Transcription by Donna Bluemink

Being an Historical Account of the Origin,
General Character, and Ravages of the
in Norfolk & Portsmouth in 1855,
Together with Sketches of Some of the Victims,
Incidents of the Scourge, Etc.
By William S. Forrest,
New York: Derby & Jackson.
Philadelphia: J. B. Lippincott & Co., 1856

"Death, repulsive king, thine iron rule is terrible."

[ii] Entered, according to Act of Congress, in the year of our Lord 1850, by
In the Clerk's Office of the District Court of the United States for the Eastern District of Virginia.
Printers and Stereotypers, N. Y.

Monument to be erected by the citizens of Norfolk in memory
of the Mayor, the President of the Howard Association,
the clergy, physicians and others who died during the
great pestilence in 1855.

[iii] PREFACE.

When the pestilence, which recently desolated the two adjacent sister sea-port cities of Virginia, had ceased its ravages; when the fearful death-storm, that raged so furiously, had swept by, a general and very reasonable desire was expressed to have an authentic account of the great calamity—a reliable record of Death's relentless sway—especially during those memorable months— August, September, and October, 1855.

Among others, the writer, who witnessed the almost unequaled fury of the disease, was kindly urged to undertake the task. But imperative engagements occupying nearly every moment of his time during the day, he found that it would be almost impossible to accomplish so important [iv] a work without relinquishing other necessary efforts, or delaying its completion beyond the limits of a reasonable period. He determined, however, notwithstanding the difficulties presented, to prepare a work on the subject, embracing an account of the origin, frightful progress, and terrible effects of the dreadful malady; together with various incidents, facts, opinions, and suggestions relative to the scourge, written during, and subsequent to, that memorable time of terror, sudden death, and woe.

It was deemed judicious to append, also, suitable tributary sketches of some of the victims of the destroyer, whose virtues and exalted character justly entitle them to the permanent remembrance of the living—while they sleep quietly in the Grave to which their sallow remains were hurried during the race of the mysterious disease.

It will be found that extracts from ably-written accounts of the pestilence, by other pens, have been given a place. These sketches, it is believed, will add interest and value to the work, inasmuch as they assist in forming a true description of the [v] calamity, as viewed by different observers, and from various points of observation.

"If, in recording the noble, heroic, and generous deeds of those who braved the terrors of the scourge, and who labored so faithfully in assisting and relieving their fellow-men, in nursing and watching the sick, in shrouding and burying the pestilent dead, some among the meritorious are not mentioned, the omission must be considered as unavoidable. Time and space were insufficient for all, or half that could be written.

The result of his labor is before a discriminating public, and the writer confidently trusts that his work will be found to possess at least a melancholy interest, and that it will impart useful information to the living, both at home and abroad, relative to the appalling tornado of disease and death that raged throughout the length and breadth of two cities of the Old Dominion crushing down, in its reckless course, people of all ages, all classes, and every condition—the rich and the poor, the learned and the ignorant, the fair and the lovely—leaving in its blood-stained track [vi] the lifeless and corruptive remains of the strong and the weak, the young, the vigorous, and the beautiful, as well as of the old and decrepit; or hastily and promiscuously crowding them, as it were, in one common vortex of death and silence. W. S. F.

Norfolk, July, 1856.


The pestilence-its severity and fearful ravages-the frightful work of
death-burial of the dead-aid from abroad-sympathy for the afflicted cities.

The mysterious, pestilential visitation with which Norfolk and Portsmouth were afflicted in 1855, is justly classed among the severest and most terrible calamities that ever desolated any community. It will be recorded upon the historic page as the great PESTILENCE IN VIRGINIA. They who witnessed and survived the fearful ravages of the yellow fever during that awful season of general consternation, sudden death, and hasty burial, will ever look back to the period with feelings of horror; and they who fled precipitately from their loved, peaceful, and previously happy and healthful homes, to avoid the hot and envenomed pestilential breath that was breathed into every room of every house, from the merchant palace down to the humblest abode of the sons and daughters of want and poverty, will think of those days and nights of powerful excite [2] ment, inexpressible anxiety, deep grief, and agonizing suspense, with the most painful emotions.

Insidiously coming upon the healthful, prosperous, unsuspecting, and busy populace, like the silent and stealthy march of an unwelcome, and blood-thirsty foe at the dead of night, the scourge went forth, sternly, steadily, ruthlessly —gradually increasing in violence, and cruelly working its death-havoc, hour after hour, day after day, night after night, week after week, and during the lapse of more than three long and dreary months!

Some idea of the destructiveness of this pestilence may be formed by comparing it with the great plague in London. In that plague, one in seventeen died; here, one in three.

It is estimated that if the city of New York should be visited by a plague as fatal, the deaths would be twenty-five thousand a week, or a hundred thousand a month, during the period of its continuance! (The great plague in London, in 1665, carried off 100,000 persons.)

Thousands hurried away from the infected towns from the frightful scenes of disease, wretchedness, and woe—amazed and horror-struck at the ravages of the unsparing agent of destruction. And many [3] escaped, though not a few of the unhappy refugees sickened, and some of the strongest and best were blasted by the tainting breath of the pestilence they had inhaled at their own happy firesides, and which poisoned their life-blood while in their own quiet chambers; and they found a grave, among kind and sympathizing strangers, away from their silent and deserted homes.

Families that left in one unbroken, fond, and cherished circle, earnestly hoping to elude the vigilance of the pursuer, were soon overtaken and deprived of one or more of the most loved and endeared members. The strongest link in the golden chain of affection, that bound them in close union and held inviolate the sacred family compact, was suddenly severed, and fell, shivered to the ground, and deep and festering wounds were inflicted in many a true and trusting heart that time cannot heal.

As the dreadful "scourge of the tropics" passed along in its might and fury, in some instances whole families were taken, and old and venerated mansions were left, for months, as vacant and silent as a mausoleum; and strangers have filled the sad vacuum. The stores were all closed, with scarcely an exception; business was entirely sus- [4] pended, excepting the rapid traffic by the undertakers and their assistants, in coffins, and the hasty dealing out of medicines; and weeds grew in the deserted streets; the piercing cries of distress and the groans of the dying were heard, while the stern and solemn death-angel executed his dread commission to crush down the people.

Many persons sought to avoid an attack of the fever, by carrying about their persons camphor, asafœtida, thieves' vinegar, etc. Numbers tried tobacco, often chewing, and smoking almost constantly. But nothing seemed to render the people proof against its ravages.

The chill, the acute pain in the head and limbs, the strange, sleepy, and drowsy feeling, the continuous burning fever, and sometimes the rapid beat of the heart—these symptoms, or some of them, came on, and, unless soon arrested and checked, were, in a great number of cases, quickly followed by delirium, the urinary suppression, and the fatal black vomit; and then came the last conflict of nature, the death-struggle itself, and the final closing up of the life-scene. Then the coffining, and, alas, at one period, the mere promiscuous boxing up of the dead, the wagoning to the grave-yards, the interment of the putrid and [5] offensive bodies—all, all went on dolefully and rapidly. Indeed, at one time, there were not enough of the living and well to take away the dead."The reader need scarcely be informed that the yellow fever, wherever it has assumed the epidemic form, has fully established its claims to be classed among the most formidable diseases to which the human body is liable. This is true, whether we view it in reference to the changes it very generally occasions in the domestic arrangements of a large portion of the exposed population; to the great sacrifices of interest and comfort it entails on these—the necessary effects of the interruption or cessation of commercial and other pursuits; of the abandonment of home, and of the sundering of ordinary ties and occupation —to the perversion of the better feelings of our nature, to which it too often gives rise: or to the immense loss of life it occasions, as well, proportionately, to the amount of the population at large as to the number of the sick. In this latter respect, no disease, the black plague of the fifteenth century, and the Asiatic cholera in our own days excepted, can compare with it.'' — Dr. La Roche.

Those who were not ill, were, most of them, busy at the bedside of their friends and relatives. Of such, however, there were not enough; but, fortunately, the necessary aid came from abroad—from north, south, east, and west—for the great heart of a mighty nation beat in powerful sympathy for the two desolated cities of Virginia.


Origin of the fever—Different theories-the Ben Franklin— Healthfulness of Norfolk
and Portsmouth—The first cases—False assertions and slanders—Condition
of the infected steamer—The commencement and progress of the disease.

With regard to the cause or origin of the yellow fever in Norfolk and Portsmouth, there are, of course, different opinions. Some contend that the disease was of local origin; some, that it was imported and introduced by the ill-fated steamer Ben Franklin; while others regard it as a, scourge, or a pestilential visitation, specially sent by the all wise and just Ruler, and which has been slowly passing along the Atlantic coast, stopping at Pensacola in 1853, and traveling thence northwardly, sweeping off multitudes in Charleston and Savannah in 1854, and traveling on, to desolate other cities of the sea-board.

We think, to a careful observer, and especially to one acquainted with the facts connected with the question, that there can seem but little mystery [7] about the principal cause of the fever here as an epidemic; indeed, it plainly appears that the infected ship was immediately instrumental in causing a calamity so terrible and wide-spread, and a destruction of human life so awful to contemplate. Norfolk and Portsmouth had been remarkably healthful for many years, and so continued until the fever broke out in Gosport—properly the southern portion of Portsmouth—and in the immediate vicinity of the wharf at which the steamer lay. The first case announced was that of one of the workmen, a boiler-maker, employed on the ship; the first death announced, was that of the same individual, (A distinguished physician, connected with the U. S. Navy, was requested to call and see the body of the first victim in Gosport, as the attending physician was in some doubt with regard to the true nature of the case. He immediately pronounced the disease of which the man died the genuine yellow fever. Closing the nostrils and pressing the breast, as the corpse lay upon the bed, the black vomit gushed copiously from the mouth, greatly alarming some who were standing near.) and the first twenty or thirty cases occurred within a stone's throw of the vessel.

