Archive for the ‘Illness’ Category

“Happy mortals are we, that we cannot dive into futurity!”

Following are some of the last entries from the journal of SARAH EVE, a young woman in Philadelphia in 1774.

March 27th. — A fine day, but still windy. In the morning I went over to Mrs. Stainforth’s and staid with her until dinner time. We had the pleasure of Mr. Clifford’s company to dine with us. In the afternoon Mr. & Mrs. Garriguse, Hannah Mitchell, Mr. Roberts, Mr. Rush (bless me, what a girl, Mr. Rush should have been set down first, I am sure, but now it is too late), and Mr. J. Giles drank Tea with us.

March 30th.— “Warm and cloudy. In the morning I went to Mrs. Rush’s where I spent the day and night. . . . About ten o’clock I went to bed and left Miss Bets up. Query, which was the happier, that lady sitting up with her, or myself lying in a fine soft bed, reading the ” Adventures of the renowned Don Quixote,” and in a most excellent humour to enjoy it?

May 1st. — A May morning indeed!. . . .This day is five years since my dear father left us; I am persuaded that had we known that morning we parted with him, that he was to have been absent so long, we should
have thought it impossible to have existed for one half the time ; nay, I know not at that time whether we should have wished it. Happy mortals are we, that we cannot dive into futurity! if we could, how pleasure would be anticipated until it became tasteless, and the knowledge of distant evil would render us utterly insensible to the joys of present good.

May 2nd. — In the evening I went to church and heard Mr. Stringer for the first time since his return from England. I dined at Mr. Rush’s. Betsey & myself in the afternoon went to Christ Church.

May 18th. — Mama and myself went to town in the morning, called at Mr. Rush’s. . . .

June 24th. — This morning I went to town, staid a little while at Mrs. Clifford’s, from there I went to Smith’s and spent the day. In the evening called at Mr. Rush’s. . . .

June 27th. — In the afternoon Mr. Cummings came here. In the evening the two Mr. Rushes called to see us.

July 3rd.— This day I spent at Mr. Rush’s. . . .

July 12th.— In the evening B. Rush, P. Dunn, K. Vaughan and myself carried Mr. Ash’s child to be buried . . . .

It was the custom at one time for friends and relatives of the deceased, including women, to carry the coffin to its resting place.

August 3rd. — This day I spent at Mr. Clifford’s . . . . In the evening called at Mr. Smith’s and Mr. Rush’s, then went to my sister’s where I met Mama and the Boys to go home with me.

August 13th. — About four o’clock we went to Town. I drank Tea at Mr. Rush’s, afterwards went down to see Mrs. Smith . . . .

September 4th. — To-day very unwell with a chill and fever. In the afternoon Mr. Rush and Betsey Rush were here.

September 5th. — In the morning I found myself much better and came down stairs and expected to have had no more of the fever, but about eleven o’clock found myself colder than December, and in the afternoon warmer than the inhabitants of Mercury — what a contrast in a few hours! In the afternoon my sister and Peggy Campbell and in the evening the two Betsey Rushes and Capt. Bethel.

September 21st. — Hearing that little Bets was unwell, I went to see her, and then to Mr. Smith’s to spend the day. Mr. Clifford read a paragraph in the York paper that mentions that my brother was to leave the Bay the 3rd of Sept.for Georgia, with some of the principal inhabitants and a hundred negroes on board, and that there were but two Vessels in the Bay, so that whether or not my Father has sailed we cannot tell. What doubt and anxiety attend absence — Oh! that our present uneasy apprehensions could but sleep ! Came home exceedingly unwell.

September 26th. — Last night Mama was extremely ill, Isabel very poorly and I not much better. . . . In the evening Mr. Rush came to see us, he did not know we were sick until he came here; he seemed so distresst that he did not know how to leave us, ” You should, why did you not let us know how you were, that we might have been up before.” Are we not blest with the best of friends.

September 27th. — Mama still bad, this morning we sent for Dr. Rush who gave Mama some powders and me some elixir, which we think have been of service to both. In the afternoon Mr. & Betsey Rush and Peggy Campbell came out here, and in the evening Mr. Rush.

