April, 2011 – Gordonsville, Virginia – The Exchange Hotel Civil War Museum

Posted on December 18, 2011


The Exchange Hotel was built in 1859-60 as a railroad hotel serving the Virginia Central Railroad and the village of Gordonsville. It was turned into a Confederate receiving hospital during the Civil War, though some Federal troops were treated here as well.

The building originally sat on 25 acres.  While in use as a hospital, tents for the wounded covered the grounds.  Only those with a good chance for survival were cared for inside the building.  All those who would surely die were left outside in the tents.  All surgeries – read amputations – were done inside the Hotel.

It is the only Civil War receiving hospital still standing in Virginia.

During the reconstruction period, the Gordonsville Receiving Hospital served the newly freed slaves as a Freedman’s Bureau Hospital.

Today, the Museum displays many local history artifacts, but it was (to us) the hospital and Civil War displays that were the most interesting.

The Museum houses a large collection of artifacts relating to medical care during the Civil War.  Surgical instruments, pharmaceutical bottles, medical knapsacks and panniers, stretchers and litters, prosthetic devices, and dental tools are included, as well as uniforms and small weapons.

Many of the photographs were amazing, and revealing.  The Virginia Central Railroad went through Gordonsville and was used to transport troops.  Black ladies were allowed to sell chicken, coffee and other items to soldiers on troop trains rolling through town.

Today, descendents of these “Chicken Ladies” sell chicken dinners during Civil War reenactments held as fundraisers for the old Hotel/Hospital Museum.

We were there when the Museum was gearing up for participation in the official state-wide commemoration of the 150th Anniversary of the Civil War.

However, according to fliers posted at the museum, they also planned to celebrate something else during a one-day event on April 17 – the 150th Anniversary of the Secession of the Commonwealth of Virginia.