Folded letter by US Navy Surgeon David Shelton Edwards
In 1835 the letter probably would have traveled overland or by steamboat to Mobile, Alabama, where it joined the Great Mail route north using combinations of horse, coach, steamboat and train. Although hastily written in the upper right corner, the postage due was only 25 cents, which indicates this was a single sheet of paper. The rate for a single letter (one sheet of paper) traveling more than 400 miles was 25 cents. The absence of the word "Paid" indicates that the letter was sent unpaid and 25 cents was collected from the addressee.
In response to news that his wife Harriet hurt her knee, David Shelton Edwards spends a great deal of time detailing how she should care for it. He tells her that she should not worry about spending more money on a better room in the house in which she is staying. Edwards expresses how much he misses her and how he visited the mocking bird he bought for her (see also the letter from May 10). He relates the story of Mr. Whitaker who killed his wife after suspecting she was having an affair with his business partner. He tells of musicians that played in Pensacola and again gives her a list of items to bring with her when she comes to visit him in Florida. He concludes by telling her of the garden he is growing there and expressing, again, how much he wants to see her.
During the 1830s Pensacola was rapidly developing around the Navy Yard, today's Naval Air Station and home of the Blue Angels Naval demonstration team. Social activity centered on the Yard and frequent balls and other events were held for the men stationed there. Sailors that lived on shore, such as Edwards, worked hard to create their own sense of home in what was a strange and often threatening area. Edwards did this through the cultivation of a garden and furnishing of his home there, of which he sends extensive descriptions in letters to his wife living so far away.
This letter is part of the correspondence of David Shelton Edwards between the years 1835 and 1848. The 48 letters from this period held by the National Postal Museum are primarily addressed to Edward's wife Harriet; in 1830, Edwards married Harriet Eliza Henry and they had two children, William and Harriet. They kept up a frequent correspondence when his naval service kept them separated. Between 1835 and 1848, Edwards served as a Surgeon at the hospital in the Pensacola Navy Yard, Florida; Fleet Surgeon to the West Indies Squadron; and Surgeon aboard many vessels engaged in the Mexican-American War. His naval career spanned from 1818 to 1861 and his last sea cruise ended in October of 1859 after which he retired to his family home in Connecticut except for a brief time spent at New Bedford, Massachusetts recruiting for the Union Navy during the Civil War. He died in Trumbull, Connecticut on March 18, 1874.
Dibble, Ernest F. "Antebellum Pensacola and the Military Presence." The Pensacola Series Commemorating the American Revolution Bicentennial, v. III (1974).
Johnston, Mary B."A Brief History of Public Health in Escambia County" State of Florida Department of Health, Bureau of Epidemiology. 1958.
Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division. "U.S. Naval Air Station, Early Navy Hospital Wall, Pensacola, Escambia County, FL." Historic American Buildings Survey/Historic American Engineering Record. Call Number: HABS FLA,17-PENSA,73-.
Naval Air Station Pensacola. Department of the Navy. http://www.naspensacola.navy.mil/index.cfm/fa/home.home
Pearce, George F. The US Navy in Pensacola: From Sailing Ships to Naval Aviation (1825-1930). Pensacola: University Presses of West Florida, 1980.
Pensacola Historical Society. www.pensacolahistory.org.
