Egyptian Building

Egyptian Building, Richmond, Virginia.
Egyptian Building, north-west (front) elevation.
Egyptian Building, from College Street, south-east (rear) elevation.
Cover of Sunday Magazine section of the Richmond Times-Dispatch, 19 July 1936, depicting the Egyptian Building.

Designed by noted Greek Revival architect Thomas S. Stewart of Philadelphia, the Egyptian Building is one of the finest examples of the rare “Egyptian Revival” style. The building was the first permanent home of the Medical Department of Hampden-Sydney College, which later became the Medical College of Virginia. The Egyptian Building has been in continuous use since its construction in 1845 and remains the oldest medical college building in the South. While the interior has since been extensively altered to accommodate administrative office space (with the notable exception of the 1930s lobby and ground floor lecture hall), the monumental exterior is extremely well preserved. The building once housed lecture rooms, a dissecting room, an infirmary, and hospital beds for medical and surgical cases.

Entrance to Egyptian Building, Richmond, Virginia.

In 1939, Richmond architects Baskervill & Son oversaw extensive restoration of the exterior of the building. Bernard Baruch, a wealthy industrialist, financed the restoration in memory of his father Dr. Simon Baruch, an 1862 graduate of the Medical College of Virginia and a Confederate surgeon in the War Between the States. The 270-seat Baruch Auditorium on the first floor dates to this renovation and is still in use. The restoration included remodeling the interior of the building to follow the Egyptian style. None of the original interiors survived.

Egyptian Building, detail of column capitals.
Egyptian Building, detail of east portico.
Egyptian Building, c. 1920s-1930s, with students or recent graduates?
Egyptian Building, prior to removal of ivy during 1939 restoration.

Detail of cast iron fence, with herm or mummy posts, by R. W. Barnes of Richmond.

What old Nassau Hall is to Princeton, what the Wren Building is to William and Mary, what the Rotunda is to the University of Virginia, the Egyptian Building is to the Medical College of Virginia. It is a shrine, a sanctuary of tradition, the physical embodiment of our genius. It is a spiritual heritage. In a world often accused of cold materialism, with an ideology of human self-sufficiency, and an adoration of objects that can be handled and seen, there is a need for things of the spirit, if science is to do more than make life safer, longer and more comfortable.

Dr. Wyndham Blanton at Founders’ Day exercises held at the Egyptian Building, 5 December 1940.

Mexico and Richmond

Abraham Lincoln once asked General Scott the question: “Why is it that you were once able to take the City of Mexico in three months with five thousand men, and we have been unable to take Richmond with one hundred thousand men?”

“I will tell you,” said General Scott. “The men who took us into the City of Mexico then are the same men who are keeping us out of Richmond now.”

In Plain Violation of the Constitution

Whereas, seven of the States formerly composing a part of the United States have, by authority of their people, solemnly resumed the powers granted by them to the United States, and have framed a Constitution and organized a Government for themselves, to which the people of those States are yielding willing obedience, and have so notified the President of the United States by all the formalities incident to such action, and thereby become to the United States a separate, independent and foreign power; and whereas, the Constitution of the United States has invested Congress with the sole power “to declare war,” and until such declaration is made, the President has no authority to call for an extraordinary force to wage offensive war against any foreign Power: and whereas, on the 15th inst., the President of the United States, in plain violation of the Constitution, issued a proclamation calling for a force of seventy-five thousand men, to cause the laws of the United States to be duly executed over a people who are no longer a part of the Union, and in said proclamation threatens to exert this unusual force to compel obedience to his mandates; and whereas, the General Assembly of Virginia, by a majority approaching to entire unanimity, declared at its last session that the State of Virginia would consider such an exertion of force as a virtual declaration of war, to be resisted by all the power at the command of Virginia; and subsequently the Convention now in session, representing the sovereignty of this State, has reaffirmed in substance the same policy, with almost equal unanimity; and whereas, the State of Virginia deeply sympathizes with the Southern States in the wrongs they have suffered, and in the position they have assumed; and having made earnest efforts peaceably to compose the differences which have severed the Union, and having failed in that attempt, through this unwarranted act on the part of the President; and it is believed that the influences which operate to produce this proclamation against the seceded States will be brought to bear upon this commonwealth, if she should exercise her undoubted right to resume the powers granted by her people, and it is due to the honor of Virginia that an improper exercise of force against her people should be repelled. Therefore I, JOHN LETCHER, Governor of the Commonwealth of Virginia, have thought proper to order all armed volunteer regiments or companies within this State forthwith to hold themselves in readiness for immediate orders, and upon the reception of this proclamation to report to the Adjutant-General of the State their organization and numbers, and prepare themselves for efficient service. Such companies as are not armed and equipped will report that fact, that they may be properly supplied.

