The Alabama Angel


Sergeant Major
Aug 6, 2016

Juliet Ann (Opie) Hopkins
May 7, 1818 – March 9, 1890
(Public Domain)

Hierome Lindsay Opie (1772-1839) was considered a wealthy man. Along with his wife Margaret Tate Muse (1792-1840) they lived on their Virginia plantation “Woodburn”. He owned 2,000 slaves which established him in high ranking among the elite families in what was then Virginia (now West Virginia). Their daughter Juliet Ann Opie was born on the plantation on May 7, 1818 and returned home at twenty-two to be the “mistress of Woodburn” after her mother died.

In 1837 she married Commodore Alexander Gordon of the United State Navy. He died in 1849 leaving her a widow at thirty-one years old. Within five years she found love with a widower who was twenty-four years her senior. Arthur Hopkins was born in Virginia but moved to Huntsville, Alabama to practice law. After their marriage the couple left Virginia and settle in Mobile where Hopkins was president of the Mobile and Ohio Railroad.

They never had children but adopted Juliet’s niece and named her Juliet Opie Hopkins. She was born in 1860 and was the daughter of Juliet’s sister and there is some speculation the sister gave her barren sister the child.

At the start of the Civil War in 1861 Juliet sold her property in New York, Virginia and Alabama that she had acquired or inherited. She didn’t do this for personal gain as she gave the money to the establishment of Confederate hospitals. The Confederate Army deemed that each state was responsible for the care of their own patients. In November of 1861, Judge Arthur Hopkins was appointed the Superintendent of Civil war Hospitals for Alabama soldiers although some believe it was an appointment with the knowledge that his wife was working closely at his side.

By now Juliet was working in Richmond where she was operating out of a supply depot as articles necessary for the treatment for war wounded were arriving. In the five months between December of 1861 through the following April she created two hospitals by covering three tobacco factories capable to holding 500 patients. Later in 1862 she, along with ninety-two women auxiliary groups, established a third hospital and coordinated and collected the necessary supplies.

Juliet was a frequent visitor primarily writing letters or supplying reading material. Upon a patient’s death she clipped a lock of his hair and personally sent the remembrance to their next of kin.​


Civil War Nurses
(Public Domain)

Although she was excellent at organization she managed to find herself on an active battlefield on June 1, 1862 during the Battle of Seven Pines. She was attempting to retrieve wounded soldiers from the battle when she was shot twice in the hip. She recovered and went back to her duties however she suffered from a permanent limp for the rest of her life.

For her action she was nominated and received the Confederate Medal of Honor. The Confederate Medal of Honor was authorized on October 13, 1862. Unfortunately for the recipients metal shortages prevented any physical award of an actual medal. Juliet Opie was the only woman among forty-seven men to have the honor bestowed upon her. After this incident acquired a new name among the troops: “Florence Nightingale of the South”.


Battle of Seven Pines
Illustrations Alfred Waud
(Public Domain)

Later that year two of Juliet’s hospitals were closed with a third to follow. It was time for Juliet to return to Alabama. So dedicated to her Southern soldiers she had the carpet cut up in her home to be used for blankets. She divided her time between Tuskegee and Montgomery hospitals. By now her reputation was established as an excellent organizer and administrator. She worked tirelessly to gather supplies for the Confederate cause. It is estimated that Juliet donated between $200,000 and $500,000 for the Southern cause. She was so revered by her peers that her picture was printed on Alabama Confederate paper currency 25-cent pieces and $50 bills.

In April of 1865 as the Union forces were in Alabama the couple fled their home. They stayed in Georgia until they were able to return to their home. ​


City Hospital in Richmond
(LOC/Public Domain)

After the war the couple were financially destitute. They returned to Mobile where her husband died November 8, 1865. Juliet went to New York to live as she had property there that the couple had not sold to raise money to support the Confederate cause. She spent the next twenty-five year in poverty. In March of 1890 while visiting her daughter living in Washington D.C., Juliet died. She was buried at Arlington National Cemetery sharing the gravesite of her son-in-law Union Brevet Major General Romeyn Beck Ayers (1825-1888). Former Confederate Generals Joseph Wheeler and Joseph E. Johnston attended her funeral as well Union General John Schofield now serving as the Commanding General of the United States Army. Members of the Alabama Delegation served as the pall bearers as the “Florence Nightingale of the South” was laid to rest.​


(Public Domain)

* All Quotes from A quote from Fannie Beers a nurse with the Third Alabama regarding her association with Juliet Opie Hopkins and source {1}


Forum Host
Nov 27, 2018
Chattanooga, Tennessee
I have to wonder with 2000 slaves in 1840, what became of them when she sold her land property at the start of the war. Remarkable lady for sure!
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