1834: George Washington Evans to John Clarkson Evans

Drawing of Schooner Grampus

This letter was written by Navy physician George Washington Evans (1812-1838), the son of John Evans (1754-1813) and Margaret Jones (1775-1826) of Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. George W. Evans entered the naval service in June 1834 and was ordered to the U.S. Schooner Grampus in October 1834. He appears to have served on the Grampus until 1837 when he was reassigned to the Sloop St. Louis. Family genealogists claim that Evans died at sea aboard the “ship Pulaski” on 9 August 1838 but I cannot find a navy ship bearing that name at that date. There was, however, a commercial steam packet named Pulaski whose starboard boiler exploded some 30 miles off the North Carolina coast while enroute from Charleston to Baltimore. This disaster occurred on 14 June 1838 and resulted in the loss of most of her crew and about 150 passengers. A list of the passengers who died in the disaster includes a gentleman named “Evans.”

Evans wrote the letter to his brother, John Clarkson Evans (1805-1879) of Morgantown, Berks County, Pennsylvania. John was married to Ann Jones (1811-1885).

Stampless Letter

Addressed to John C. Evans, Esqr., Morgantown, Berks County, Pennsylvania

Norfolk, Virginia
16th of October 1834

Dear Brother,

I left you quite abruptly and perhaps at this time you do not know to a certainty where I am. I shall therefore proceed in a few words to tell you. I am at Norfolk as the date of my letter shows. It was my intention to have returned to Morgantown from Reading but was unable so to do owing to the date of my orders to come to this place. I, therefore, started immediately from Reading and arrived here a few days after the time I was ordered here.

You recollect I was ordered to the Vandalia. That vessel will not go to sea for two months and I have since here been exchanged from that vessel to the U.S. Schooner Grampus now in port at Pensacola, Florida where I am ordered to proceed immediately. Look at your map and you will find out that the distance from this place to Pensacola is considerable. I shall start tomorrow or on Thursday. I have two routes in view — the one by sea, the other by land. The latter I prefer. The former, however, I believe owing to necessity I shall take. It is to go from here by a steam packet to Charleston, South Carolina, and from there to Pensacola by a Brig which sails frequently from Charleston. The expense will be considerable, but Uncle Sam will pay my expenses when I arrive there as he has done to this place. I will be the only physician on board the Grampus and will therefore be in a very responsible situation but will endeavor to [do] my dutyas becomes every man in the same situation.

Our duty to our Maker we should never forget and next to that, our duty to our fellow men. I am going to a country where Yellow Fever is a prevalent disease and there has been several cases on board the vessel I am ordered to. I perhaps shall have an opportunity of learning the nature of that fatal malady. I hope you will not forget me when retired from the country. You may think of a future state of [obliterated text] and of that “house from which no traveller returns.” Perhaps you think I am being too serious. I shall therefore change the theme.

I anticipate a very pleasant journey and when I arrive there, shall have (what very few have of my rank in the service) the entire medical command of a vessel. Adieu for the present as I am in a hurry. Write to me at Pensacola. My best wishes on you all. I hope to see you in a store when I return.

Your brother affectionately, — G. W. Evans


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