“THE CAPTAIN . . . A QUAKER FACE WHICH IS EASILY RIGGED ON, BAFFLES THIS NUMBSCULL.” A candid and gossipy letter to his wife by a physician serving aboard the flagship of the Home Fleet who would go on to become a Medical Director of the Navy and serve three times as a Fleet Surgeon
U.S.S. Independence at New York: 1843. Envelope or Cover. This three-page stampless folded letter, measuring 16.5” x 9.5”, is datelined “U. S. Ship Independence / New York, Nov. 21st. 1843.” It bears a manuscript “12½” rate mark (the cost to send a letter from 80 to 150 miles) and a circular red New York postmark dated November 13. In nice shape; small hole from opening the seal. A transcript will be provided.
When Greene wrote this letter, the U.S.S. Independence had just become the Flagship of the U.S. Home Fleet. As Greene awaited the ship’s departure from New York, he penned this humorous, gossipy, and cattily racist letter to his wife, Catharine, in Philadelphia, who was recovering from a fairly serious illness. Excerpts include"
“I . . . suppose that [your] fever, chill, &c, arose from inflammation of the face. . .. I am proud that my letter, or whatever it may be called, has affected a cure; it must indeed be from the quantity, and not from its quality. . .. I was under a strong temptation to accompany Bishop H. to see you, and . . . on meeting the Captain . . . he told me I might go [and] if I had not written to you, the little man’s offer would have been accepted. He tries to read me . . . but a quaker face which is easily rigged on, baffles this numbscull. . ..
"Minor has been examined. He has been nearly insane from his great anxiety, this is however natural to him, for he is of a most excitable temperament. . ..
"I saw Dr. and Ms Ruschnberger. She is far from being a beauty . . . her face has a good deal of the African cast, even more than Mrs. M. whom I will see in a few days in Boston. . ..
“I hope the check or draft was acceptable – would it not be well to put the amount which you have got in Bank. . .. I think this would be safer, than keeping it either about your person or in your drawer, or trunk. . .. However you must choose for yourself. The winter is approaching, and there will be one robbery after another; nor is there any security against fire. . .. ". Very good. Item #009776
Greene would eventually become a Medical Director of the Navy and serve three tours as a Fleet Surgeon. His friend, Dr. Minor, would receive a gold medal from the city of Portsmouth, Virginia while assigned to the hospital at Gosport Naval Shipyard for tirelessly working to help control the catastrophic yellow fever epidemic that nearly destroyed Hampton Roads in 1855. And Capt Isaac McKeeves, Greene's “numbscull” commander, whose career was made during a heroic defeat in the War of 1812, became the Commanding Officer of the Gosport Naval Shipyard and died during the yellow fever epidemic for which Minor received a gold medal. (For more information, see various online databases and articles including Records of the American Catholic Historical Society of Philadelphia, Vol. 23 No 4, “Epidemic, The Norfolk and Portsmouth Yellow Fever (1855)” at Encyclopedia Virginia, and Lot 294: “War of 1812: U.S. Navy. McKeever, Isaac. 1791-1856” at Bonhams 25 Sep 2018. $275 #9776.