Sarah Harwood writes husband, the future admiral, aboard frigate “Potomac” to inform of their child’s sickness & death

Date Written

Feb. 13, 1836

Sarah Anne Wood Harwood was 34 years old when this was written.
The recipient, Andrew Allen Harwood, was 33 when it was received.

Sarah Anne Wood Harwood died 7 years, 5 months, 4 days after writing this.
It was written 187 years, 7 months, 22 days ago.
It was a Saturday.

Feb. 13th 1836
Saturday Morning

My Dear, Dear Husband,

What I have gone through with since I last wrote you, you can better judge than I can describe when I tell you our dear little Allen is sweetly sleeping in the arms of death. My dear husband, little did I foresee this as I could have prepared you for it in my last letter but as I hoped that his sickness proceeded from his getting through with his teeth, I venture to say with confidence that he was better as they both had appeared and they were the last but though they might have been the existing cause. It was pronounced by Dr. Turner the “lung fever” and confirmed by Dr. Dunn when I called him in six days since.

It is seven weeks today that I thought him drooping and the next day oppressed without any cough like croup, but fearing that, I sent for Dr. Turner, but I believe he thought unnecessarily, though he gave him a mixture of antimony and he was no worse apparently through the day or night until about four in the morning; he woke in great distress for breath but no symptoms of croup. I sent for the Dr. at daylight and he attended him every day for three weeks and he seemed gradually to recover and was down playing once or twice carefully wrapped up to pass through the entry and the room was warmer than the one that he left but he seemed fatigued and restless while there though he worried to go—a day after that he was better, played with his play things, walked about the room and seemed better at night and early the next morning—but at noon his fever was so high as ever it had been and he became oppressed and passed a restless night and from that time he has been some days so well that the Dr. has said he was getting along nicely and allowed him to eat oysters & a little toast and thought he only wanted building up and was waiting for his fever to entirely subside to give him something bracing and discontinue visiting him daily. He was so well two days in succession and slept without his night powder very comfortably that I began to think myself that he was certainly better but alas! How deceived we all were, it was just three weeks from his first relapse that he was taken so ill again at about two o’clock at night that I was obliged to send for Dr. Dunn, he being the nearest and he has visited him every day since, three times a day in consultation with Dr. Turner until day before yesterday when the latter thought him a little better and both did the day before and hoping that his strong constitutional powers would yet baffle the disease, but not so; yesterday morning about the same time or at one o’clock, he became more distressed for breath which alarmed me and I again sent for Dr. Dunn who staid a long time with me until he was relieved from his applications, and he continued comparatively comfortable, so much so as to have quite a nap, but in the course of two hours, he became more and more distressed, until he breathed his last long breath a half past nine in the morning. Could you have seen him my dear husband, you would felt as I did, that it was a happy release for he was painfully distressed until a few minutes before and did not seem to lose his consciousness—do not mourn for him my dear husband. May God be with you, as I trust he has been with me and give you the same peace of mind. I might have born it a little better had you have been with me, but you have been spared a great deal of misery and that has given me some comfort.

I have just been in to see him lying in his crib so peaceful looking, so happy that I am visiting this without a tear—he is beautiful indeed in death and much to be envied-but I cannot write more. Tomorrow will be a trying day for he must be taken away from me and I must be as quiet as possible to gather all the strength of body and mind that is to be obtained. I pray ardently that you may be prepared for this trial my dearest husband that you may bow with submission to the will of God—feel that he gave him to us and has a right to take him away in His own time and find consolation in prayer that ever abiding source for all who will seek it—

Tuesday morning

My Dearest Husband,

All is over for this world as it regards our dear child and I am astonished at my own resignation & composure of mind. I am too unworthy to think that God has been so gracious as to bestow His peace upon me and yet what can it be? I have thought when I have seen others so afflicted that I could hardly surmise such an event, it was a hard struggle on [?] to part with him, but I believe God was with me and I soon obtained composure. I did not attempt to follow for I knew that it would be imprudent—his uncle seemed to feel all his own sorrows again, mingled with ours and I gave him up to him. Everything was done as you would have wished, only our most intimate friends attended and not one without feeling a deep sympathy for us—little Henry had behaved so much like a man through the whole that I rather wanted him to attend but he was unwilling to without me & I did not urge him. I had them both brought into the room before he was moved and talked to them of his present enviable happiness which they both seemed to comprehend. They kissed him again and again and have never seen him since. They are dear children ad we have much to be thankful for, that their lives have been thus far preserved.

Bess has had the whooping cough but is getting over it, does not cough more than once or twice in the course of twenty-four hours. Little Hen. If he has had it has been very little troubled, coughs now some but seems very well; is sledding in the garden and little Bess has just gone with her uncle to see Fanny.

I cannot tell you how kind all our friends have been—sitting up with me at night & being with me through the day as much as possible. Aunt Wood & Mary have been here several days. You will fear my dear husband that I have exerted myself too much, but I do assure you I have spared myself as much as a mother could and have done nothing willfully imprudent. I felt that I had many duties to perform and trust that I have not injured myself or the dear child that we may yet be blessed with. I am expecting the middle of May & if God sees fit, you may never feel the loss or miss dear little Allen as I now do, the number will still be the same. My strength has held out wonderfully and I never was less nervous about myself, therefore, do not fear for me, but trust in our Heavenly Father.

Mr. McWheaton was to see me last evening; he spoke with the greatest interest of you and he says that he thinks that you possess that which will make you feel that it’s the hand of God and you will be supported [?]. Oh Allen if I could be with you but how vain is the wish. I rec’d your letter of the 31st Dec. on Friday in the midst of my sorrow. It was a sunbeam indeed to know that you were well and comfortable. I never knew you so happy from home before & it has served to reconcile me more to our separation—do try to be again, improve every opportunity for religious instruction as well as other. This may be the last opportunity that you will have of going [?] through. I have given up all hope of your resigning and I believe dear Allen that while your health is so much better and you can be so comfortable from home, I do not wish it. I am getting less selfish and am willing for the benefit of my dear husband and children to sacrifice almost anything.

I know dearest husband you will wish to know every particular, I have tried to be very minute, but there is one thing that I have omitted. Henry selected a new spot on the common large enough for both our families and intends to remove his two dear children near ours and have it enclosed. I cannot write more now my dear husband but will by the way of N. Y. again this next week. I shall send this by the way of the department as being the safest. No, not my dear husband for my sake and that of your children let this prey upon your spirit to such consolation at the throne of grace and may God in His infinite mercy grant it to you is the fervent prayer of your dear wife.


Aunt Wood and Mary desire to be kindly remembered to you. Aunt W. feels your kindness in remembering her so particularly. I have [?] nothing for them in particular as yet as they have not needed it. They are now with me and I shall keep them till the last of the week for every day is a saving of wood, etc.

Our good friend Mrs. Tutten has just been in & requests me to give her kindest regards to you. She has been all that a mother could have been to me and did more at the last for our dear child than I could do.

Oh my dear husband. Be comforted. I would not have him back again if a wish could bring him. With a hope of hearing from you soon, ever yours affectionately,

Scans of Letter