A great and persevering effort has been made to prove that the disease had its origin here. But we think this cannot be done; we think it never will be done. We are far beyond the latitude in which [8] this tropical fever is produced to any great extent, and where it rages so fearfully. It is a slander upon the place to assert, that this disease, in all its malignity, if in any form, originated in Norfolk, that the place is unhealthy, and its condition such as to produce this awful disorder, especially when the facts are such as to convince every person whose prejudice can be overcome by argument, and plain and truthful statements, that the position taken is untenable, and almost entirely without foundation. An able and judicious writer, in reply to the misstatements of a resident of another city, relative to the unhealthfulness of Norfolk, uses the following proper and forcible language:

"When pigmy, fantastic man seeks to mingle his finite sulphur with the roar of heaven's artillery—when an illy-disposed (or, we would prefer the term, if we could conscientiously use it, illy-informed) writer seeks, as it were, to make God's work even more destructive than it has been, in the scourged cities of Norfolk and Portsmouth, by throwing out false assertions and surmises as to the general sanitary condition of these places, we own no obligation to restrain the contempt and disgust which we feel at such a course of infinitesimal enmity—and if our language, in speaking of the circulated slanders, is measured by the bounds of propriety, it is purely from respect to our readers and ourself.

"It is the testimony of men who know—observant physicians, and others of experience —that Norfolk city (by which term we do not design to exclude Portsmouth from the association) is ordinarily one of the healthiest places in the world.

"Our city is frequently the chosen summer resort of persons [9] who live in unhealthy regions, who bring their families hither to gain or maintain health."

The atmosphere, we admit, may have been in such a condition as to act as a medium for the dissemination of the concentrated poison discharged from the sweltering hold of the filthy ship, and the same, no doubt, might be said of the air of almost any location in warm weather; but it lacked this additional ingredient to render it so destructive to health and life. As a magazine of gunpowder is harmless and powerless without the application of fire, so the air we breathed here would, in all probability, have remained harmless, if not generally healthful, had not the poisonous bilge water been pumped out; had not vent been given to the life-destroying gases; had not the intolerable stench come forth from the capacious hold of the ill-fated bark that brought disease below her decks, and, no doubt, left the putrefying dead in her wake, to sink down to a grave among the seaweeds and ocean rocks, or, perchance, to float upon the surging billows of the deep. Had some sudden shift in the changing winds, ere she entered our noble roadstead, or before she reached the capes of Virginia, driven her into another port, and had the same fatal error been committed, or a [10] like inattention or leniency been allowed, in regard to quarantine regulations, similar scenes of disease and desolation would, doubtless, have taken place elsewhere—a similar drama of death and woe would, probably, have been witnessed in some other seaport city. But, for a reason known only to Him who "discovereth deep things out of darkness, and bringeth to light the shadow of death," who "increaseth the nations to destroy them," the ship was permitted, alas, to enter our waters, approach our own peaceful and happy shores, and the fearful scourge was allowed to desolate these two hitherto highly-blessed and favored cities of the Old Dominion. While the ship was yet far out to sea, a consultation was held by the passengers, with regard to entering a port—the choice being between Norfolk and Baltimore. The decision was known by the subsequent course of the vessel. The ship was bound to New York, and the captain preferred to keep her on her course for that port, but yielded to the decision of a majority of the passengers.

The malignant malady, as before intimated, broke out in the immediate vicinity of the dock at which the infected steamer lay, and thence it spread through Gosport, soon reaching Portsmouth, hence finding its way to Norfolk, and extending to the furthest limits of the two towns. We may [11] appropriately add here, that T. G. Broughton, Esq., the senior editor of the Herald, and Secretary of the Board of Health, stated in his paper, after the fever broke out in Gosport, that the cases were all "traceable to the steamer Ben Franklin."

"About fifteen cases," wrote Mr. B., "remain under treatment.

"As yet the epidemic has been confined to the vicinity of Page and Allen's ship-yard, which has been boarded up and all communication with it interdicted. We have not heard of any case, beyond this small infected district, which was not contracted within it."


Statements relative to the Steamer Ben Franklin— A great error and its calamitous results.

We proceed to give some facts, and to adduce some of the mass of testimony we could present with special reference to the steamer Ben Franklin, which we think will be read with some interest by those who entertain doubts on the subject of the origin and spread of the fatal epidemic.

We have been informed by an estimable and perfectly reliable gentleman, that the first engineer of the Ben. Franklin stated that the yellow fever was raging awfully at St. Thomas, when she left; that soon after she sailed therefrom, some of the hands were taken sick of the disease, and that the first and second engineers were compelled to act as firemen as well as to work the engines of the steamer, owing to sickness among the crew. But we are prepared to give more definite information on the subject.

When the steam-ship arrived in our port (June 7th), while she lay at quarantine, and before she [13] was allowed to enter the inner harbor, and go up to the wharf in Gosport, some work was being done for the United States Government, at Fort Norfolk, which is only a short distance from the anchorage at which the ship lay. This we consider a fortunate circumstance, in view of the important facts which it has enabled us to obtain with regard to the true sanitary condition of the vessel. The facts to which we allude, we have obtained from individuals whose business required their presence at Fort Norfolk, and who had an opportunity of seeing enough of what was going on to satisfy them and others that there were cases of malignant fever on board. Our information was obtained from Messrs. William Harper and Henry Neavill, long and favorably known in Portsmouth, as gentlemen of undoubted veracity; also from Mr. Henry Foreman, of Norfolk county; and we could, if necessary, add the concurrent testimony of twenty more.

Mr. Harper and others went out to the ship for the purpose of getting West India fruit, observing quantities in a decayed state floating in the river, and they were informed by some of the crew that there were cases of the yellow fever on board, of the most fatal type. On asking for the mate, they [14] were told that he was ill of the disease. A few days after this, they noticed a coffin on the upper deck, and distinctly saw some of the men remove a corpse from a mattress, and put it in the coffin. The mattress was immediately thrown overboard, and it floated ashore at the old fort, while the coffin and its contents were taken to the opposite shore and buried. We learned from another respectable source, that another corpse was taken from the ship at night to the same location, and buried. At about the same period the body of a man also floated ashore, where it was secured with a cord and covered with canvas, by some of the workmen, at the fort. The face was greatly disfigured and mutilated; the hands were as yellow as an orange, and the dress, as they supposed, that of a coal-heaver or fireman. The inference at the time was, that the corpse was that of one of the hands of the ship, and that it had been thrown overboard (which is doubtful, however); or that one of the men was drowned in the effort to get to the shore. No inquest was held, and the body was placed in a rough coffin and buried at Fort Norfolk, by the direction of Mr. Matthews, a Constable from Portsmouth.

Mr. Harper, who superintended some of the work [15] at the fort, and a number of others employed there, saw two men descend the side of the steamer, jump into the water, and swim ashore. One of them narrowly escaped drowning. On being questioned as to the cause of their leaving the ship thus hastily and periling their lives to get to the shore, they replied that they preferred to take the risk of losing their lives by drowning, to that of dying of the fever which was prevailing on board.

It is superfluous to state that Mr. Harper and his companions were greatly surprised when they saw the infected vessel making her way up to the ship-yard, after the indisputable evidence which they had, that her sanitary state was so dangerous. Nor is it at all surprising that they should have emphatically declared their belief as they did, that a raging pestilence would be the fearful consequence of the sad error that was committed.

That ill-omened ocean steamer, with the foul stench of loathsome disease, floated slowly and gloomy-looking, dark and ominous, up our deep and quiet harbor, and, rounding the beautiful point occupied by a portion of the opposite town, she was secured at a wharf on the west side of the southern branch of our river, at Gosport. Who [16] but the omniscient Creator knew of the terrible calamity that was soon to come upon the people? How few, comparatively, supposed that she contained the seeds of disease and death, to be scattered in every street and lane and dwelling in the two devoted towns; that the harmless air the people breathed was about to act as a medium for the dissemination of a poison as deadly as the roaring and stifling simoom in the hot and gloomy depths of benighted Africa, or that drifts the sands of the sterile deserts of Arabia!

The very name of that ocean steamer, though sacred in the annals of our mighty republic, falls sadly upon many an ear, and sends a thrill of agony to many a heart; and it will linger in the minds of thousands in painful association with the fever-scourge that rendered so desolate the two adjacent cities of the Elizabeth.

After arriving at quarantine, the ship was visited by Dr. E. H. Gordon, the City Health Officer, who was informed by the captain that there was no case of yellow fever on board. The steamer, however, remained at quarantine twelve days, and on the 19th of June, Dr. Gr., with the consent of the Board of Health of Norfolk, and of some members of the Common Council of Portsmouth, yielded to the captain's [17] earnest solicitation, and granted him a permit to bring his leaky ship up into the harbor, upon the express condition, however, that "her hold was not to be broken out." She was, accordingly, taken up to Messrs. Page and Allen's shipyard, in Gosport, to be repaired; and, sad to say, the captain violated his promise in regard to "breaking out the hold." As to his previous assertion that there was no case of fever on board, the public will judge of its probable truth or falsity, by his reckless disregard for his promise, as well as by facts which we have already given.

We will admit the possibility that we should have escaped the frightful scenes that followed this violation, had it never been committed; for the poison might have remained harmless, so long as confined within the limits of the vessel's hold. But it was, indeed, a great error in judgment, to allow a ship to come to our wharves, with the possibility that the seeds of a fearfully malignant disease were generating beneath her planks, that an air charged with death was confined in her ample hold, and which, it was believed, it would be hazardous in the extreme to permit to escape, and infect the healthful air with which this location [18] was surrounded at the period mentioned. The health of the two adjacent towns was remarkably good, up to the week in which the fever commenced its ravages in the immediate vicinity of Page and Allen's dock-yard, where, by the way, the business of ship-building was extensively conducted, and with, a suitable regard to the sanitary condition of the location. But soon the extensive ship-yard was vacant. The busy and stalwart workmen fled hastily away before the poisoned breath of the pestilence. One of the largest class merchant ships remained unfinished upon the stocks, deserted and still, and the massive timbers lay untouched by the adze or the axe. The water rippled playfully along the quiet shore; the sudden flutter of the silvery perch, or the ominous scream of the sea-gull, occasionally disturbed the silence—the deep and painful silence that reigned where the voice of busy laborers had been heard, and where the noise of the saw and the hammer, that now lay rusting and useless, had echoed during all the long and tedious working hours of the summer day.

