Baptist Church Hospital

The Baptist Church was confiscated for use as a hospital in 1862. Read a first-person account from head nurse Clarissa Jones.

Page updated on Aug 26, 2020 at 2:24 PM
Downtown Baptist Church HospitalImage 1: Baptist Church during the Civil War. (The Photographic History of the Civil War in Ten Volumes.) 
Grace, Prince Street, Lyceum on Bird's Eye ViewImage 2: Baptist Church, located on a section of Magnus'  Birdseye View of Alexandria, Va. (Library of Congress.) 
Downtown Baptist Church, Quartermaster MapQuartermaster Map, Sheet 12, showing Baptist Church Hospital and surrounding structures. 
Downtown Baptist Church Hospital TodayDowntown Baptist Church Today.
Civil War Hospitals Map: Baptist Church

History of the Baptist Church Hospital

212 S. Washington Street

A hospital opened in the Baptist Church on July 5, 1862, becoming one of the hospitals in the 2nd Division of Alexandria hospitals on Sept. 20, 1862. The Quartermaster map shows stables  and a sink (privy) behind  the church. The hospital closed on Dec. 8, 1864. A December 17, 1864 census listed the hospital as supporting 150 beds of the 993 beds in the Alexandria General Hospital Division, which included most of the church hospitals.

The church’s brick façade was built in 1805, rebuilt in 1830 after a fire, and enlarged in 1858.

When the church was taken for use as a hospital, The Philadelphia Press  reported that Reverend Bitting, pastor of the church, was in trouble with the provost marshall:

A PHILADELPHIA MINISTER IN TROUBLE.--We learn that Rev. Mr. Bitting, formerly of this city, who is now pastor of the Baptist Church in Alexandria, Virginia, was lately informed by Colonel Gregory, the provost marshal of that place, that if he could not pray for the President of the United States and the success of the Federal arms, he would be compelled to close his church.

The reverend gentleman asked until the next morning to consider the subject, which was granted by Colonel Gregory. Mr. Bitting, in company with the mayor of Alexandria, called upon Colonel Gregory, and informed him that he could not comply with his request. Colonel Gregory replied that he (Mr. Bitting) being a Philadelphian and a minister of the Gospel of Christ, and an instructor of the people in righteousness, it was certainly incumbent upon him to lead them in the way which would produce peace and good order, and that the only object of the Government was to restore order, and bring back peace to our distracted country. Mr. Bitting replied that he had made it a rule not to interfere with politics, and had endeavored to preach the Gospel. Colonel Gregory informed him that politics had nothing to do with the matter; that the subject had resolved itself into the question of a Government or no Government, and that he who was not for the Government must be against it.

Occupying the position which he did, and being from the loyal State of Pennsylvania, he was extremely sorry that he had placed himself in a position which forbid him to pray for the President and thank God for the success of the Federal arms. This being the case, he must take military possession of the church, which was immediately done by the adjutant.

  • Source: The Philadelphia Press (Monday 21 July 1862, page 3), transcribed in First 91st Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry, A Day in Alexandria, RootsWeb.
  • More information: How a church became a Civil War Hospital. Out of the Attic, March 9, 2017.

First Person Accounts

Clarissa Jones, Head Nurse 

Clarissa Jones was the head nurse at the Baptist Church hospital in Alexandria. Read an excerpt from a letter from Nurse Jones, dated September 12, 1862, courtesy of  The National Museum of Civil War Medicine, Frederick, Maryland. 

Historic Images

Image 1:  

  • Title: Baptist Church, Capacity 150
  • Image Source:The Photographic History of the Civil War in Ten Volumes. Francis Trevelyan Miller, Editor in Chief, Volume Seven, Prisons and Hospitals. New York, The Review of Reviews Co., 1911, p. 234
  • Image Date: 1861-1865.
  • Medium: Photograph
  • Rights Advisory: Out of Copyright

 Image 2: 

Quartermaster Map

The Quartermaster Map, Sheet 12, shows the Baptist Church Hospital and surrounding structures, including stables and general's quarters.

Location and the Site Today

The church, now known as Downtown Baptist Church, is located at 212 S. Washington Street, across from The Lyceum.