Archive for the ‘Smallpox’ Category

“entreating Friends not to join in the present measure”

The marriage of SARAH LOGAN to Thomas Fisher in 1772 united two of the most important and wealthy families in Philadelphia. As Quakers the Fishers did not approve of violence and theoretically did not take sides in the American Revolution but their sympathies were clearly with the British. Sarah kept a diary that contains her observations on the Revolution and is an important source of information about life in Philadelphia under the control of Pennsylvania officials anticipating a British attack and later during the British occupation. Sarah’s father had recently died and she makes mention of him. She called her husband “Tommy”. They somehow received news of what was going on by word of mouth, by messengers, or by newspapers, such as they were.

November 30, 1776— …. men by order of the Committee of Safety* came for blankets; they took two by force….

* The Committee of Safety was established by the Pennsylvania Assembly in June 1775 and entrusted with the defense of the state.

December 2, 1776— Heard in the morning that [British General William] Howe’s army were on this side of Brunswick. The town in very great confusion. A party of armed men went about the city to shut up the shops & break up the schools, by an order of the Committee of Safety. Dined alone. In the afternoon a company of men came to take Tommy’s name down, & to look at our servant boy Jim, with the intention if he was big enough to take him by force for a soldier, but as he was under 15 they left him, tho’ they took several others not much older….

December 3, 1776— …. Many people moving out of town, but we are as yet preserved in stillness….Dined alone….Sup’d alone.

December 8, 1776— Morning at Meeting….After Meeting heard there was an express come to town last night with an account that Howe’s army were within 3 miles of Princeton & on his march….Stepped over in the afternoon to see Neighbor Evans who was in great distress for fear they should force her sons to the camp….

December 12, 1776— Busy in the morning mending clothes. Heard that 2 men-of-war were in the bay & that several vessels were seen off the Capes …. In the afternoon an edict came out signed by General Putnam*, warning all the inhabitants to be in their houses at 10 o’clock, at the peril of their being sent to jail, & that no physicians are to go out without a pass from Headquarters … which edict greatly alarmed the inhabitants….

* American General Israel Putnam of Massachusetts was the military governor Philadelphia. He ordered what was virtually a state of martial law.

December 13, 1776— …. General Putnam issued a proclamation declaring that any person that set fire to the city should be capitally punished. The evening before a bellman had gone through the city, ordering every person to go this day and assist in entrenching the city. If they did not, their effects were to be seized, but there were few people [who] obeyed the summons. I did not hear of one person going that I knew. Drank tea with my Tommy, who to me is always the best of company….

December 19, 1776— Morning at home at work ….met with John Foulke, who told us that the disorder among the poor sick soldiers was better, that not above 3 or 4 died of a day, but that there had died 10 of a day, & that the smallpox was broken out among them, which he expected would make a great destruction, as not above one in 50 of the Maryland soldiers had had it, many of them not having a bed to lie on or a blanket to cover them ….

December 21, 1776— Morning at home at work …. Heard this day that Howe’s army were in many parts of the Jersies, plundered those that they looked upon as rebels, but were civil & kind to them that were friends to the government, & paid for what they took from them.

December 22, 1776— Morning at Meeting. An Epistle read from the Meeting of Sufferings, entreating Friends not to join in the present measure….

December 25, 1776— …. Morning at Monthly Meeting …. An extract from my dear father’s will was read, wherein he bequeathed £50 to the Women’s Meeting to be given to poor widows, a laudable example & worthy of imitation ….

December 27, 1776— This morning heard an account of the success of our American army against the English at Trenton on Christmas night, which was a very stormy night. Report says that General Washington crossed the river before day at the head of a large body of his army & surprised the Hessians & English before day, that there was not a sufficient number there to oppose them, & that they surrendered themselves prisoners to General Washington except what betook themselves to flight, with he took about 700 prisoners & some cannon with a thousand stand of arms. This piece of news greatly exalted our Whigs, & as much depressed the Tories, but I sincerely hope & believe that before long General Howe will subdue their rebellious spirit & give them but little reason to rejoice….

December 29, 1776— …. Dr. Bond* called here after Meeting & gave us a very melancholy account of the sick soldiers, & says they have the true camp fever which is near akin to the plague. He says 15 or 20 frequently die of a day, that they bury 8 or 10 in a grave, & not above a foot underground. He thinks the disorder will spread & that the inhabitants are in great danger….

* Dr. Thomas Bond was a distinguished Philadelphia physician who supported the patriot cause and volunteered his services.