The fearful consequences that followed, so disastrous to the health, lives, happiness, and prosperity of the people, and so injurious to the business [19] and good name of the two towns, were plainly the result of error, on the part of the authorities, in allowing the ship, under all the circumstances, to come up; as well as of deception, and a gross violation of the engagement by the captain of the steamer. We present not these facts for the purpose of eliciting blame upon the course of those immediately concerned. We are aiming at facts. The truth should be known. All are liable to mistake and deception, and many have innocently erred in matters involving the highest interests of individuals and communities, for time and eternity, producing the most, unexpected and startling results, and causing the deep heart-thrilling wail of woe and despair to go forth from the profoundest depths of maternal, widowed, and orphaned hearts, wrung with unutterable, anguish, bleeding from wounds too deep to be healed, crushed and breaking beneath a weight of sorrow too intolerable, too ponderous to be borne.

We will not speak, therefore, in unbecoming terms of censure, with regard to the conduct of any citizen. This would neither benefit the living, nor raise the profoundly sleeping dead. Nay, verily, this would not restore to the lone and disconsolate widow the dear and cherished object of her heart's [20] unfailing affection; nor call up from the dark, damp, silent grave, and restore to weeping and bereaved orphans, him or her who was their best friend, the light and joy of the happy fireside, the life and the soul of the united household; to the doating parent the son or the daughter of promise, to the busy mart its departed merchants of enterprise and skill; to the white harvest-field its faithful and devoted laborers; nor to science and art the men of mind and learning that have passed away. They are all resting now beneath the green sod; their eternal destiny is unalterably fixed; their work is done; their earthly conflict has ended; the struggle with the "last enemy" is over, and we leave them in the hands of a merciful and just Creator.

The force of the calamity has passed. The results and effects, it is true, are still seen and felt on every hand, and the great and afflictive dispensation will tell upon the destinies of many for time and eternity. But it was allowed in unerring wisdom, by an all-wise Providence, and it, therefore, becomes every person to bow in humble submission to the decrees of the great I AM; to learn a wise lesson from the past, and to throw the mantle of charity upon the acts, the blunders, the faults and failures [21] of those who will be judged impartially and finally before the great throne of Eternal Justice, at the coming grand and supreme assize, from which there will be no appeal.


Additional facts with regard to the infected steamer— The spread of the fever—
Some of the earliest victims— Former plentifulness of Norfolk and Portsmouth.

Shortly after the arrival of the steamer, the Captain and the man acting as chief engineer called on Mr. Davids of the Atlantic Iron Works, of this city—a gentleman of most undoubted veracity and good character, from whom we obtain the following facts—to repair the engine of the steamer, and he promised to go on board the next day. Accordingly, Mr. Pettit, the foreman of the works, went down to Town Point to engage a boat in which to visit the ship. Here he learned facts that led to further and very definite and important information about the sanitary condition of the vessel, which information we would give, if we thought it necessary to strengthen the position we have taken.

On the following day, Mr. Davids informed the captain and engineer that he would not undertake to repair the ship, unless he would have her thoroughly cleansed and fumigated. Notwith- [23] standing all this, and although it was generally understood that there was yellow fever on board, and after the fact had been emphatically stated by those who had every necessary means of knowing the true state of the vessel, two days after the period above alluded to, as before shown, she was most unfortunately allowed to go up to the shipyard at Gosport—a sad mistake indeed! Mr. Davids, with his foreman, however, ventured on board, at the wharf, and immediately thereafter informed some of the citizens of Portsmouth, among whom were Mr. Samuel Brewer and Mr. Wm. H. Morris, and also a number of persons in city, that there was yellow fever on board the vessel, and that, if allowed to remain, in a few weeks the inhabitants would be driven away by a pestilence. Alas! she did remain, her hold was broken open, her hatches removed, her intensely offensive bilge water was pumped out, and the wholesale work of death commenced. And such probably have been the result in 1854, had the infected French steamer Chimère* been allow-

(*The French steamer Chimère arrived at quarantine in July, with fever on board, and fifty-four cases were sent to the Hospital. Fourteen died—eleven with the black vomit, and three from the effects of the disease.

The United States Frigate Columbia arrived at quarantine March 19th, 1855, with yellow fever on board. Sixty-three cases were sent to the United States Naval Hospital, and only five died.

A ship may be infected sufficiently to spread the fever, and the crew, from acclimation, etc., may be free from disease.)

[24] ed to come up into our harbor, when the authorities were urged to give their consent. Some of the citizens manifested the deepest concern upon the subject, before the vessel went up to the shipyard. Among these was a gentleman of high standing, who emphatically declared his belief that, if the vessel were not rigidly kept at quarantine, and prevented from coming to our wharves, the consequences would be awful in the extreme—as, indeed, they proved to be. But what need have we to multiply testimony, or further facts, tending to throw light upon the true merits of the case? The terribly malignant visitation is regarded as a scourge of the all-wise Creator, and so it may be; but who can doubt, that as in Philadelphia, in 1793, as shown by Mr. Carey, who carefully observed and faithfully described the origin and progress of the fever there, the disease was brought and introduced by a foreign vessel, and that this was at least the chief instrumentality that caused so fearful and crushing a calamity? Soon after the fever made its appearance [25] in the immediate neighborhood of the dock at which the vessel lay, it extended, as before mentioned to the heart of Portsmouth, lying north of the location where it first appeared; and thence it found its way to Norfolk. It is well enough known, that a number of persons in Gosport sought refuge in Barry's Row, in Norfolk, coming over, especially in the night, both sick and well, with their furniture, including, of course, mattresses, carpets, clothing, etc. The disease, in Norfolk, seemed to be confined almost entirely to the occupants of the above-named row, situated on the east side of Church street, between Union and Wide Water, until about the close of the first week in August; then it gradually made its way along Wide Water, Union, Main, and other streets, with a mortality seldom if ever known during the fiercest raging of epidemics in other cities and in other countries. The weather here was very warm in the latter part of June, continued so in July, and in August the air was damp, close, hot, and disagreeable. In September it was more cool, but damp.

Mr. A. J. McFadden, a clerk at the Gosport Iron Works, situated very near Page & Allen's [26] ship-yard, was among the first who took fever, after the ship went up, and he soon died.

Mr. Robert W. Warren, who was clerk for Page & Allen, though residing in Norfolk, was attacked on Wednesday, 25th July, and died Saturday night following, having been among the earliest victims, and very probably the first who died in Norfolk, excepting some of the hapless occupants of Barry's Row. The writer was informed by the attending physician, that the symptoms were precisely like those in other severe cases that occurred subsequently.

It is sufficiently evident that there was no known case of yellow fever in Norfolk or Portsmouth in 1855, before the infected ship passed up between the two towns on her way to the shipyard at Gosport.

Now, it is true that no one can tell certainly and positively, whether or not the fever would have made its appearance without the addition to the atmosphere of the noxious effluvia dispensed from the steamer. This, as before intimated, may have been only requisite to increase the malignity of the epidemic, and the extent of the fearful calamity to its almost unequaled severity. But we think we have shown that the circumstances, [27] well authenticated facts bearing upon the subject, plainly, unequivocally, undeniably, all tend lead reasonable, unprejudiced, and unbiased minds to a different conclusion.

It seems needless to attempt further to strengthen or defend our position. But we will add yet other links to the chain of evidence. The Health Officer's monthly bill of mortality for July showed the number of deaths, from various diseases, to have been fifty-three in all, thirty of whom were children, mostly of tender age. In July of the preceding year, the number was seventy, exhibiting a decrease in 1855 of over twenty per cent.; thus confirming our statement that Norfolk was healthful until the spread of the disease from the vessel.

Thomas G. Broughton, Esq., editor of the Norfolk and Portsmouth Herald, made the following statement in his paper, late in July:

"We can say truly that, at no period within our memory, has Norfolk been more healthy than it is at this time. Our own experience, and the numerous assurances of our friends and fellow-citizens whom we daily meet "about town," justify us in pronouncing that opinion; and what is still more conclusive, such is the opinion of all the practicing physicians in the city.''

Nor was the good opinion of the health of the place changed until after the removals from Gos- [28] port and Portsmouth to Barry's Row, where the disease commenced, and whence it gradually spread in every direction; no case, however, having been reported out of this row, or its immediate vicinity, or that was not traceable to Gosport, until the 7th of August.

Let it be remembered that with the same sanitary laws and regulations, with similar weather, and, indeed, with far greater apparent local cause of sickness, Norfolk and Portsmouth had long been uniformly healthful; the bills of mortality comparing very favorably with those of other places, known and acknowledged to be exceedingly free from epidemic maladies, and fully entitled to their claim to salubrity of climate.


Symptoms of the yellow feverRemedies and treatment
Effects of the malady
The plague fly.

The symptoms of the disease were, generally, as follow, and persons were affected in various ways:

Very frequently the premonitory symptom was an unpleasant feeling in the fore part of the head, which, in severe cases, often increased to a violent headache. The eyes assumed a strange and unnatural expression, sometimes presenting a reddish, color, but, in many instances, deeply tinged with yellow. A dull, heavy, and sleepy feeling frequently came over the patient, and was often manifested, to some extent, for several days before more alarming symptoms were exhibited. Many were attacked with a chill, which was followed by loss of appetite, debility, and very severe pain in the limbs, back, and bowels, although in some cases the pains were comparatively slight. When the malady did not yield to treatment, there was often a great oppression about the breast. The tongue was generally furred white or brown, with a watery, red appearance around it. Suppression of urine and urethral hæmorrhage were much dreaded, and were generally fatal symptoms; for delirium [30] soon followed, and death was the almost unevitable result. The black vomit, as is well known, was also a common and, generally, though not in all cases, a fatal symptom. The black vomit is a rapid exudation from the smaller blood vessels, indicating the presence of an active poison in the system—the color not entirely black, but, more properly, a very dark brown. Many of the victims suffered from copious hæmorrhage from the mouth and nose, the blood generally possessing its natural color, or showing but little variation therefrom. The bleeding of the gums often occurred also. A number of those attacked were dreadfully afflicted with boils and carbuncles, from which blood was freely discharged. They appeared upon the face, the hands, arms, and on various parts of the body.

