Folded letter by US Navy Surgeon David Shelton Edwards
The letter was sent unpaid to Bridgeport, Connecticut, and marked at Washington, DC post office for 18 3/4 cents postage due at destination. This was the correct rate for a single sheet letter going a distance of 150-400 miles. The "No. 2" written on the letter face probably indicates it is David Shelton Edward’s second letter in a series addressed to his wife. Frequent correspondents often numbered their letters to indicate to the recipient if any letters went missing or were delayed.
David Shelton Edwards is in Washington and staying at Gadsby's Hotel in Alexandria. He has just arrived and writes to tell his wife Harriet of his first impressions of the city. He explains that the hotel is a "neat little two story affair" and describes the gardens and daily carriage available to take officers into the city. He goes on to describe all of the furniture in their house. He suggests that when Harriet arrives she should board in Capitol Hill since it is a good neighborhood with decent schools and also close to the Navy Yard, where he will presumably be working. He refers to a planned rendezvous with Harriet in Philadelphia and advises her that they should sell all of their furniture in New York and purchase all new things in Washington. He closes by explaining how much he prefers Washington to Pensacola, Florida due to its proximity to her and the increased reliability of the mails.
The accommodations Edwards describes were established as a tavern in 1785; the proprietor John Wise added the hotel next door in 1792 in what was then part of the District of Columbia (today in Old Town Alexandria, Virginia and operated as a museum). From 1796 to 1808 John Gadsby operated both businesses, giving them his name. Through most of the nineteenth century the hotel was considered one of the finest accommodations in the country; the site saw many events hosted for luminaries such as George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, and the Marquis de Lafayette.
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.
Gadsby's Hotel. May 24th 1839-
I arrived here safely Wednesday evening - & was yesterday at the Navy-Yard - & Doct. I. Says he cannot be ready to go before Saturday - he had his auction Wednesday - & sold all off - and the Cockroaches &c- have been so frightened at tearing up carpets & moving furniture that they have fled & there is not the sign of one left.
The House is quite a neat little 2 story affair & is now beautifully shaded - & has a little front yard filled with roses (winterfloras(?)) & other things - with a little garden near by - but not much in it - & a carriage goes dayly to the City which the Officers can avail themselves of if they choose it. There is a stable for a horse & a cow & pasture in the yard. & a man comes to the house to do any thing every morning-
There are some things belonging to the House such as two dining tables - one tea table- one or two bureaus a mahog.y Fr. bedstead - & (an old pine one do. in Garret room) a few poor chairs - an old sofa - would do if covered. & a very good large mahog.y sideboard. & a few kitchen things
The house was painted last year - & may do when well cleaned - & all looks very well except the marsh which Dr. I. complains of on the West side of the N. Yard. which I fear would be injurious during the Summer: but I think would be harmless after Sep.r
In the mean time you might live at board on Capitol Hill - & I too (as I suppose for I have not yet broached the subject.) at a very mod:t expense say 5 or 6 dollars a week & there it is healthy & pleasant & is within 1/2 a mile [inserted from above: or so] of the Navy Yard.
The Com: is now at Phil.a Doct. Hassler is my assistant - & has now moved into the Yard - with his wife & one child. They say there are good schools on Capitol Hill. & the grounds around the Capitol are form beautiful & extensive Walks - abounding in the choicest flowers - now in full bloom..
Doct. I. says he will bring you on to Phil.a in June thinks he will leave Brooklyn on Friday preceding - the 17.th & I will be there to meet you - I think you would find it troublesome to bring both children. perhaps you had better leave them with Delia -as we proposed before I left you — & I suppose you will be at Mrs. Martyn's by the 10th you must not neglect your friends in Brooklyn - they say you are so much out of town they dont when to see you.
I want you to tell me your arrangements and what you think of Washington as I speak of it -
I shall write you at least once a week - After the 3.d of June I shall direct one to Huntington & then you will get one at Brooklyn about the 10th
I think we had better sell our Sofa at 35 if Mrs. Martin's friend will give it. & get new furniture here if we want it. Our trunks we can ship for George-Town in a Packet - but I will talk to you about this when I see you - which will now be very soon - so keep cool -
This is better than being away to Pensacola.
ever your own dearest
My love to Father & Mother & kiss the children for me & tell me how they behave -