December 30, 1776— Morning set off to go see Grandmother … but was interrupted by the way, & turned back by a multitude of people going to see the Hessian prisoners march to the barracks. Some people think about 700 marched, with some women & children. They looked but poorly clad, were dressed in blue, & their outside clothes appeared to be dirty. What is remarkable, they say there is not among them one English or Scotch prisoner, but all Hessians. This morning my Tommy conversed with the man who has the care of burying the sick soldiers. He says it is not true that the graves are so shallow, but that they die so fast that he cannot dig graves for them all, & so digs a large hole 15 feet square & 10 feet deep for them all, & so buries them two tier, & that the highest coffin is about five feet underground….

January 1, 1777— …. After supper my Tommy read me a paper called the American Crisis [by Thomas Paine], a most violent, seditious, treasonable paper, [written] purposely to inflame the minds of the people & spirit them on to rebellion, calling the King a sottish, stupid, stubborn, worthless, brutish man. Heard today that our army are going in great numbers towards Princeton, intending to make an entire conquest of the English, if they can.

January 4, 1777— …. This evening a paper came out from the Committee of Safety unlike anything I ever before heard of, except the Spanish Inquisition, declaring that every person who refused the Continental money should be liable for the first offense to forfeit the goods & a sum of equal value, for the second offense to forfeit the same & to be banished what they are pleased to call this state, to what place & in what manner they shall judge most proper, that all those who have been imprisoned & whose stores have been shut up by them on the account of their refusing it formerly are to be opened, & they are to be subject to this new law, after having experienced all the rigors of the old one—a most extraordinary instance of arbitrary power & of the liberty we shall enjoy should their government ever be established, a tyrannical government it will prove from weak & wicked men.

January 8, 1777— …. Morning went to meeting, which was silent. In the afternoon went to see Sally Allen at William Allen’s, where she had come a few days before, being turned out of her house by our troops because her husband had gone over to General Howe.

January 9, 1777— Morning at home viewing the eclipse of the sun….

More from SARAH LOGAN FISHER in the next post.

Wainwright, Nicholas B., and Sarah Logan Fisher. “”A Diary of Trifling Occurrences”: Philadelphia, 1776-1778.” The Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography 82, no. 4 (1958): 414-21. http://www.jstor.org/stable/20089127. Illustrations: A view of Philadelphia in 1777 by the artist Archibald Robertson—The New York Public Library Digital Collections; The Crisis by Thomas Paine; Continental money 1777.

posted September 19th, 2018 by Janet, comments (0), CATEGORIES: Battle of Trenton,Fisher, Sarah Logan,Hessians,Howe, General Sir William,Money,Paine, Thomas,Philadelphia,Putnam, General Israel,Quakers,Smallpox,Tories,Washington, George

Exchange

While BARONESS VON RIEDESEL and her husband and children were in Virginia with the Convention Army in 1779 there was talk of an exchange. If it could be arranged a prisoner, one usually of rank, would be exchanged for an American held by the British. On the basis of this news the von Riedesels packed up and began their journey to New York where the exchange was to take place.

The Baroness journeyed with the children to York, Pennsylvania, where she was to meet her husband. She was much impressed with the “magnificent countryside” inhabited by “Moravian Brethren.” Continuing to Elizabeth Town, New Jersey, they anticipated crossing over to New York the next day, hoping to “be set free that same evening.” However their hopes were dashed by a messenger from General Washington that Congress had not given approval to the exchange and that they must return to Bethlehem to await developments. The Baroness, pregnant, was disappointed and exhausted.

At the end of November they were given permission to go to New York City on parole. The Baroness and the children were housed in the mansion of Governor Tryon and subsequently repaired to country home of British General Henry Clinton where the children were vaccinated against smallpox. The following is from a previous post.