As to the remedies, calomel and quinine were freely administered to many of the patients, and poultices were freely applied, before the nature of the disease was understood. The use of strong remedies was almost entirely discontinued, after a greater knowledge of the epidemic had been acquired. Castor oil, and other mild purgatives, lemonade, ice-water, sponging the surface with water and vinegar, warm applications to the chest, bathing the feet in warm water, with mustard plenti- [31] fully thrown in, rubbing with mustard, keeping the patient moderately warm, and good nursing as advised especially by physicians from the South, had a much more salutary effect than all or any of the remedies and means used in the treatment of those who were attacked before the nature of the disease was understood by the resident physicians. Mr. E. Summers, recently Mayor of Norfolk, rendered himself useful during the epidemic, and was very successful, by means of simple remedies and good nursing, in his efforts to arrest the progress of the disease in a number of cases. But in thousands of instances no treatment succeeded, and, generally, in five or six days the earthly career of the patient closed, although many cases terminated fatally in forty-eight hours, and a number in a still shorter space of time.

The fever often tended to prostrate the patient at once, depriving him of strength and vigor; and the strong doses of medicine that were given, having a similar effect upon the system, the sufferer was soon so exceedingly debilitated, that it was impossible to rally, and death quickly ensued, although the sufferer might retain strength enough to walk, almost till the moment, of his death. Besides, in many cases, fear exerted its power, and then the patient sank rapidly, notwithstanding the most skillful course of treatment, and the most careful nursing. When the fever-patient became alarmed, the chance of recovery was greatly lessened. They [32] who were most calm and fearless, whose remedies were mild, and who were judiciously nursed, were far more likely to survive an attack of the disease. A number of those who were ill, and measurably recovered, owing to exposure, or imprudence of some kind, were attacked a second, and some even a third time. These subsequent attacks were generally called relapses, and, in many cases, the patients died soon after a return of the symptoms. This disease was, no doubt, the endemic fever of southern latitudes, and prevalent, though more or less violent, especially in the West Indies, along the coast of South America, etc. It can be readily transported in vessels, and thus it may become epidemic in places generally healthful.

The tendency to putridity and mortification, in severe cases, was also observed, and was, of course, deemed a fatal symptom, and the rapid decomposition of the body after death was regarded as a singular effect of this fearful tropical fever. In most instances, as is well known, the body assumed a yellow color, and many who survived an attack were yellow for weeks after the dreaded crisis of the fever had passed, and they were considered nearly out of danger.

With regard to the appearance of an insect [33] called the plague-fly, not observable here prior to the breaking out of the fever, much has been said and written. The writer noticed large numbers of the singular species of fly alluded to. In size, they were smaller than the common house-fly. The wings were longer, but narrower, and the color of the body yellowish, often approaching a light red. They appeared in great quantities on the fig-trees, though swarming in damp and filthy places. Whether or not they were ever seen here before, or were in any way connected with the pestilence, we are not prepared to say.


Norfolk before the fever—General appearance of the city and it vicinity—
The climate—Norfolk and Portsmouth harbor.

Before attempting a more full and particular account of the progress of the yellow fever, we present a description of the city of Norfolk, and of its general appearance prior to the commencement of the terrible visitation to which we have already alluded.

Imagine yourself, reader, standing at the pleasing elevation of 120 feet, looking out from the massive cupola of the City Hall upon a charming and exciting panorama, tastefully spread around in every direction by the hand of nature and art. You learn, by the shifting vane glistening on yon towering spire, that the changing wind has veered to northwest. It is a gentle, exhilarating breeze. And now the old church clock is slowly tolling off the busy hour of ten. Beneath are the massive proportions of the principal public building, standing firmly and proudly on its solid base, while all round, the deep green sward relieves the eye. [35] There is much interest and beauty in the view stretching out hence through the city, and extending for miles in the distance. The brilliant rays of the summer's sun gleam down upon the land with its houses, its green-clad trees, its blooming flowers, while the spacious river reflects his beams like a great mammoth mirror; and light, fleecy clouds stand leisurely above the western horizon.

The beholder is struck with the apparent nearness of objects, as he looks out from this altitude, and casts his eye down upon them with surprise, at the singular distinctness with which they stand out to view. There is in every direction an appearance of neatness, convenience, and comfort. In a word, Norfolk thus beheld, imparts an idea of pleasantness and salubrity, at once cheering and satisfactory. Perhaps the most exciting scene is in the direction of about south by west; the busy populace, the towering edifices closely huddled together; the sister town of Portsmouth, with its neat buildings, just across the water, and stretching along the banks of the southern branch of the river—a deep and handsome stream, which floats in her majesty the great ship Pennsylvania, and other great war vessels—and then winds along by [36] the United States Navy Yard, and conceals itself among the dense foliage on either side.

Not the least interesting object is the Seaboard Road, which, strange as it may seem, is distinctly marked out upon the landscape, standing to view for miles in a straight line to Bower's Hill. It is remarkable, too, that with no such intention, but by mere accident entirely, the City Hall should be so situated as that its ample cupola can be plainly seen down upon this perfectly straight stretch of eight miles. Looking at the road from this height, it appears to rise gradually, until at the furthest visible point, it seems to attain an elevation of several degrees. But yonder looms nobly up the Naval Hospital—massive, chaste, and beautiful; further on westward the Western Branch commences, but soon recedes from the sight. We take in view now the spacious surface of the deep and placid Elizabeth, floating upon its ample bosom numerous merchant vessels and fishing-boats, moving gently along before the breeze. How clearly does old Craney Island appear to rise up, as it were, from its watery bed in the distance, justly celebrated for its well-fought and victorious battle in 1813. And now we lessen the sweep of vision, taking in old Fort Norfolk, and several neat farms. [37] We take now a still less extended glance, and indulge in a general view of the city, of which there are four prominent points that seem to extend out from the centre in different directions—Town Point, Smith's, Briggs', and the space reaching from the eastern portion of Wide Water to Bermuda street, while thousands of buildings extend out from the river, northwards, presenting an aspect both beautiful and attractive. Trees and flowers are closely intermingled, while carefully cultivated gardens stand profusely out upon the picture, and please the eye. Some twenty public buildings lift up their ample dimensions, and give an air of importance to the scene. A dozen churches—some of them very beautiful—occupy the most prominent position, and many handsome and commodious family residences strike the eye and please the taste. In a northwesterly direction, a dense growth of forest trees forms the background of the scenery, but at one point the outline gently depressing, the smooth, shining surface of the river again appears, as it meanders on towards the roads.

We have said nothing of the Eastern Branch of the river, which winds on its serpentine course in the distance, with the smiling corn-fields, dense [38] green foliage, and neat farm-houses, on its beautiful and gently sloping banks.

Of the climate and harbor of Norfolk, Lieut. Maury, U. S. N., than whom there is scarcely better judge, gives the following graphic and truthful description:

"Its climate is delightful. Its harbor is commodious, and as safe as safe can be. It is never blocked up with ice, and as to the egress and ingress between it and the sea, it possesses all the facilities that the mariner himself could desire. It has the double advantage of an outer and inner harbor. The inner harbor is almost as smooth as a mill-pond; in it, vessels lie with the most perfect security, where every natural facility imaginable is afforded for lading and unlading. Being ready for sea, the outward-bound trader, dropping down from this snug mooring, and approaching the sea, finds a storm raging from outside. The outer harbor then affords shelter, until the fury of the gale is spent, when the white winged messenger trips her anchor, trims to the breeze, and goes forth rejoicing on her way to the haven where she would be."


Commencement and progress of the fever in the city—Barry's Row in ruins
The flight of the citizens
Effects of the scourgeExamples of true
benevolence and heroism.

Before the close of July, the disease had spread from Gosport to Portsmouth, and on the 31st that month it was officially announced that there had been several cases in Barry's Row, and four deaths. On the 2nd of August there had been seven deaths in the city, from the fever; and on the 3rd no new cases were reported, and the epidemic seemed to be rapidly disappearing.

On the 7th of August, one case was reported out of the infected district, and the citizens began be greatly concerned upon the subject.

On the evening of the 9th, Barry's Row was set on fire and destroyed, and this encouraged the people to hope that the fatal disease would subside entirely with the flames that fed upon the woodwork, and cleared away the filth of those tottering old buildings.

But they were sadly mistaken. The epidemic [40] now spread rapidly, and the citizens began to hasten away. Soon it appeared on Main Street. Several estimable citizens were attacked, and in three or four days were dead and buried; and about the 10th, the great flight commenced.

So general and precipitate a flight as that which took place then, we never expected to witness. The thought of disease and sudden death, the knowledge of an existing pestilence, we know are appalling to sinful man, and an instinctive love of health and life naturally hurries him away beyond the limits of the destroying agent, to a purer atmosphere and a healthier clime. The strong man in his prime dreads the presence of an air that poisons the life-blood and kills in a day; and even the sincere Christian feels solemn when he reflects upon so sad a visitation from the great Being in whom he trusts and whom he loves.

We censure no one individually; we merely mention the occurrence as an historical fact. But the question was very naturally asked: Should Christians fly, too, from the danger, at the very time when their presence is most required?— when their words of advice, instruction, and comfort are so necessary?—when nursing and watch- [41] ing are so much needed? "I was sick, and ye visited me not."

Surely, if there ever was a time when the true disciples of Christ should be active and in the line of their duty in Norfolk, that was the time; for, verily, "the pestilence walked in darkness and destruction wasted at noonday." Friends, neighbors, and acquaintances were prostrated by disease—burning with fever, and tortured with pains, and Death was fearfully at work; and how important the soothing words of the Christian at such a time! There seemed a deep meaning in the course pursued by some, especially to the irreligious who remained and manfully battled with the fury of the death-dealing messenger; and to those who felt it to be a sacred duty to remain and assist in the humane work of nursing the sick; contributing to the wants of the needy and the suffering; consoling the dying; shrouding and burying the dead, and guarding the property and lives of the people. Nearly all, indeed, who remained, personally felt the crushing power of the fierce destroyer; and, alas, many found a hasty and premature grave—dying like true men at their posts, as brave soldiers upon the contested field. Honored be their graves!

[42] "A stampede has taken place among us," wrote one who remained at the post of duty. "Our city looks deserted. Thousands of people have fled. Panic has prevailed over the better judgment of our citizens; and business is almost entirely suspended.

"The circumstance of persons who can afford to travel, leaving their homes during the later months of summer, is of itself nothing; but when the sick are neglected, and death is induced by such neglect, the privilege of self-preservation is carried beyond all necessary rule."

