north carolina highway historical marker program
North Carolina Highway Historical Marker Program
 

 
 
 

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Essay:
      In the summer of 1863 construction began on a Confederate medical laboratory in northern Lincoln County. Confederate authorities had authorized Surgeon Aaron Snowden Piggott to develop a facility for the production of indigenous medical supplies in response to the effectiveness of the Union blockade in keeping such materials from entering the Confederate states.

      A. S. Piggott, born in 1822 in Baltimore, was a physician as well as a chemist and geologist. A prolific author, Piggott’s work on medicine, chemistry, dentistry, and literature was widely published in the years prior to the Civil War. He had traveled extensively from his Baltimore home to North Carolina and Tennessee before 1861 studying the region’s geology. When Union troops occupied Baltimore in 1861, Piggott fled to Richmond and accepted a civilian position working with the Confederate Ordnance Bureau. In this capacity he traveled the South studying mining capabilities in North Carolina, Georgia, and Alabama. In 1862, the Confederate Medical Department offered him a surgeon’s commission in the army, and authorized him to build a medical facility.

      The reason Piggott chose Lincolnton for the site is unknown; however, by April 1863 construction had begun on property along South Fork Creek. The institute opened in late 1863, although construction continued late into the war. Piggott worked closely with the Confederate Navy Yard at Charlotte, and received equipment from the North Carolina Military Institute in the same city.

      Piggott’s laboratory produced a comprehensive list of drugs from indigenous plants. He developed a “botanical garden” that included poppies for opium and helped produce various sulfuric acids for chloroform in conjunction with a Confederate acid laboratory in Charlotte. Despite the services that Piggott and the lab provided the Confederate military, locals remained suspicious of him, and often treated him with an attitude he described as “absurd prejudice.” Exactly where such animosity originated from remains unclear, but Piggott wrote that the locals had issued “numerous threats” that he did not “consider idle.”

      Piggott’s and his laboratory were captured by Union forces on April 27, 1865. Piggott received a parole on July 24, and returned home. He resumed his prewar activities, and became a professor of chemistry at the Baltimore College of Dental Surgery. He died on February 12, 1869 from a stroke. His grandson, Charles Snowden Piggott, who died in 1973, is considered one of the founding fathers of ocean-bottom marine research.

      The Confederate Laboratory building stood until 1886, when most of it was demolished to make room for the Laboratory Cotton Mill. Today the site is little more than ruins and a foundation.


References:
Guy Hasegawa, “‘Absurd Prejudice’: A. Snowden Piggot and the Confederate Medical Laboratory at Lincolnton,” North Carolina Historical Review (July 2004): 313-334
Guy Hasegawa and F. Terry Hambrecht, “The Confederate Medical Laboratories,” Southern Medical Journal (2003)
Charlotte Observer, August 1, 1994
L. A. Crowell Jr., “Confederate Laboratory for Preparation of Medicines near Lincolnton,” Southern Medicine and Surgery (June 1933): 343-344
Elizabeth S. Smith, “Lincoln County Never Trusted Doctor Piggott,” The State (October 1978)
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