The estate was lovely, as was also the house, but the house had been built more for a summer residence, so that, as we were there in December, I suffered a great deal from the cold. However, the inoculation was a success. When it was over, and we henceforth no longer had to fear contagion,we prepared for our return to the city and sent our cook and the rest of the servants on ahead to get everything ready for our arrival the next day. However, we had such a terrible storm that night, that we thought the house would be blown down. In fact, an entire balustrade actually was torn off and fell to the ground with a dreadful crash, and when we woke up the next morning we saw that four to five feet of snow had fallen in the night, and in some places there were snowdrifts eight feet deep, so that it would be impossible for us to leave without sleighs. I tried therefore to get together whatever food I could for our dinner. An old chicken which had been forgotten was used for soup, and this with a few potatoes given us by the gardener and some corned meat, which was the last of our supplies, formed our whole dinner for fourteen people. In the afternoon, as I was sorrowfully looking out of the window, thinking of how we could get along, I saw our cook approaching on horseback. Full of joy, I turned around to tell the others about this. When I looked out again the cook was nowhere to be seen. Horrified at his disappearance, the gentlemen ran out and found him with his horse buried so deep in the snow that he could never had gotten out alone and probably would have died. Our people in the city had become uneasy when we did not come, and knowing that we had no supplies, the cook brought us some food for supper. It was impossible for a carriage to drive to the city. The next morning Captain Willoe brought us two large sleighs. We got in and I was rather worried about the children, because their inoculation had not yet entirely healed on account of the awful cold. But the trip did not hurt them a bit. While their inoculations were healing, Caroline did not have her whooping cough, but it set in again immediately afterwards and hung on for a whole year.

*The house was the Beekman mansion “Mount Pleasant,” built in 1763 for the New York City merchant James Beekman. On a rise between 50th and 51st Streets between First and Second Avenues, it is commemorated nearby as Beekman Place. The mansion served as the British military headquarters during the Revolutionary War. American spy Nathan Hale was held, tried, convicted, and condemned there in 1776.

In the next post: concluding the von Riedesels’ stay in America.

The above passage was taken from pages 97-98 in Baroness von Riedesel and the American Revolution, Journal and Correspondence of a Tour of Duty, 1776-1783, A Revised Translation with Introduction and Notes, by Marvin L. Brown, Jr. (Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina Press, 1965). The illustration is a wood engraving, 1876, from the Granger Collection.

posted May 31st, 2018 by Janet, comments (0), CATEGORIES: Clinton, General Henry,Hessians,New York,Prisoners of war,Smallpox,von Riedesel, Baroness Frederika,von Riedesel, Lieutenant General Friedrich

“Boston . . . busily employd in communicating the Infection”

Having returned to Cambridge from Concord, HANNAH WINTHROP wrote to her friend MERCY OTIS WARREN in July 1776. She described the condition of her home, the reopening of Harvard, and life in Boston after the British evacuation (pictured) on March 17.

Last Saturday afternoon we went into Boston the first time since our removal from Concord . . . . Our Barrack or Wigwam, or whatever name you may please to give it, when you see it unornamented with broken chairs & unleggd tables with the shatterd Etcetteras, is intirely at your service. . . . we breath as sweet an air as ever Cam [bridge], afforded, the peacefull shades & meandring river conspire to give us delight. The Sons of Harvard who are collected here seem to be as well Settled & as happy as if they had not known an interruption, with zeal they are attending the Philosophic Lectures.

What an unexpected Blessing! the change from the din of arms & the shrill Clarion of war. Come my Friend taste & see if your too much dejected spirits will not revive in this Salubrious Soil. . . .

As to Political matters, Consonant to my natural ingenuity they appear rather gloomy, but the Settlement of these important points I hope an opportunity for, when you make me happy & indulge me with Laying our Political heads together.

The reigning Subject is the Small Pox. Boston has given up its Fears of an invasion & is busily employd in
communicating the Infection. Straw beds & cribs are daily carted into the Town. That ever prevailing Passion of following the Fashion is as Predominant at this time as ever. Men Women & children eagerly Crouding to innoculate is I think as modish, as running away from the Troops of a barbarous George was the last Year. . . .

But ah my Friend I have not mentioned the Loss I have met with which lies near my heart the death of
my dear Friend the good Madam Hancock, A powerfull attachment to this life broken off, you who knew her worth can Lament with me her departure. Ah the incertainty of all Terristrial happiness. . . .
Yours in Affection
Hannah Winthrop

The British forces, threatened by cannon mounted on Dorchester Heights, left Boston in March 1776 for Nova Scotia. Many Loyalists departed as well; some blacks and Native Americans joined them. Those inhabitants who remained faced the scourge of smallpox. The disease had once again become widespread in 1775. George Washington, concerned for his troops, had advised them not to associate with Bostonians leaving the city during the siege. When the British evacuated they left behind their soldiers infected with the disease, which further fueled the outbreak. Washington sent an occupying force of 1,000 troops who had already had smallpox and were therefore immune. Many fearful residents sought to be inoculated, a precaution strongly recommended by Benjamin Franklin, in spite of possibly serious complications. Hannah Winthrop, rather scornfully, termed this surge of interest “modish.” In 1777, Washington ordered that new recruits who had not had smallpox be inoculated. It was one of the most important decisions he made as commander of the Continental Army.