God's chastening hand was upon the people. The cries of distress were heard; widows and orphans were multiplied; the wail of woe came out dolefully from the abodes of disease, poverty, and wretchedness, and died away upon the pestilent night-wind; and of suffering, want, and misery, there was more than we can tell. It was indeed a sad and gloomy period; and how much the calamity was increased in its intensity by the absence of religious friends, and the deprivation of their attention, consolatory instruction, counsel, and prayers, in the rooms where death claimed and seized his victims, many of whom died from neglect, we leave to the imagination of those who [43] sought and enjoyed a more salubrious climate and a less dangerous location. If conscience acquits them, perhaps no person should blame them. Let all, therefore, who are disposed to censure, cease from henceforth.

The indomitable and great-hearted Luther, when the plague broke out in Wittemburg, in 1516, 1527, and 1535, inspired by the true courage which faith in Christ alone can give, fearlessly I looked death in the face, in its most terrible guise. Three times he remained in the midst of the danger, though earnestly urged to fly. " I hope," said he, "the world may stand, though Martin Luther fall. Here I must remain; I do not say this because I do not fear death—for I am not the Apostle Paul, but only his commentator—but I trust God will protect me from all my fears." When the greater number of the inhabitants had left, he said: "We are not alone; Christ and your prayers are with us; also the holy angels, invisible, but, powerful! Let every one dispose his mind this way, if he be bound to remain and assist his fellow-men in their death-struggles, let him resign himself to God and say, 'Lord, I am in thy hands; thou hast fixed me here; thy will be done.'" "He administers the last consolations of religion to dying women in the [44] infected room; and the different degrees of the fear of death stalk along as a never-ending funeral train."

But take another example, one in which, perhaps, the power of Christian faith and love was not the moving cause. In 1793, when the yellow fever raged awfully in Philadelphia, Stephen Girard, the merchant with more than princely wealth, offered himself as a manager to superintend a hospital; and there he encouraged the sick, handed them medicine, wiped the sweat from their sallow brows, and performed even many disgusting offices of kindness for them, "which nothing could render tolerable but the exalted motive that impelled him to , this heroic conduct."

We heard a minister, who did not prove recreant to the high and holy duties of his office, and who went willingly to the abodes of woe and death, say, that he found a woman soon after the commencement of the scourge, whose husband had just died of the fever. She, too, was attacked, and no one was there to nurse and comfort her. He looked out, and the neighbors had all gone—their doors and windows were closed. "Here," said she,"I must lie, and die alone." And there was a boy with the black vomit, and no one but his [45] little sister to attend him, during the slow and sad hours of a long night of pain and sorrow.

But many noble souls and great hearts remained, and their recompense will be great. They shrank from their duty. They breathed the deadly breath of the pestilence; they visited the sick and the dying, and whispered sweet words of faith and consolation in the ears of the sufferers, whose thanks, and prayers, and blessings, will be remembered in time and eternity; and the faithful soldiers of the Cross who fell while doing their duty when most needed, fell gloriously, and their reward is unspeakable and eternal.


The fever increasing—The Howard Association organized—The scourge in Portsmouth—
The stampede—The town deserted—The panic—Intercourse with other
places prohibited. Inhospitality towards the afflicted cities—Noble conduct
of the citizens of Northampton—Matthews and Princess Anne Counties—Fredericksburg—
Governor Wise invited the people to come over to his home in Accomac.

On the 10th, the report of the Board of Health showed an increase of new cases, but all were traced to Barry's Row, and the deaths, with one exception, were of persons removed therefrom. This is confirmed by the statement of the Secretary of the Board of Health, made at that time.

At this date, a meeting of some of the citizens was held, and a society was formed and called the Howard Association. Its chief objects were to procure and furnish a hospital, to provide for and relieve the sick, and bury the dead. William B. Ferguson was elected President; J. I. Bloodgood, Vice-President; James A. Saunders, Secretary; and B. W. Bowden, Treasurer. Several thousand dol- [47] lars were immediately subscribed by the citizens; but the Association was not fully organized for several weeks.

"The disease," wrote a gentleman in Portsmouth, "is confined to no locality, but, in my opinion, extends to every part of the town. When taken into connection with the morality, the infrequency of the disease, our bad state of preparation to meet it, the alarm it has created, and the immense numbers who have fled, I question if any community has been more badly scourged and afflicted. The whole surround country is overrun--private house, barns, kitchens, schoolhouses, churches, tents, cabins and other kinds of shelter, are all crammed.

"I greatly apprehend that when the mortality of those who have fled and those remaining, shall be correctly summed up, it will be found far greater among the former than the latter. The emigration has left us a deserted town--entire streets have only one or two families remaining, districts are depopulated, hotels and stores closed, business suspended, and society disrupted. Poor Portsmouth! She presents a sad and desolate appearance, and some time must elapse before she can recover from the severe shock that has prostrated her."

The panic at home and abroad had now amounted [48] almost to mania. The fever of 1821 and 1826, and the cholera of 1832 caused an alarming mortality; but on neither occasion was the panic comparable to what it was in August, 1855.

"On neither of those occasions," wrote the editor of the Herald, "was our intercourse with other towns interdicted. The James river and Bay boats ran without restrictions, and even the New York packets were subjected to nothing more than a brief examination. Contrast this with the stoppage of all intercourse with Old Point, Hampton, the James river towns, Suffolk, Weldon, Elizabeth City, Edenton, etc., and then say whether the result shows a march, or a retrograde of intellect."

"We have been treated," said the editor of the Argus, "with an inhospitality heretofore unknown in Virginia, in having almost every outlet from the place barricaded against us. Our citizens, who have gone to other retreats for safety (though free from disease themselves), have been, in many instances, inhumanly thrust back upon our borders. Our soldiers have been ordered to arm against the diseased and the afflicted. Our legitimate trade has been rudely interdicted. Our supplies of things, even needful for our daily uses, have been recklessly stopped. The mandates of Christianity have [49] been suspended by a sort of general outside consent, and we have been penned up, for aught that our neighbors (with a few splendid exceptions), have manifested, to die and rot!

* * * * * *

"But in these days of depression, loneliness, and sorrow, occasioned by prevailing disease, mortality and desertion, the following resolutions from 'the sea-girt isle' comes across our spirit like a breath from Paradise--redeeming, vivifying! We could weep for very gratitude:"

"At a meeting of a large portion of the citizens of Northampton County, held at the Court-house on Monday, the 13th inst., Dr. Thomas F. Spady was called to the Chair, and J. R. Harmanson was appointed Secretary.

"William T. Fitchett, Esq., stated the object of the meeting, and concluded by moving that the Chair appoint a committee of six to report suitable resolutions to the meeting.

"The following gentlemen were thereupon appointed by the Chair: Wm. T. Fitchett, Dr. Thomas J. L. L. Nottingham, Col. Benjamin S. Dalby, Nathaniel H. Fisher, Edward W. Nottingham, and Thomas R. Jarvis, who reported, through their [50] Chairman, the following resolutions, which were unanimously adopted:

"Resolved, That we have heard, with deep regret, the accounts of suffering from disease and panic that exists in the cities of Norfolk and Portsmouth. We hereby tender to those people the assurance of our sincere and heart-felt sympathy.

"Resolved, That, 'let others do as they may,' we cannot consent to practice upon a code of humanity that would weigh a remote and contingent danger to ourselves against positive suffering, and probable destruction, to our neighbors. The stranger, flying from pestilence, will find our little county still open to him as a place of refuge, and our citizens disposed to render all the courtesy and kindness that their limited means will allow.

"Resolved, That the proceedings of this meeting be published in the Norfolk and Portsmouth papers.

"THOMAS F. SPADY, Chairman
"J. R. HARMANSON, Secretary."

The following letter was received, at this period, from our able and talented townsman, Dr. Simkins, whose ill health and sick relatives compelled him, reluctantly, to be absent from the city:

EASTVILLE, August 13th.

A. F. LEONARD, ESQ., Editor of the Argus:

Dear Sir.—I write hurriedly from the little Court village of Northampton, to say, thank God, for the honor of my native county! A large and enthusiastic gathering of her citizens has just been held, and they have declared, emphatically, against non-intercourse with your unfortunate city. Her portals and the hearts of her people are thrown wide open to you all.

Here, the panic-stricken stranger may find a temporary home, and a refuge from the noxious airs that hang around his own devoted domicile. Women and children, flying from the pestilence "that wasteth at noon day," are not to be turned from the doors [51] of this gallant and hospitable people. Their Anglo-Saxon blood—almost untainted through a living lapse of two hundred yearsrose up in rebellion at the thought.

Most of the taverns here are already full; but many private houses are being thrown open to receive and welcome the fugitive population of your town, and still they are willing to encourage the migration hither. Yet there is room on the little "sea-girt isle"--still ampler room in the hearts and at the hearthstones of her people! It give me unfeigned pleasure to record these facts, so creditable to poor, frail, selfish humanity. They constitute the bright and balmy spots of human characterdew and sunshine on the desert of time, over which avarice and evil passion have so long breather their wilting breath.

But enough of this moralizing. I may write again from my fisherman's hut upon the Atlantic shore, the humble accommodations of which you, or any moderate number of our friends, are welcome to share. There, aldermanic sheep's-heads and grass-fed hog fish are "plenty as blackberries." There the sea breeze and the surf-bathing may be enjoyed "without money and without price." Yours, truly,


Similar humane measures were also taken in Fredericksburg, Matthews county, etc.; and there were some instances of whole-souled generosity in good old Princess Anne. We take pleasure in mentioning the handsome and truly noble and Christian conduct of John J. Burroughs, Esq., of the latter county.

"In the same gallant spirit which prompted the noble resolutions of the Northampton people, Virginia's son, Henry A. Wise, fitted up his dwelling-house, barns, and every other place of shelter, and [52] cordially invited the afflicted communities to come there, assuring them that they should be welcome. Other gentlemen of that neighborhood followed his example, and their kind offers have, doubtless, been accepted by many.

"When it became known on the eastern shore of Virginia that the residents of Norfolk and Portsmouth were flying from their homes, and that other sections of country were driving them away, the 'sea-girt peninsula' greeted those who came to her shores with a hearty welcome. Carriages, wagons, carts, and vehicles of all kinds, were ready at the landing whenever the steamer arrived from Norfolk, to convey the refugees to hospitable homes." "Tell them," said Wise, "to come on, that we have open hearts and houses to receive them."


Miss Andrews arrives, and offers her services as nurse for for sick—
Arrival of physicians and nurses—The disease rages awfully,
and becomes epidemic throughout the city—Nature and symptoms of the
disease—The Howard Association of Norfolk, and their Relief Committee
of Portsmouth—Frightful mortality—Hasty burial of the dead.