In witness whereof, I have hereunto set my hand and caused the seal of the Commonwealth to be affixed, this 17th day of April, 1861, and in the eighty-fifth year of the Commonwealth.

JOHN LETCHER.

All Richmond Was Astir

But one spring day in April, 1861, all Richmond was astir. Schools were broken up, and knots of excited men gathered at every street corner. Sumter had been fired upon, and Lincoln had ordered the men of Virginia to rush upon their brethren of the South and put the rebellion down. Now “the die was cast,” our lot was with theirs, and come weal or woe, we would fight for independence. How merrily the sunbeams danced that day! how proud we children were of the great preparation for the illumination that night!—how few recked of the great underthrob of misery, grief and want! Every patriotic citizen had his house ablaze with a thousand lights, and the dark ones were marked. I remember distinctly my father taking us to see the Exchange Hotel and Ballard House with the glass balcony, stretching over the street and connecting the two houses, all glittering and reflecting the crystal lights. To us it was a great spectacle, and our hearts swelled with pride to think we could say to our tyrants: “Thus far shalt thou come, and no further.”

The excitement permeated the schools, and those of our number who lived in the dark houses, or the non-illuminators, were dubbed “Yankees,” “Abolitionists” and “Black Republicans,” and virtually ostracised. Saturdays we would spend in the lecture-rooms of the different churches we attended, where our mothers and grown-up sisters were busy plying the needle, and cutting out clothes for the soldier boys, and indulging in such talk about the vile usurpers as would fire our young hearts with indignation. Snatches of song improvised for the emergency—”Maryland, my Maryland,” “John Brown’s Body,” “There’s life in the Old Land Yet,” &c.— grew as familiar as “I want to be an Angel.” In fact, we had a parody which ran thus:

I want to be a soldier,
And with the soldiers stand,
A knapsack on my shoulder,
And musket in my hand;
And there beside Jeff Davis,
So glorious and so brave,
I’ll whip the cussed Yankee
And drive him to his grave.

But what were our boys doing while the girls were sewing up sand-bags to fortify Drewry’s Bluff? It seemed the “Demon of Destruction” was possessing the whole land. The boys were keeping their patriotism warm by playing “Yank” and “Reb” in mock battles, and so sorely did these young archers wound each other that steps had to be taken by the city authorities toward the suppression of these hostilities. I remember being on Church Hill on one occasion, when the rowdies from Rocketts, calling themselves Yankees, came upon our boys who were unarmed. Immediately our party of little girls flew to a coal-house near, which happened to be open for replenishing, and filling our little aprons with the dusky diamonds ran into the midst of a hot battle, screaming with all the enthusiasm of our young natures, “Kill them! kill them!” We bound up heads and filled pockets with “ammunition” till our nurses, noticing our escapade, came to carry us to our mammas to be punished for soiling our dresses.

— Miss Sallie Hunt, of Lynchburg, Va.; from “Our Women in the War.” The Lives They Lived; The Deaths They Died, Charleston: The News and Courier Book Presses, 1885.

A Disgraceful Race

We soon learned all the particulars of the memorable battle; how the festive congressmen had come with their wives, daughters, and sweethearts, on the outskirts of the army, seated in luxurious carriages, with hampers packed with champagne and all good things, to regale themselves withal, as from a safe place they would view the triumphant career of their Invincibles as they made the rebels bite the dust, and then to march over their traitorous corpses to Richmond. There, there was to be a grand ball; ladies had provided themselves with magnificent dresses, certainly expecting, after the battle was over, and the rebels were wiped out, to proceed serenely on their way to the Confederate Capital without meeting an obstacle.