September 29th. — Mrs. Clifford came out, although the weather extremely hot and sultry. About twelve we had a gust and it turned cold, so great a change in the weather gave me a chill instantly. Mrs. Rush and Betsey walked out here, but did not stay long as it looked like rain.

September 30th. — To-day cold, blowing and raining, so great an alteration in the weather in so short a time, I believe never has been. But notwithstanding Mr. Rush came through it all to ask how we did.

October 7th. — This morning we had the infinite pleasure of seeing my dear brother Jackey after an absence of twelve months. . . . To-day I went down stairs for the first time in eight days. . . .

October 9th. — A pleasant day, Mr. Rush, in the afternoon drank Tea with us.

Sarah Eve’s journal ends in mid December. Her father did come home before the end of the year. If you have been paying attention you will have noticed that the name of Dr. Benjamin Rush (and his mother and sister) is mentioned often in the preceding excerpts. He had been courting Sarah Eve and they were to have been married at the end of 1774. However, Sarah died three weeks before their wedding. As Sarah wrote: “Happy mortals are we, that we cannot dive into futurity!” Rush, in his autobiography, does not mention her.

EXTRACTS FROM THE JOURNAL OF MISS SARAH EYE (concluded), The Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography Vol. 5, No. 2 (1881),, pages 194-96, 198-200. Image from the National Library of Medicine (pp 28, 29, 30, 36).

posted February 8th, 2020 by Janet, comments (0), CATEGORIES: Death,Eve, Sarah,Illness,Philadelphia,Rush, Dr. Benjamin,Weather

“Sing another,” he said . . . “but something jolly.”

Baroness von Riedesel continues to describe their stay in Virginia to which the Convention Army, as prisoners of war, had been relocated. Her husband paid to have a house built for the family and they planted a garden which the Baron enjoyed. But he could not tolerate the heat. She describes what happened to him on one hot day.

I was busy setting our new home to rights and putting my husband’s things in his room when I heard a commotion outdoors. I ran to the window and saw some men carrying my husband into the house. His face was blue, his hands white, his eyes rigid, and beads of perspiration covered his forehead. He had had a sunstroke. I was more dead than alive myself, and the children uttered penetrating screams. We laid him down at once, tore off his clothes, and fortunately the surgeon of the regiment, who lived with us, was at home at the moment, so that he could bleed him immediately. He began to gain speech again and told us that while walking through the garden he had felt the sun burning hot on his head. He had hardly been able to reach the house, when his aides arrived, without whose help he would have been lost. Good Lord, what would have become of me and my little children among the captives so far from home in the enemy’s country!

The von Riedesels went to a spa the doctor had recommended for the Baron’s health. He did recover although he suffered from the ill effects of the incident for the rest of his life. The Baroness tells a charming story of a bargain she made with a local farmer. At the spa she made friends with Mrs. Charles Carroll who visited every morning to enjoy a musical treat. A Captain Geismar played the violin for the Baroness who sang Italian arias.

On day a farmer came to our house, whom we had frequently asked with many kind words to bring us fresh butter. As most Americans love music, he listened attentively, and when I had finished, he told me I would have to sing again. I asked him jestingly what he would give me for my singing, as I did nothing without being paid. He immediately replied, “Two pounds of butter.” That amused me very much, and I sang another song. “Sing another,” he said when I had finished, “but something jolly.” In the end I had sung so much, that the next day he brought me four or five pounds of butter. He had brought his wife with him and begged me to sing again. I won their affection, and after that I always had everything I needed. The best of it was that he really thought I wanted to be paid for my singing and was very much astonished when I paid them for the butter before they left.

The Baroness developed critical views of Southerners and their plantations cultivated by slaves.