On the 16th of August, Miss Annie M. Andrews, a young lady from Syracuse, N. Y., and formerly of Louisiana, arrived in our city, and offered herself to Mayor Woodis, to nurse the sick. She immediately entered upon her martyr-like labors at the hospital, in the true spirit of self-sacrificing, generous, and heroic devotion to the cause of human suffering; and hither she was soon followed by others, whose kind attention to the sick and suffering will ever be gratefully remembered.

During the month of September, a large number of physicians and nurses arrived from New Orleans, Charleston, Mobile, Savannah, Richmond, New York, Philadelphia, Baltimore, etc., and commenced their noble efforts to relieve the distressed, and assist in the arduous duties of alleviating the suffering of the diseased.

[54] The fever continued to rage with increasing violence in the two towns. "It is now conceded," said an observant writer, "by all our physicians, that the fever has become epidemic throughout the entire city, and that no part, even to some distance beyond the suburbs, is exempt from the infection. As a proof of this, independent of the new cases that are occurring in every quarter, every one, almost without exception, complains of occasional nausea and wandering pains in the head, back, and limbs. Some constitutions may go through the season of acclimation with this slight affection, while others, whose systems are weaker or more predisposed to the disease, will have to succumb and pass through the crisis of the fever. Another characteristic of the epidemic is, that almost every countenance is tinged with a sickly, sallow hue, plainly showing the deleterious effects of the poisonous malaria constantly inhaled. Yellow fever is certainly one of the strangest diseases that mortal flesh is heir to; its attacks are more varied, and it assumes more protean forms and sudden changes, during the progress of the disease, than any other. Generally, it comes on with a chill and severe pain in the head, just over the eyes, and back. Then, again, very little [55] pain will be felt, and the patient will go about until his body gives way from feelings of exhaustion, and he goes to bed to fall into a comatose state, and so die. His pulse, singular to say, in the meanwhile, until within a short time of his death, will be as strong and regular as that of a well man; and he will lay quietly, like one in a drowsy state from the effects of morphine." On the 24th of August there were at least 500 cases in Norfolk, and six apothecary establishments were driving a large business, working day and night, with all the force the proprietors could command; and on the 25th there were about forty burials.

The Howard Association, of Norfolk, and the Relief Committee, of Portsmouth, had been fully organized, and had commenced their career of immense usefulness. The great utility of these timely organizations, was strikingly apparent. The citizens of Norfolk were soon falling at the fearful rate of 60, 70, and even 80 per day, and of from 20 to 30 in Portsmouth. It was then that some were appalled and chilled with fright, while others were apparently callous, careless, and reckless, and went about the work of boxing up and removing the dead, with but little appearance of fear or agitation.


Donations from abroad—Officers of the Howard Association—The fury
of the scourge—The hospital at Lambert's Point—Dr. Wilson—True
Heroism—Provisions getting scarce—The market—Description of
the city at night—Incidents of the pestilence—The dying and the dead.

At this time the donations from abroad were very liberal. Too much can scarcely be said in commendation of those cities and individuals that so generously afforded aid in this time of death, disease, and desolation, and of the faithful and judicious manner in which the active and indefatigable members of the Howard Association accomplished the benevolent objects intended to be effected by the contributions received.

The following list of the officers of the Howard Association was published in the latter part of August:

William B. Ferguson, President.
James I. Bloodgood, Vice-President.
Robert W. Bowden, Treasurer.
James A. Saunders, Secretary.
Dulton Wheeler, Assist. Secretary.
William M. Wilson, Resident Physician.
W. H. Freeman, Thomas Penniston, and De Castro, Assistant Physicians.
Robert W. Rose, Francis L. Higgins, George L. Upshur, Visiting Physicians.
William H. Garnett, Augustus B. Cooke, the former engaged by the Association, and the latter by the Board of Health, assistants to the Mayor, in removing the sick to the Hospital.
Thomas M. Martin, Thomas H. Beveridge, Conductors.
J. A. Kirkpatrick, W. A. Graves, A. Dorney, Richard Gatewood, Jr., Marshall Ott, receivers, etc., of orders for provisions, etc.
Nurses.—Captain Boyd, H. Dodds, Caroline Hinson, Julia Partington, P. Handy, A. Baum, E. Tremayne, C. Weaver, Margaret A. Stewart, Caroline Henderson, David Swindle, R. Brumley, Miss Annie M. Andrews, and six Sisters of Charity.
William Hinchman, driver of provision wagon.
John Cavanaugh, Captain of sick lighter.
Trainer, waterman at the Hospital.
W. D. Seymour, E. and John Delany, R. Woodward, J. K. Hodges, John T. Elliot, William F. Tyler, and several others, keepers of provision-store.

Of course there were many additions and changes, owing to sickness and death. Many others were subsequently connected with the Association. After the death of Mr. Ferguson, President, A. B. Cooke was elected to fill the vacancy, and Isaiah Cherry was chosen Secretary.

The fury of the scourge was now exerted and felt in all its scathing power, and fortunate it was that measures had been adopted to provide for the sick.

[58] "We had assisted," said the editor of the Argus, in an article on the Hospital at Lambert's Point, and the Howard Association, "in putting a newly-arrived patient to bed; and, as we left him, with three Sisters of Charity around him, smoothing his pillow, and administering to his comfort, and judicious medical attendance at hand, he remarked to us, with a gratified smile, 'I would rather be here than anywhere else.'

"Dr. William M. Wilson, the resident physician, is a gentleman of talent, and enlarged experience. We have known him from boyhood, and his self-devotion to the cause of philanthropy in the day of pestilence is of a piece with all his antecedents. "The Howard Association (under whose supervision the Hospital is conducted) are doing all that men can do at this crisis. Indeed, the only busy place in our paralyzed city is the office of the Association. From early morning till late at night are these heroic citizens closely occupied in dispensing charity, furnishing medicines, sustenance, and nursing and moving the sick. Our fear is that these martyrs in the cause will break themselves down; for they are toiling without the prospect of any relief, of any Samaritans to take their places, when they may sink down exhausted. We have lived out [59] half the space allotted to man for the period of his pilgrimage, and have traversed many a league of the surface of the habitable globe, but we have never before been eye-witness to such universal calamity as is now around us!"

Provisions of every kind were now exceedingly scarce, or rather they were not to be had from any other source than the store-house of the Howard Association in Norfolk, and from the Relief Committee of Portsmouth, for the stores were closed, and the owners absent. "Our market," wrote one who remained at the post of duty, "must be numbered among the signs of the forlorn and desolate condition which our city is realizing. The country people have deserted us entirely. A few servants from the vicinity, with their scanty supplies of cabbage, tomatoes, corn-field peas, okra, and herbs, are its only purveyors. We have none with poultry (save an occasional huckster or two), and no other sign of the produce of the farm-yard—no melons, no peaches worthy of the name—nor any other kind of fruit, save a few of the very commonest sort of apples, which grow without culture. We had no idea before, that at this season, when the whole country is teeming with horticultural abundance, that it was possible for our market to [60] exhibit such evidences of poverty. In a word, to pass through it as it was on Friday morning, we know of nothing better calculated to dampen the physical energies, and create a nervous sensation, than a view of such destitution as it exhibited. Thanks to the butchers, they continue to appear at their posts, and if their supplies are scanty, they suffice for the "small demand in their line; and thanks, also, to the few fishermen who regularly attend to our wants in their line."

The city presented a universal scene of destitution and desertion; but its appearance at night was, perhaps, more gloomy and distressing than in the day-time. The dwellings, as well as the stores, were all closed and dark. The dogs banded themselves together, howled dolefully, and prowled about silently, as if aware that something sad and unusual was going on, and in search of their masters and of food. At an hour when, in other days, the piazzas and streets would present life, health, and gayety, the sound of a human footstep was not heard, and a familiar voice was something cheering to the heart.

One night, as the writer walked through Main and other principal streets, a dark and lowering cloud had just passed over, and the moon [61] shone with unusual brightness, lighting up fully the deserted avenues and fashionable promenades, mocking, as it were, the scene of desolation below. Our spacious harbor, smooth as glass, and cleared of vessels, steamers, and sail-boats, reflected the moon's mild rays, and seemed more beautiful than ever. But, as we passed along, we heard the distinct words of inconsolable grief, uttered by the bereaved. Death had been in and dealt his blow, the victims had fallen, the remains had been hastily conveyed away, and sorrowing relatives and friends were weeping, and telling of their loss, in words that were full of affection, and deep meaning. We passed on, sad and gloomy enough. But soon there were other sounds that "held us delaying." We mention only one affecting case. On one of the principal streets, the windows of the second story of a house were all up; lights were burning, and nurses were busy around a bed that stood in sight, and the groans of the dying that fell upon our ear, will, perhaps, never be forgotten. We knew from the struggle that nature seemed to be making, that life was fast ebbing out. The sound was too heart-rending and unpleasant to bear, and we passed on again. The following morning, as we passed by, we were informed that [62] the struggle was over. Death had accomplished his purpose. The conflict had ended. The victims were still, breathless, dead. A fond mother and her son lay in the stirless slumber of death, side by side, on the same death-bed. Soon the busy undertaker was there, and then the mother and her child were hurried out to the graveyard, where they rest together, in deep, sepulchral stillness.


The fever in Portsmouth—The town before the fever—The infected vessel—The weather.
Help from abroad—Noble conduct—The "Transcript" office closes—Prominent laborers
among the sick and dead—True heroism—The Navy Yard.

In Portsmouth similar scenes of woe, desolation, and death were witnessed.

"It could answer no beneficial purpose," wrote the editor of the Transcript, August 23rd, "to attempt to conceal or cover up from the public gaze the state of things now existing, and the present melancholy condition of our town. But a brief period has elapsed, since it was the favored resort of many, as a chosen spot, for its salubrious and enviable position, and as affording inducements sufficient to allure a brief sojourn among us. Then, we anticipated a prosperous future, and were, indeed, highly blessed by an All-wise Providence in the enjoyment of all those temporal privileges and advantages which man is accustomed to regard as such. How changed are our circumstances! [64] An infected vessel is allowed, by the authorities to whom such power was delegated by the people, to come up into the harbor and at one of our wharves, and devastation and ruin are spread with a broad-cast hand, throughout a community which might have previously challenged comparison with any of its neighbors as to health and cleanliness. But we cannot delay here to discuss this grave matter, but must leave it for the future, and when the desolating scourge by which we are afflicted shall be removed by the fiat of God, speaking through and by the objective laws which he has impressed upon the outward world.

