmond not far from St. John's Church where Patrick Henry delivered his famous 'Give me liberty, or give me death!" speech. The visitor center itself is an historic ca. 1909 federal weather station. The museum is staffed by park rangers and features a film, gift shop and diorama of the original immense Chimborazo medical complex. The museum is open daily and is convenient to shopping and dining. The museum is close to numerous Civil War battlefields where there are battlefield hiking and driving tours as indicated on the Richmond National Battlefield Park Map.

Chimborazo Park Walkway

The Chimborazo Visitor Center and Medical Museum are located in Chimborazo Park - a pleasant area for walking, relaxing and enjoying the views.

Chimborazo Visitor Center Church Hill

The Chimborazo Visitor Center and Medical Museum are located in the historic Church Hill section of Richmond.

Pictured at the very top: The Chimborazo Visitor Center serves as the headquarters for Richmond National Battlefield Park and is home of the Chimborazo Medical Museum.

History courtesy of and many thanks to Frank R. Freemon, Gangrene and Glory, Medical Care during the American Civil War, University of Illinois Press, paperback 2001.

Historical Photo

chimborazo hospital

Chimborazo Hospital, (Confederate) Richmond, Va., April, 1865  (Library of Congress)