The Virginians are mostly indolent, which is ascribed to their hot climate . . . . The plantation-owners . . . have numerous Negro slaves and do not treat them well. Many of them let the slaves walk about stark naked until they are between fifteen and sixteen years old, and the clothes which they give them afterward are not worth wearing. The slaves are in the charge of an overseer who leads them out into the fields at daybreak, where they have to work like cattle or suffer beating; and when they come home completely tired out and sunburnt they are given some Indian meal called hominy, which they make into baked stuff. Often, however, they are too exhausted to eat and prefer sleeping a couple of hours, because they must go back to work. They look upon it as a misfortune to have children, because these, in turn, will also be slaves and unhappy men. . . . But there are, of course, good masters too.

In the next post: the possibility of an exchange.

Marvin L. Brown, Jr. A Revised Translation and Introduction and Notes, Baroness von Riedesel and the American Revolution: Journal and Correspondence of a Tour of Duty 1776-1783 (Chapel Hill, NC: University of NC Press, 1965), 83-86. The portrait appears HERE.

posted May 22nd, 2018 by Janet, comments (0), CATEGORIES: Convention Army,Hessians,Illness,Slaves/slavery,Virginia,von Riedesel, Baroness Frederika,von Riedesel, Lieutenant General Friedrich

George Washington: “one of my best Friends and Favorites”

ELIZABETH WILLING POWEL was a renowned hostess and the Powel home on Third Street in central Philadelphia was the gathering place for important political and social figures of Revolutionary America and the early republic. Elizabeth and her husband were close personal friends of George and Martha Washington. During the Constitutional Convention in 1787, with Martha back in Mount Vernon, Washington was often in the company of the Powels. He particularly enjoyed conversing with Elizabeth who was brilliant, well educated, and outspoken in her opinions. In a letter Elizabeth wrote to Mrs. William [Ann Bolling Randolph] Fitzhugh in July 1786 she refers to George Washington as “one of my best Friends and Favorites.” Elizabeth Powel either wrote or copied verses which she sent to Washington on his birthday in 1792 beginning with the line: “No Peerage we covet, No Sceptres desire.”

In the following letter, dated 9 January 1792, Elizabeth Willing Powel informs George Washington that she is sending information about a possible treatment for his nephew George Augustine Washington who was suffering from tuberculosis. The preparation of the medicine koumiss, fermented mare’s milk, described by John Grieve was published in the Transactions of the Royal Society of Edinburgh in 1788. Writing that it was “recommended as an almost universal remedy”— Elizabeth quickly anticipates Washington”s reaction—”which I know you will say proves too much and rather savours of Quackery; yet the Authorities appear so respectable and the Object of the Publication so benevolent, that I think it is entitled to considerable Confidence and Attention. . .” She then waxes philosophical, considering whether

the protracting human Life is adding to the Mass of Happiness. But what is this Life that we should be so over studious to prolong the Respiration of that Breath which may with so much Ease be all breathed out at once as by so many successive Millions of Moments? For surely there are more exquisite Pains than Pleasures in Life, and it seems to me that it would be a greater Happiness at once to be freed forever from the former than by such an irksome Composition to protract the Enjoyment of the latter. We must all die, and, I believe there is no Terror in Death but what is created by the Magic of Opinion, nor probably any greater Pain than attended our Birth. As I suppose at our Dissolution every Particle of which we are compounded returns to its proper original Element and that which is divine in us returns to that which is divine in the Universe.
I most sincerely wish you the two Extremes of Happiness—fullness of Joys in this Life and an immortal Series of Felicities in Heaven. I am dear Sir with Respect & Esteem your affectionate Friend
Eliza. Powel

“To George Washington from Elizabeth Willing Powel, 9 January 1792,” Founders Online, National Archives, last modified June 29, 2017, http://founders.archives.gov/documents/Washington/05-09-02-0248. [Original source: The Papers of George Washington, Presidential Series, vol. 9, 23 September 1791 – 29 February 1792, ed. Mark A. Mastromarino. Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 2000, pp. 419–420.] The photographs are from Wikimedia Commons. Use of the parlor photo was given to Wikipedia Commons as part of a project by the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

posted August 24th, 2017 by Janet, comments (0), CATEGORIES: Friendship,Illness,Medicine,Philadelphia,Powel, Elizabeth Willing,Washington, George,Washington, George Augustine

“When God his Summons Sends”

That inveterate writer JEMIMA CONDICT from Pleasantdale, New Jersey, summarizes what had befallen her family in the past year.