"The disease does not seem to abate either in the number of its victims or in the virulence of its attacks. On Saturday last, and for a day or two following, the temperature was most unseasonable, and there set in from the northward and eastward a cool, disagreeable wind, which rendered winter clothing comfortable. The thermometer within doors ranged some degrees below 70. It was this sudden and continued change in our temperature here, that resulted in a largely increased number of cases. Our medical attendance is becoming precarious. Already two of our most prominent physicians have been taken to the [65] United States Naval Hospital—while another practitioner has been stricken down by the pestilence. But one out of the three drug establishments in our midst is kept open—two having been closed for want of some one, we presume, to attend in them, their proprietors having left town. But in the midst of all the discouragements by which we are surrounded, we are not without the sympathies of our friends—both adjacent to us and those who may be regarded as abroad. Help, substantial help, is pouring in from every quarter, in the shape of provisions and money—so that the laps of the poor and suffering of our remaining population are daily filled with the necessaries of life, by which their present existence is at least rendered comparatively comfortable. Our sister towns and cities, as well as New York, Philadelphia, and Baltimore, are nobly responding to the appeals of humanity, and call forth, in throbs of feeling, our cordial gratitude. We have, too, a few active men among us who remain at their posts, both of public duty and to minister to the wants of the needy and dying. One of these, we are pained to record, was stricken down on Monday afternoon, after a brief illness. This man among us was Captain George Chambers. Active, [66] energetic, benevolent, he had been engaged for days previously in superintending the removal of the sick to the Naval Hospital. He now lies in the cold and silent grave! Peace be to him! He was a most useful public man, whose place cannot easily be supplied. We cannot neglect here to name two of those who now remain among us, and who are actively engaged in ministering to the present necessities of our people. Colonel Winchester Watts, President of the Common Council, continues actively employed in responding to various letters from abroad, and in ministering to the wants of the needy. James G. Holladay, Esq., has been a most useful citizen, thoroughly fearless and indefatigable in his humane exertions. Others of our citizens might also be named, who have manfully stood to their posts in this hour of trial; but we pass them by for the present, reserving to ourself the privilege for a future and more appropriate opportunity—with one exception.

"We do not know what our community would have done without Hezekiah Stoakes, former mayor of the town. He has been engaged incessantly in meeting the exigencies of these trying times. James W. Matthews, the Town Sergeant, has also [67] been, in season and out of season, actively and energetically engaged in the performance of his accumulated and responsible duties.

"Meantime the fever rages, and is on the increase. With these remarks, descriptive of our town and its present condition, we are forced to close—limited as we are for aid in our office, and having been compelled to work at the press our-self, in throwing off the last issue. We have but one compositor remaining with us, and his name is R. B. McDonnald."

During the fearful reign of the pestilence in Portsmouth, there were many instances of self-sacrificing devotion in relieving the sick and the suffering, and burying the dead, that well deserve to be publicly noticed, and remembered with the most grateful feelings. But there was a period of about three weeks, when the pitiless death-storm raged so dreadfully, that the stoutest of the great hearts trembled with fear. The disease seemed to spare none. The death-dealing breath of the pestilence swept through the thickest part of the town, and the people fell before it, like soldiers fiercely charged upon by overpowering combatants in the hottest rage of battle. The dead lay unburied upon the soiled beds, and sometimes the [68] black blood of the parent mingled with that of the child. The most active and diligent members of the Sanitary Committee were either sick or dead. But there were a faithful, undaunted, unflinching few, that were not touched by the shafts that flew every way, from the bow held, as it were, in the "fleshless hand" of the grim and relentless rider upon the "pale horse."

The conduct of Mr. Wm. Brown, a quarter-man in the yard, familiarly called "Sweet William," was most praiseworthy, and, indeed, remarkable. By night and day, he was seen hurrying in every direction; administering to the wants of the sick; going in the infected rooms; shrouding the dead, and assisting the undertakers in burying the putrefying corpses. When many of his companions in the humane and hazardous work had fallen, he was still faithful to his mission, and worked manfully through the whole period of terror, unharmed, except by fatigue, as if protected by some charm withheld from the rest.

It should be noted, too, that Holt Wilson, Esq., cashier of the Virginia Bank, remained at his post, managing the monetary affairs of the Relief Committee, in a prompt and most faithful manner—rendering service of incalculable value to his [69] suffering fellow-citizens, and for which they are justly grateful.

It was a subject, too, of just commendation, that Miss L. Bourk, an estimable lady of Portsmouth, was exceedingly efficient and immensely useful in her efforts to alleviate the suffering— working diligently among the sick, not only in her own town, but also rendering most important aid to her diseased and dying relations in Norfolk, during the worst of the pestilential scourge. But there were others in both towns, who were distinguished for conduct that has made their names dear to the people.

"Mr. Hartt, the able Naval Constructor in the Navy Yard," wrote an eye-witness, "passed through the thickest of the fight, unscathed, leading where any dared follow—being both night and day engaged in attending to the wants of the living, and burying the dead. Appropriate name is his; for a bigger or more benevolent heart does not animate the form of man. When we see a man who could leave, with little or no pecuniary sacrifice, battling with such an insidious enemy, and seeking only to do good, we cannot refrain from speaking of it, though conscious of our inability to do him justice.

[70] "The other officers of the yard are worthy of the trusts committed to them, and manifested a devotion to duty and regard for the suffering not to be surpassed.

"Such a corps of naval officers as we have, are an ornament to their profession, and have the respect and gratitude of the survivors of a dread calamity.

"Of the eleven civil officers who remained steadfast to their duty, seven have fallen:—N. N. Tatam, Timber Inspector, recently appointed; Patrick Williams, Master House-joiner; John Vermilion, Master Boat-builder; John B. Davis, Master Spar-maker; Richard Williams, Master Mason; Charles Myers, Master Plumber; Charles Cassels, Master Sailmaker. The families of some of these gentlemen are almost broken up; only a son in Mr. P. Williams's family is left. Four grown and interesting daughters soon followed their father.

"But I cannot particularize in speaking of these; they were all good citizens, husbands, and fathers, reflecting honor upon their profession, and faithful to the duties devolved upon them.

"All the departments in the yard suffered severely. The spar-makers lost seven out of twelve who remained. The smithery, out of some thirty-four [71] remained, lost nineteen. I do not know how account for this great mortality among this class of mechanics.

"When Mr. Allen, the head of the department, taken sick, Mr. Green was acting foreman, he, too, the next day, was stricken down. Then, Mr. Totterdill, Mr. Ballentine, and Mr. Snead, and each, in rapid succession, fell at his post, and all, except Mr. Allen and Mr. Snead, quickly followed one another to the grave! Fearful, indeed, were the inroads of this fatal malady; and long will the memory of these men be cherished by their shop-mates! They were all men of generous impulses and unsullied character."


Address in behalf of the orphansThe physiciansThe clergy.
Commodore McKeever
Meeting of physiciansResolutions.

The Rev. W. H. Milburn, formerly Chaplain Congress, made an eloquent address to a meeting held in New York, to adopt measures to relieve the orphans at Norfolk and Portsmouth. He thus spoke of the medical profession and the clergy:

"Need I allude, upon an occasion like this, to the self-devotion, to the heroic self-forgetfulness of that profession which claims at our hands, and at the hands of the world, such unmixed praise and homage? I mean the medical profession. They may tell us of their heroes with their laurels dipped in blood from all the battle-fields of the earth; but I tell you, sir, there have been scenes transpiring—there have been characters developed— there has been conduct displayed yonder at Norfolk and Portsmouth, and in all the cities of the smitten South, that, when justly and rightly viewed, should overwhelm, and distance, and darken all your heroes of battle-fields, and all your conquerors in the triumphs. Let it be remembered, that in those two smitten cities twenty-six members of that profession have fallen martyrs to humanity. But let me allude to another class. It is very much in vogue just at this time to speak with a sort of patronizing contempt of the clergy—to allude to them as a set of people whose characteristic is, as Sydney Smith expressed it, decent disability.' They are to be looked upon as a very well-meaning and innocent set of men, who, if they are not doing much good, are certainly not doing much harm. Let those men, if they want to know what the clergy of his country are, go to those cities of the pestilence, and see them in the hovels of starvation and squalor—in the graveyards from sunrise till midnight—seeking to give the obsequies of religion to the dead, and comfort and consolation to the mourners—Catholic and Protestant, side by side, in that awful hour of extremity, and tell me whether 'decent disability' is their characteristic?"

The Rev. Samuel Osgood also addressed the meeting, and alluded to a class of persons very efficient in this pestilence—the public officers of the government. "The United States service," he said, "has been nobly represented in Norfolk. The Navy Yard in Portsmouth is in the charge of one who unites all the virtues of man with all the heroism of a sailor. The chief of that Navy Yard has been distinguished by many eminent services in his life. He had once gone on a hostile island unarmed, with nothing but the flag of his country to protect him; but he had attained a greater victory by governing his men by love, not the lash. And now he had signalized his manhood in the time of pestilence."*

(* Commodore McKeever. He has since died, greatly lamented by thousands who knew his great worth of character and nobleness of soul.)

September 25th a meeting of medical men was held, the proceedings of which we give below.

Dr. Williman, from Charleston, S. C., was called to the chair; and Dr. West, from New-York, appointed Secretary.

The object of the meeting was stated, by the Chairman, to be for the purpose of fixing upon a day when the delegations of stranger medical men might with propriety be enabled to leave Norfolk, and return to their respective homes.

"During a few days past, a cool and delightful change has come over the pestilential atmosphere of the city, and a current report prevailed that many physicians and nurses were becoming idle. The experience of the Chairman, added to that of other Southern medical gentlemen, gives reason to believe in a rapid and approaching decline in the epidemic disease which has now desolated this population.

"It has always been remarked, that towards the first of October, in Southern cities, a manifest abatement in the number of sick is observable. Already the prevalence of this epidemic is of long continuance. This circumstance, together with the fact of an atmosphere now much purified, and the more important consideration that most of the [75] inhabitants have suffered illness, favors the supposition of early restoration to health.

