Folded letter by US Navy Surgeon David Shelton Edwards
The letter was sent unpaid to Brooklyn, New York, 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.
David Shelton Edwards begins this letter asking his wife Harriet to write to him more frequently and giving her updates on their friends in Washington, DC. He gives a fairly detailed description of the house he has chosen for them in Washington as "small but neatly finished - with a fine 10 foot Piazza in front with venetians & covered in front with a beautiful Multiflora - now in full bloom & the envy of all the neighborhood." He comments on the beginning of his friendships with Commodores [Isaac] Chauncey, [Charles] Morris, and [Alexander] Wadsworth. He goes on to describe all of the furniture he has for the house and that which he still needs. The rest of the letter relates to Harriet's upcoming trip to meet Edwards in Philadelphia. He explains that she could bring one or both of the children but to dress them in plain clothes. He gives her instructions for how ladies ought to travel by train including sitting far away from the engine to avoid sparks that could pose a fire risk.
The three commodores that Edwards speaks of were all very highly regarded in the Navy at that time. All three grew up in New England and served the Navy during the War of 1812 and the Quasi-War with France. Com. Chauncey, with whom Edwards becomes particularly close, did not spend a long time at the Navy Yard. He died on January 27, 1840.
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.
U S. Navy Yard Washington D. C.
June 1st 1839-
My dear wife,
I yesterday received yours of the 25 and am very sorry to hear that Laclan is [inserted from above: so] very ill I am sure everything will be done which they can devise to benefit him & I hope he will survive it - poor little fellow - If they should lose him Capt Mc will regret still more his having left home altho as he says they get on very smoothly at the Navy Yard.
Ask James if he gave my letter to Mr. Wood 31 Nassau St:?
I shall be very glad to get a letter from you as often as once a week - I am not afraid of hearing from you my dear wife any too often. & I am sure I have written you this is the 4th letter in 2 weeks - It is no task to write you - because I leave the corrections for you to make. I saw Purser De Bre yesterday & L.t Bache(?) they both enquired very particularly after you & Mr De Bre is coming on to Phila with his Daughter in June. he has gone now to Norfolk. Mrs. Patterson & Mrs Bache also expressed a desire to see you here. your house is small but neatly finished - with a fine 10 foot Piazza in front with venetians & covered in front with a beautiful Multiflora - now in full bloom & the envy of all the neighborhood. Miss Anlick was there yesterday begging me to give her a slip to put out at her house.
I put on my old shabby frock coat you talk of yest.y and went up to see the Sec.y of the Navy & the Commissioners Saw Com Chauncey - Morris & Wadsworth - I took my seat with them - and after discussing the affairs of the Nation I took another of my carriages & came home to dinner. I have got on very well with them all so far-
I see you have two dressing bureaus in the bedrooms - two good bedroom mirrors - one mantle glass in front parlor. 12 (10 good) cane bottom chairs. But I wish I had our two Sing Sing bedsteads here. - You have 2 bedroom washstands (plain ones) & a very nice large Refrigerator for butter &c. &c. also a vault. - & we have plenty of ice. & we can keep a cow without any trouble. or expense. and when we want carpets we can buy them here. - the best time to move here is about the 20th Oct.r so Com: Morris tells me.
I had a letter from Mr. Clarke yest: — about the house &c. he says we must come and see them - he thinks a Gent. will purchase it if I will sell it cheap enough - but there is a diffirence between 5000 & 6000.-
but this is not publick - for I dont know who it is.-
You say the children were troublesome - Why did you not let them go to school then? Try to be consistent, and regulate things by your reason & judgment - and not by your momentary feelings.
I am ahead of you about the money - I intend to let Jacob appropriate it immediately - I intend to wait 'till. I get to Phil.a to have my clothes made. I dont like these taylors. good bye now dearest - how is little Willy & Hatty? ever yours
D S. E
June 2d Sunday evening.
If Willy dont behave well sit him in his bedroom - and if he still misbehaves - send him to bed - & if that wont do - switch him-
If you think proper, you can bring either him or Sister with you. As we may be in Phil.a 3 or 4 weeks - so do as you like: but dont buy them any finery - plain jacket & trowsers is much the best for all little boys - & a nice plain dress for little girls - with plenty of exercise in the open air-; but not in the hot sun. & always avoiding a current of air, as you would an arrow. my love to Sister Ebenezer when you go up there as likewise to Brother Ebenezer -
& always respects to friends - & best love for wife - D S. E.
When travelling on a railroad take car as far from the enjine as possible - as the ladies are priviledged to do - to avoid the sparks which are very apt to burn your bonnets & dresses. besides, the after cars are safest in case of accident on the road. The Ambrey line I think the pleasantest. it is $3. meals 50 cts. I would wait dinner 'till you get to the City where you arrive at 2. o'clock and you will see a Gentleman with an old shabby coat hurrying on to meet you - without any straps to his pants - &c -
look for another in about a week or 10 days - DSE.
We great abundance of green peas, cherries & strawberries & cream here - but there few strangers here & very little doing. I have just rec.d a long & friendly letter from Capt. Mc Intosh between you & I &c. I think something has gone a little wrong there - (for the moment perhaps) he says friends are very willing to be such - until - a sacrifice becomes necessary - then look out for breakers (?) - as not one in a hundred will do it - "O!"put not your trust in Princes"- &c. -
he thanks you most kindly for the peaches &c. & asks us to call & see his sister who he says benefitted very much by them. he says our name is a sufficient introduction. I expect she is very ill-