The correspondence between Hannah Winthrop and Mercy Otis Warren is at the Massachusetts Historical Society. The letter in this post can be read in its entirety HERE. The illustration of the British evacuation is a German woodcut c. 1776. It is at the Library of Congress. The title page of Zabdiel Boylston’s An Historical Account of the Small-pox Inoculated in New England is from Wikimedia Commons.

“The Doctor proposes to Inoculate our little Fellow”

SUSAN LIVINGSTON (1748-1840) was the oldest daughter of William Livingston and Susannah French. (The couple had thirteen children.) Her father was the governor of New Jersey, a member of the Continental Congresses, and a brigadier general in the New Jersey militia. Susan, her younger sisters, Sarah and Catharine (Kitty), known as “the three graces,” were very popular. Sarah became the wife of John Jay in 1774. The Livingstons often had the care of Peter Augustus, the couple’s son, during the war. Susan wrote her sister Sarah on November 1, 1777 in care of John Jay who was in Kent, Connecticut at the time. The letter contains details of the military activity in the area and around Philadelphia as well as family news. (The Livingston home, Liberty Hall in Elizabethtown, was looted and damaged during the Revolution by both sides.)

Dearly beloved Sarah
I am in expectation of the arrival of the Post every moment, he usually comes in on Friday Evening, and returns next Morning as he goes no further than Morris Town. . . . I do not know where to direct to you; we are afraid Mr. Jay has lost all his Clothes that were at Kingston. Mama says if your warm Petticoat is lost, she can spare you one, rather than you should suffer for want of it.

Papa has been home since Sunday Evening, the Accounts he brought are old now, and not worth writing, on the 23d Inst. 5 or 6 Men of War, warped through an opening they had made in the lower Cheveaux de Frieze*, and came up to attack our Fort and Ships and Gallies but they found the Navigation so difficult, that they set Fire to the Augusta of 64 and the Apollo of 32 Guns, and the rest made the best of their way back again. A few days before 2500 of the Enemy (most of them Hessians) under the command of Count Donolp. attacked Fort Mercer or Red Bank, and were soon obliged to retreat in a most shameful and confused manner, leaving behind them killed and wounded 1500. The Count is a Prisoner—they also left 12 pieces of Artillery.

The 22nd our Troops attempted a stroke upon a detachment of six Regiments lying at Grays Ferry [near Philadelphia] where they had thrown a Bridge over the River. They marched all night and reached the Ground about Sunrise, but the Birds were flown, they had suddenly the preceding night deserted the Post, left all their works unfinished and broke up the Bridge. To day Sen’night there was a very warm Engagement, but reports respecting it are so vague, and contradictory, I cannot pretend to give you any account of it.

The Articles of Capitulation that appeared in Loudons last Paper are not relished this way, neither by Whigs, nor Tories, the latter say if Mr. Burgoyne was in a Situation to obtain such Terms he ought to have fought, the Former say if Burgoyne was obliged to surrender at all, Gates might have brought him to what Terms he pleased, so that it looks as if the two Generals wished to avoid fighting. The troops will go home and Garrison the Forts abroad, and let those Garrisons come to America—so it will be only an exchange of Men.

The Doctor proposes to Inoculate our little Fellow next week. He is now a fit subject for it, his blood is well purified, he has pretended to inoculate him often, so he will not be afraid of it. You know old Woodruff, that carts for us, his Son that lived next door to Dr. Darby, died a few days ago of the Small pox the natural way, and now his Widow and Child have it, the old Man has never had it, he stayed in the same House with his Son till a day or two before he expired, they are not entitled to much pity, for they say the Avarice of the old Man prevented their being inoculated. The Child will perish with it, it is thought.

. . . . Our house is a Barrack there was a whole Artillery Company in it, so I expect every thing will be destroyed.

We have not heard from B[rockhol]st [her brother]** since the last action to the Northward. (I have no doubt but his Letters have miscarried) but Mama has allmost persuaded herself he is among the Slain, and if there was any mourning to be purchased, I do not know but she would exhibit a dismal Spectacle of bombazeen and crepe. . . .

We had the Taylor here (that you engaged) these three weeks, which has kept Kitty tightly employed. She is his Journey-woman. Mr. Jay’s green suit is turned. Papa has brought home a Cargo of broken things, so that we have not eat the bread of Idleness since you left us. . . .