When the “rebels” had been reinforced by the arch-rebels, Johnston and Jackson, with their wornout but gallant men, and when the Federals with their splendid army had turned and were frantically flying before those same “rebels,” they cared for nothing but to get away. The flight of that panic-stricken mob has often been described, and by many pens, none however so graphic as that which after treating of their disgraceful race, styled them the “Bull Runners”; the London Punch was, I believe, the author of that appropriate name.

Cornelia Peake McDonald, A Diary with Reminiscences of the War and Refugee Life in the Shenandoah Valley, 1860-1865.

FLIGHT OF DOODLES.

I come from old Manassas with a pocketful of fun,
I killed forty Yankees with a single barreled gun;
It don’t make a niff-a-stiff’rence to neither you nor I,
Big Yankee, little Yankee, all run or die!

I saw all the Yankees at Bull Run,
They fought like the devil when the battle first begun.
But it don’t make a niff-a-stiff’rence to neither you nor I,
They took to their heels, boys — you oughta seen ’em fly!

I saw Old Fuss-and-Feathers Scott, twenty miles away,
His horses both stuck up their ears — you oughta hear ’em neigh;
But it don’t make a niff-a-stiff’rence to neither you nor I,
Old Scott fled like the devil, boys — root hog or die!

I then saw a “Tiger” from the Old Cresecent City,
He cut down the Yankees without any pity;
Oh! It don’t make a niff-a-stiff’rence to neither you nor I,
We whipped the Yankee boys and made the boobies cry.

I saw South Carolina, the first in The Cause,
Shake the dirty Yankees till she broke all their jaws;
Oh! It don’t make a niff-a-stiff’rence to neither you nor I,
South Carolina give ’em hell, boys — root hog or die!

I saw old Virginia, standing firm and true,
She fought mighty hard to whip a mighty dirty crew;
Oh! It don’t make a niff-a-stiff’rence to neither you nor I,
Old Virginia’s blood and thunder — root hog or die!

I saw old Georgia, the next in the van,
She cut down the Yankees almost to a man;
Oh! It don’t make a niff-a-stiff’rence to neither you nor I,
Georgia fought the fight, boys — root hog or die!

I saw Alabama in the middle of the storm,
She stood like a giant in the contest so warm;
Oh! It don’t make a niff-a-stiff’rence to neither you nor I,
Alabama fought the Yankees, boys, till the last one did fly!

I saw Texas go in with a smile,
But I tell you what it is, she made the Yankees bile.
Oh! It don’t make a niff-a-stiff’rence to neither you nor I,
Texas is the devil, boys — root hog or die!

I saw North Carolina in the deepest of the battle.
She knocked down the Yankees and made their bones rattle;
Oh! It don’t make a niff-a-stiff’rence to neither you nor I,
North Carolina’s got the grit, boys — root hog or die!

Old Florida came in with a terrible shout,
She frightened all the Yankees till their eyes stuck out;
Oh! It don’t make a niff-a-stiff’rence to neither you nor I,
Florida’s death on Yankees, boys — root hog or die!

— Anonymous.

Rowdies, Cut-throats, and Burglars

Federal troops drill on the grounds of the United States Capitol in 1861. (Library of Congress)
Federal troops drill on the grounds of the United States Capitol in 1861. (Library of Congress)

One of the most melancholy features of the horrible and bloody strife into which this country is about to be involved consists in the fact that the very best portion of the population of the South will be required to meet in mortal combat, in great part, the very worst population of the North. Whenever the South shall lose a soldier, it will lose a valuable citizen, whose loss will be sensibly felt, whereas the North would be benefitted if a large portion of its soldiers would never return from the battle-field. The flower of Southern honor and chivalry will cross swords with rowdies, cut-throats and burglars from the corrupt cesspools of Northern cities.–the South sends into the field honorable, honest, moral and virtuous soldiers, the North such desperadoes, and dangerous men as she is afraid to keep at home. As an illustration of the spirit of our people, and the kind of men who are volunteering their services to the State, we will mention the fact that a number of Minsters of the Gospel who are distinguished for talents, cultivation, eloquence and piety, have exchanged the “sacred desk” for the soldier’s tent.

