Born in 1833, Sally Louisa Tompkins became the first and only female officer in the Confederacy. She was a nurse commissioned by Jefferson Davis in 1861 as a captain in the cavalry. His purpose in doing so was to evade a Confederate congressional order that prohibited civilians from supervising military hospitals. She opened the Robertson Hospital in Richmond, housing wounded soldiers at the home of Judge John Robertson from July 31, 1861 until discharging her last patient on June 13, 1865.
Military hospital mortality rates were extremely high during the war. At the Robertson Hospital, under the supervision of Sally Louisa Tompkins, the mortality rates were exceptionally low. Of 1,333 wounded men under her care in a nearly four year period, only 73 died.
Tompkins never married and died in 1916. In her early years with the army she was seen as an outsider who had no place running a military hospital. By the end of her career she would collect many honors, and after her death two chapters of the United Daughters of the Confederacy were formed in her honor and she received a honorary membership in the Robert E. Lee Camp of Confederate Veterans.