I think this scrawl as it is . . . entitles me to a few Lines from your fair hand. This I submit to you and whether you write or not, I am yours most Affectionately.

* An object of timber and spikes placed in a river to rip the hulls of vessels attempting to pass
** Brockholst was a lieutenant colonel and an aide-de-camp to General St. Clair in 1776 and 1777.

Susan makes reference to the battle of Saratoga which the Americans under General Horatio Gates won over the British and Hessian forces under General John Burgoyne. The Articles of Capitulation were very generous allowing what was called the Convention Army to to return to Britain on the condition that they not serve again in America. Both Gates and Burgoyne were criticized as Susan notes. Can you imagine a man, especially a buttoned-up one like John Jay, wearing a green suit!!

Source: John Jay: The Making of a Revolutionary, 1745-1780, edited by Richard. B Morris (New York: Harper & Row, 1975), 445-47.

posted October 28th, 2016 by Janet, comments (0), CATEGORIES: Burgoyne, Gerneral John,Clothes,Gates, General Horatio,Hessians,Inoculation,Jay, John,Jay, Peter Augustus,Jay, Sarah Livingston,Livingston, Brockholst,Livingston, Catharine "Kitty",New Jersey,Philadelphia,Saratoga,Smallpox,Symmes, Susan Livingston

“the loss I have sustained in my little circle”

It is truly amazing how women during the 18th century managed to deal with their frequent pregnancies as well as the frequent deaths of their children. Multiple pregnancies were to be expected in marriage. And the deaths of infants and children, so commonplace, were supposed to be accepted as the will of God, or so religion dictated. More easily said than done. (Studies have found that between 10 and 30 percent of newborns died in the first year of life. Now only seven out of 1,000 die before age one.)
Joseph and Esther De Berdt Reed lost a child, a little girl nearly two, to smallpox in May 1778. Esther gave birth to another son the day before the girl’s death. Earlier that year she had written to her friend Mrs. Cox (whose husband had been appointed Deputy Quarter-master general to General Nathaniel Greene) about the low-spirited state she was in because of her pregnancy and the dread of delivering another child in strange surroundings. “The fears of my approaching hour, sometimes so depress me, that my whole fortitude avails me nothing. You will not wonder so much at this, when I tell you that I must be entirely in the hands of strangers, nor know I what assistance to procure.”
In June, after the death of her daughter and the birth of her son, she again wrote to Mrs. Cox of what she considered neglect on her part over the death of her little girl. This excerpt is painful to read.

I was intending to sit down and write to you the very time I received your kind, acceptable letter, truly welcome in the sympathizing words of my dear friend, much do I stand in need of them; the loss I have sustained in my little circle I find sits very heavy upon me, and I find, by experience, how hard a task it is to be resigned. Therefore I must make yet larger demands on you, and beg you will continue to apply every argument which will tend to make me more perfectly acquiesce in the Divine pleasure, concerning me and mine. Surely my affliction had its aggravation, and I cannot help reflecting on my neglect of my dear lost child. Too thoughtful and attentive to my own situation, I did not take the necessary precaution to prevent that fatal disorder when it was in my power [a reference, I assume, to the smallpox inoculation]. Surely, my dear friend, I ought to take blame to myself. I would not do it to aggravate my sorrow, but to learn a lesson of humility, and more caution and prudence in future. Would to God I could learn every lesson intended by the stroke. I think sometimes of my loss with composure, acknowledging the wisdom, right, even the kindness of the dispensation. Again I find it overcome me, and strike to the very bottom of my heart, and tell me the work is not yet finished, I’ve much yet to do; assist me, therefore, my dear friend, with your counsels, and teach me to say, that God does all things well. . . . for God has given, as well as taken away, and the loss of one should not make me unmindful of the blessings I have left, and those newly given.
I am pretty well recovered, but my strength is not so much recruited as usual in the same time. My dear little boy grows very fast; his name is Dennis De Berdt; he has as few complaints as any child of his age I ever saw; my fresh duty to him greatly tends to relieve my thoughts, and divert my too melancholy reflections.

William B. Reed, Esther De Berdt, afterwards Esther Reed, of Pennsylvania (Philadelphia: C. Sherman Printer, 1853), pages 284, 290-92.

posted October 26th, 2015 by Janet, comments (0), CATEGORIES: Childbirth,Children,Death,Reed, Esther De Berdt,Smallpox

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