The Rev. Dr. B. M. Smith and Rev. Dr. R. L. Dabney, Professors of the “Union Theological Seminary,” Rev. Dr. Moses Hoge, Pastor of the 2nd Presbyterian Church in Richmond city, and Rev. Dr. Pendleton, Rector of the Episcopal Church in Lexington, all of whom are well known in this county, have connected themselves with volunteer companies. Dr. Pendleton is now Captain of an Artillery Company in Lexington, being elected to supply the vacancy caused by the promotion of Capt. McCausland to the post of lieutenant Colonel of Volunteers. As Dr. Pendleton is a graduate of West Point, and has served several years in the army, he will no doubt make a good and efficient officer.–Though the conflict may be terrible, we do no doubt that, in time, the Northern “Apollyon” will succumb to the Southern “Christian,” and that our brave soldiery who go forth clad in the panoply of a just cause, will return with their banners–though “tattered and torn”–wreathed with the laurels of victory.

Staunton Spectator, 14 May 1861, p. 2, c. 3.

Let It Be Told

Great Seal of the Confederate States of America, lithograph by Andrew B. Graham, Washington, 1911.
Great Seal of the Confederate States of America, lithograph by Andrew B. Graham, Washington, 1911.

When the South declared in consequence of all these things they would leave the Union unless something was done to assure their protection and justice within it, the whole air resounded with the taunts of Northern members of Congress and the Northern press, taunting them for their weakness and impotence, and threatening to overwhelm them by their superior power, until State after State fell from them in utter despair. Let it be told how a Confederacy was thus formed, small in point of numbers, consisting of eight millions of whites, and about four millions of slaves, without commerce, without manufactures, and almost without accumulated capital, and without allies — which Confederacy staked its all upon an issue of arms with a union of more than twenty millions of men homogeneous in character and pursuits, and which, abounding in all those things of which the others were so much in want, and although nominally without professed allies was yet substantially assisted by the whole world, which, although professing to be impartial, respected a paper blockade, which of itself was almost fatal to a people without ships of war, and to which they had not quietly submitted heretofore. Nor could they have done so then but for the idea that they were indirectly assisting in a war against slavery. What was to be the effect of all this, foreigners did not then understand, or their course might have been different; nor did the North foresee the terrible nature of the contest in which they were about to embark, or they might have paused before entering into it. But let the whole story be told, that the world and the country may behold the entire consequences of such a strife before they provoke another like it. Let us hear the history of that famous day at Bull Run, when Northern men and Northern women, as if upon some review or gala occasion, followed their army out from Washington to see it overwhelm the poor, despised South, whose sons were recklessly assembled together, as they supposed, to be routed and ruined by the superior forces which they stood up to encounter. Let all mankind hear how bloody was the reception which they met, until they broke and fled in wild despair, even more surprised than frightened, if possible, to find the men in gray capable of such stern resistance. Let the course of these heroic men be followed after they fell into the master-hands of Lee, for more than four years over the soil of Virginia, as they trod in triumph with feet red with the blood of their enemies, and as they hurled back the invading forces, sometimes four, sometimes three, and never less than two to one, reeking with their own blood and red with carnage; now driving McClellan into the James River and clear away from Richmond; now hurling Burnside across the Rappahannock river in bloody repulse from the good town of Fredericksburg. Let it be told how these same men in gray flanked the superior hosts of the North under Hooker, and drove them away in wild and bewildering flight, having lost their confidence in numbers, and believing it impossible to make themselves superior in strength so long as there was a Lee to plan, or a Jackson to lead these brave men in the charge, whose wild cheer always betokened courage and victory so long as they had food and clothing, and maintained heart and hope; or still following them in their bloody march, let us pause with them at Cold Harbor, where they repulsed Grant’s assault and piled so high the Federal dead that, as the rumor runs, the authorities at Washington despaired of success, and resolved to abandon the contest and agree to a division of the Union, a determination which they only revoked upon the receipt of encouraging news from the Southwest. But we must not leave the story there; we must follow it to the last sad results, until the tapestry is quite reversed. We must follow it to its final close, when without food, without clothes, and an unsufficient supply of arms, Lee surrendered his hardy and battered regiments with eight thousand muskets in their hands, whilst the rolls bore twenty-two thousand upon their face. And thus when it was impossible to maintain any further contest upon even plausible terms, the army was surrendered and the cause was lost.

— Hon. R. M. T. Hunter in an address to the Southern Historical Society (as reorganised), at the Capitol, Richmond, 27 October 1874.