It is now the 2 of JANUARY [1777] & as I have not had time to write any this winter I thought this a Proper Season, as I am up With my Sick Sister, to take Pen in Hand & Recollect a little of What is Past. I intended to kept a Strickt account of the Times, But as Providence has ordered matters, I have my Hands full By Night & Day, So that I shall Now only jest Tell you In Broken Languige What Troubles we have had in Our family. since I Saw you Last. My Dear mother was taken Sick the 25 of October & was So Bad that we Did not much Expect her recovery. It was then I thought I Should Bin Deprivd of that great Blessing I had so Long undeservedly enjoyd. My Youngist Brother also Lay Very Bad So that we did not Expect him to Live for many Days. Dear father was taken Sik Quick after, But through the Goodness of God they Soon recovered; So that we were in Hopes of having health in our habitation. But at Chrismas my Sister was taken Sick & was Extreme Bad. She had a Strange Disoder. it Lay in her throat & Stomack Sometimes she would be So Choack that we never expected She would Come too agin. another of my Brothers Likewise at the Same time was very Sick; But it has Pleased a holy god to show us his Power in Raiseing them to a State of health.

JANUARY ye 29 1777 Samuel ogden my Brother in Law was taken Sick at Newark & was Brought up to his uncle abrams. Where after a Short tho Tedious fit of Sickness Died; his mother Being there to tend him; she was taken Sick the Next Night & Died the week following So the both died from home yet not from friends.

And so all must Go
When God his Summons Sends

Jemima Condict, Her Book: Being a Transcript of the Diary of an Essex County Maid During the Revolutionary War (Orange N.J.: Jemima Condict Chapter, Daughters of the American Revolution, 1930), 64-65, 66. The original of Jemima Condict’s diary is in the archives of the New Jersey Historical Society, “Manuscript Group 123.”

posted March 27th, 2017 by Janet, comments (0), CATEGORIES: Condict, Jemima,Death,Illness,New Jersey

“the Blody flux”

JEMIMA CONDUCT, the young woman from Pleasantdale, New Jersey, once again writes about actions of the British.

Monday May first [1775]. this day I think is a Day of mourning we have word Come that the fleet is coming into Newyork also & to Day the men of our Town is to have a general meeting to Conlud upon measures Which may Be most Proper to be taken; they have Chose men to act for them & I hope the Lord will Give them Wisdom to Conduct wisely & Prudently In all matters.

In 1776, disease ravaged the area. “July 23, Did that Distressing Disorder the Blody flux Began to rage in this Neighborhood.” Jemima cites death after death: of friends and neighbors, adults and children, civilians and soldiers. “August the 16th, Then Died Jered freeman. he was taken Sick at newyork among the Sogers & was brought home & Died Soon After.” Some soldiers were killed in action, but more died as a result of sickness.

September 1776. We hear News from our army at Montigue & Several of them we hear is Dead. sense there Departure Benjamin Canfield & Stevan Morris, David Luis Died with the Camp Disorder & william acorn we hear was killed by the injuns; Sen Jabez freeman the Son of the Late Diseast John freeman is Dead, also Sias Heady Died up there with Sickness.

The bloody flux or dysentery is characterized by bloody diarrhea. The “Camp Disorder” is likely typhus. It is heartbreaking to read Jemima’s list of the dead. It goes on and on, year after year, and is a reminder of the fragility of life at that time and the ineffectiveness of treatment. What is also impressive is the way sickness and death were borne: always regarded as God’s will, to be accepted. Gratitude was expressed for those who had been spared.

Jemima Condict, Her Book: Being a Transcript of the Diary of an Essex County Maid During the Revolutionary War (Orange N.J.: Jemima Condict Chapter, Daughters of the American Revolution, 1930), 52, 59, 60, 61. The original of Jemima Condict’s diary is in the archives of the New Jersey Historical Society.

posted March 23rd, 2017 by Janet, comments (0), CATEGORIES: American soldiers,Condict, Jemima,Death,Illness,Medicine

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