Dearest If I write too often I am afraid you will have so much of me that you wont care about coming out here;- for I know better. I will try to write you more regularly in future.-
Dear, I am telling a story;
Pensacola May 15th 1835
My Dear wife, yours of the 26th and 28th postmarked the 29th arrived here in just 17 days, viz. the 13th I at the same time rec.d one from Hosea. I have just answered him & told him what you wrote for me to say to him. I am sorry Miranda should get a sore throat she must use a gargle of Borax, honey, and Sage tea & a few drops of Tinct of myrrh and of Cardamum.-
And my wife's poor knee - Dear, dont let it get lame pray dont. If it is pain & inflammation in the joint - you must not use it at all until it is well, but go sit down on the Sofa and put up your leg straight-& keep it there & not be limping about, & by & bye get a stiff knee-& then have your leg cut off-no, go sit down & get it well-& dont use the joint until it is well, take salts & put a little blister right on the inside of the knee [inserted above: a little bigger than a dollar] opposite the joint - & keep it sore a bit- till the knee gets well, My poor little knee I wish it was here. I think I would soon get it well.- with young colts & calves & hens it seemed quite a time of increase at Mother's - I am glad to hear that they are very comfortable. I have sent you in a letter by the Experiment $50. which will more than supply what you have paid to Miranda.-
I am sorry you cannot be better accommodated at Mrs. Fowler's For that room of Miss Graves' is indeed too small for all of you besides it is a very bad situation - If Mrs. F cannot give you one in the second story - try somewhere else a dollar or two more or less is not to be considered anything where your comfort is dependent upon it. go where Mrs. Devon boarded last summer - & if that wont do- go to Crosby's for a few weeks. or else back to mama's but take good care of my dear little knee, & get it well. [small wavy circle around the letter K]
May 16.th 5 a. m. It is before sunrise and the very black of the East is now about the tint or your parlor walls; and [inserted: as] you was not here to keep me in bed, why I have risen to write you a few lines & tell you I feel like a cat in a strange garret, here all alone, & if there were 50 people in the house I shall be alone till you come. I went to see your little mocking bird last evening. Mrs. Patterson (wife of the boatswain) who caught it and presented it for you is taking care of it & says she will take care of it until you come, it is a male and already begins to sing. The males sing all the year around. I have heard that you can distinguish the male from the female of birds by putting your hand on the back- if they throw up the tail it is said to be a female if the put it down it must be a male, but I don't know how true it is.
May 17th Sunday. The weather is very warm now The therm: is & has been above 80 for two weeks - all day long: but we have a delightful Sea breeze & in these comfortable houses you scarce feel the heat. but in walking out over the white sand we all become very much sunburnt. you would hardly know me- I suppose you heard about Whittaker's cutting his wife's throat a few weeks since at Pensacola. They had just returned from a musical party & were walking in the piazza together at 11 o'clock in the evening. & it is said that Mrs. W. told her husband that she was going to walk with a Mr. Hall (a partner of Whittaker) Mr. W. was it seems a little afraid he [inserted: Mr. H.] might become a sleeping partner forbade his wife to go-; but she persisted- Mr. W left her for a moment and when he joined her again cut her throat with a razor & she fell dead upon the Piazza! - he then cut his own throat!- he soon recovered- was tried, acquitted by the jury - no evidence appearing against him.-& was fined [inserted above: $] 200 for some other offence. he gave an entertainment to his associates upon the occasion [inserted above: of his acquittal]!!
Mrs. W. had several hundred dollars secreted upon her person. also Love letters from Mr. W's partner - & & a quantity of poison! - —
— May 19th The weather continues very warm Therm: above 80 all day.; but the fine sea breeze that blows all day - makes it very pleasant- you dont feel the heat at all while in the house. & these are delightful hours. I only want you here to be quite happy.
May 21st We have been entertained for a few days by some musicians that came over here from Mobile they have been performing at Pensacola and gave a performance here at the Navy Yard. my house has accommodated them the most of the time & for 2 days & nights the house has rung with the sounds of the violin & the vocalist. they have now gone to Mobile. & I have again a little quiet to sit down & think of. & write to one who is to me the dearest of creation & who I know is all my own yes one who is going to undertake a voyage of a thousand miles to see her husband & rejoice his heart.- I wish you would send also material enough for 5 pair of linen pantaloons or let Stillwell make them for me- these I have fit me very well. & are invaluable. some more cotton sacks (?) too- those I have I find are rather small - my garden is the best in the Navy yard- except the Commodore's - I have fine lettuce I sent it around this morning to ½ a doz families - & my tomatoes are now in blossom & are superior to anything I have seen. my watermelons & ocre too are growing finely. & we have had no rain now for nearly a month. & the weather is very fine. I wish you was here to make some noise - I would rather hear you scold a little now, than all the musicians that ever played. Well Dear I see I must wind up, so my best respects to friends, & [missing] regards to all the family. & to Hatty my own Hatty all she can [missing]
[written on cover side]
I am sorry to hear that the Cholera is again at N. Orleans & on the Mississippi- but I believe it is not very bad.- We have not heard from there very late. You must tell me beforehand where to direct your letters.