"Upon such views, it might be predicted that foreign medical aid would not long be a necessity, and that such members of the profession as desired to leave the scene of their recent labors, could now quit them with satisfaction."

On motion of Dr. Read, from Savannah, it was
Resolved, That a Committee be appointed to wait upon the Mayor, and inform him that October 1st be the day when stranger medical gentlemen, who have been on duty in Norfolk, propose to leave this city.

On motion of Dr. Freeman, from Philadelphia, it was
Resolved, That all absentees be notified through the Howard Association, to remain away from Norfolk until physicians resident here shall give them information that it is safe to return. Also that the city authorities of Norfolk be entreated to give a thorough and systematic ventilation to all residences and shops which have been closed during a month or two past; and that such ventilation be not commenced sooner than the 10th day of October next.

Upon inquiry by the Chairman, it was ascertained that only sixteen new cases of fever had been developed during the past day, in the practice of nine physicians, who were present.

On motion of Dr. Read, it was
Resolved, That the Secretary be requested to write out the minutes of the meeting in due form; and that the Chairman [76]
embody the same in a letter, and forward the same to the Mayor of Norfolk.

On motion of Dr. Read, it was
Resolved, That such States or cities as had sent delegates to Norfolk, at any time during the course of the epidemic, should receive honorable mention.

Norfolk, Sept. 27th, 1855.
Dr. A. B. Williman, Chairman, etc."

Dear Sir:—I have received from you the minutes of a meeting, on Tuesday evening, of the physicians from abroad, who have ministered to the sufferings of our afflicted people during this season of pestilence, notifying me, as the acting Mayor of the city, of their belief in a rapid and approaching decline in the epidemic disease which has devastated our population, and of their appointment of the first of October next as the day when they might, with propriety, leave Norfolk for their respective homes.

The proposed departure of yourself and your gallant associates from the field, where you have battled so bravely against the monster death in its most hideous forms, is indeed, "confirmation strong," that the unwonted energies of the dreadful enemy are fast failing. The spirit that prompted you to your work of martyrdom would retain you at your posts so long as there might be aught to be accomplished.

It is, indeed, a matter for rejoicing, that the plague is at length in a degree stayed. Though disease has entered every abode in our afflicted city; though "the pestilence" has walked "in darkness," and "the sickness" destroyed "in the daytime;" though the arrows of death have chosen the proudest and the dearest among us for victims; though many have felt, for the time, in their bereavements, that all of earth's blessings were lost to them—yet, for the sake of the remaining few of our scanty population—for the sake of the infant, the orphan, the needy, and those who have a new weight of duty imposed upon them—for the sake of thousands who are exiled from their still dear and once happy homes, and, I may add, for the sake of you, who have been con- [77] tending, with daily diminishing numbers, against the death-thrusts of the foe, away from your families and firesides, your pleasures and your interests cheered on solely by the consciousness of doing good, on behalf of the helpless and the stranger, it is a matter of congratulation to each other, and of thankfulness to Almighty God, that the rage of the epidemic has almost ceased within our limits.

The annals of our civilization furnish no authentic record of a visitation of disease as awfully severe as that which we have just encountered. Out of an average population of some six thousand souls (much the larger portion of whom were negroes—a "class less liable than the whites to the fever in its more fatal forms), about two thousand have fallen—a proportion of nearly one to three—and but few have escaped an attack of the disease. We are now a community of convalescents.

Had we not received material aid from abroad—had not the different portions of our country sent their heroic delegations of physicians, nurses, and stalwart co-laborers — had not noble spirits volunteered to the rescue (to die, if need be like Curtius, for Rome), our people must have sunk beneath the burden of their agony. There was a period, about the 1st of September, when the evil seemed greater than we could bear. Corpses lay unburied—the sick unvisited—the dying unaneled. Our surviving physicians were either sickening or becoming exhausted; our remaining population was panic-struck at the sight of accumulating horrors and duties. You, who visited us for our relief, were astounded at the unrealized state of things which you found here—at evils the like of which you had never before witnessed. But nerving yourselves to the task, and telegraphing for reserves, you went resolutely forward with your science and its accompaniments, carrying aid where it was most needed, and infusing vigor into many hearts that would otherwise soon have ceased their painful throbbings.

Your noble bands, too have experienced a worse than decimation, though many of you were acclimated to the disease in other latitudes before coming hither. A list, which has been carefully prepared from the original entries, and handed to me [78]
by Franklin H. Clack, Esq., of New Orleans (our efficient temporary Chief of Police), shows that, out of eighty-seven physicians and assistants who visited us during the space of thirty-three days preceding the 19th inst, twenty physicians are numbered with the dead! This is exclusive of the mortality among our resident physicians, more than half of those abiding here having died! No better evidence of the pure self-devotion, of the martyr-like spirit, which has actuated your Samaritan associations in hastening to our relief, can be furnished.

The recommendations of your meeting, concerning a thorough and seasonable ventilation of the dwellings and stores which have been so long closed among us, and other matters requisite to prevent the continuance or recurrence of the dreadful pestilence, will be scrupulously and thankfully carried out by the authorities; and, should you see fit hereafter to recommend any special system of quarantine, your suggestions would be most gladly received.

In conclusion, allow me to express my regret that the assiduous devotion of yourself and co-laborers to the solemn duties which you assumed, the early day which you have fixed upon for departing, and the forlorn condition to which our remaining families are reduced, prevent the majority of our citizens from making more than slight individual manifestations of the profound gratitude which they cannot fail always to cherish; and from giving such united expressions to their feelings as would be agreeable to them, and, I trust, not unacceptable to yourselves.

Be pleased to accept, sir, for yourself and the bands of heroes whom you represent, the assurance of my warmest gratitude and high personal esteem.

Yours, very respectfully,
N. C. Whitehead, J. P.,
Acting Mayor of Norfolk.

On motion of the Chairman, it was
Resolved, That the thanks of this meeting be returned to the Howard Association of Norfolk for the facilities which have [79] been extended by them to us in the conduct of our medical practice.

On motion of Dr. Read, the meeting then adjourned.

A. B. WILLIMAN, Chairman.
Dr. West, Secretary.
Norfolk, Sept. 25, 1855.

On the 29th August, the Portsmouth Transcript contained the following statement:

"We do not know what would have been the extent of the mortality and misery, had not the Council succeeded in obtaining the use of the United States Naval Hospital in the present emergency. To the President of the United States, as well as to the able and humane report of Surgeon Whelan, Chief of the Medical Bureau, we are mainly indebted. The Commodore of the Yard here, too, has afforded every facility in supplying the demand for coffins, which Mr. Stoakes could not wholly meet.

"Death—death—and red coffins are the sole subjects of contemplation and objects of sight at present in our community.

"Our Council is without a quorum, and those of them who remain, cooperated with by a few citizens, have undertaken the management of affairs. The wants of the needy are supplied, and the sick and dying attended to, as well as our distressing position and circumstances allow.

"Our Mayor is now confined to his bed with the prevailing epidemic."


The first week in SeptemberFearful mortalityAccumulation of corpses.
Incidents of the pestilence
Lamentation and mourningThe Christian's
death-bed and grave
The rapid work of the death and burialPromiscuous
Awful state of affairsThe putrefying corpses lie unburiedDeath
doing his work fearfully at night
The roll of death.

About the 1st of September, the scourge attained its most appalling fury in Norfolk. Long will that period of terror and death, the first week in September, be remembered by those who had not fled from the pestilence. The fever had assumed its most fatal type, and had reached the centre and most populous part of the city. Bermuda Street was like one great hospital; every house had its sick, or dead. On Briggs' Point, the most eastern portion of the city, the people were dying by the dozen per day, and in a space of considerable width, and extending thence across to the western limits, people of every class were falling like withered leaves shaken by the winds in autumn time. It was a time of intense excite- [81] ment and consternation. It was too late to fly; for those who fled as certainly fell as the bird fatally wounded by the fowler's shot. They arrived in Richmond, Petersburg, Hampton, and elsewhere; but the venom had entered the blood, and they lay down but to die. Here there were five hundred cases, and the number of deaths at one time reached eighty in twenty-four hours, in our small remaining population! The corpses accumulated so rapidly that coffins could not be supplied for them. The hearses were driven rapidly out to the grave-yards with two, three, and four at a load, and the coffined dead were piled up on the ground awaiting the opening of the graves and pits, by the insufficient force at work with the spade, the hoe, and the shovel. In that memorable week, four hundred of the citizens of Norfolk were buried! There was no time for ceremony; the work of shrouding, coffining or boxing up, and hurrying the putrefying corpses to the places of burial, and of covering up the dead, went on hastily and fearfully by day and night. But the heart shudders at the thought of the appalling scenes that were witnessed during the entire months of August, September, and October.

There were incidents occurring daily and night- [82] ly, possessing the most thrilling interest. Exciting dramas were enacted in the chambers over which the death-angel hovered and flapped his raven wings, and in which were breathed the fatal mildew vapors that poisoned the heart-blood of the occupants. In those infected rooms where Death entered, and so hastily and imperatively claimed his victims, there were most impressive lessons of wisdom imparted to the living. There were uttered words of fearful, and, also, of most pleasing import, confirmatory of the solemn truths of the Bible—of the eternal misery of the impenitent dead, and of the unending joys of the departed Christian. Deep groans fell upon the ear like the last lingering, dying wail of the lost, when the attendant angel of hope has plumed and lifted her swift wings for her final and reluctant flight, and the scowling demon of dark despair broods over the soul. The shrill cries of orphanage, and the heart-rending complainings of premature widowhood, were heard at the deep midnight hour; and affection's copious, gushing, burning tears were shed. There were mothers who, like Rachel, wept for their children, and refused to be comforted, because they were not. Lamentations came welling up from the great deep of maternal hearts that [83] throbbed and quivered with emotion, and wrung with inexpressible anguish, while the work of death, and coffining, and wagoning, went on so fearfully, and the business of sepulture progressed So rapidly, by sun-light, moon-light, and torchlight.

But there were incidents, too, of pleasing interest, on which the mind of the Christian may dwell with pleasurable emotion. For some, the dread pestilence, that went forth in darkness and wasted at noon day, possessed no power to affright, death no sting, the cold, damp grave no victory, boundless eternity—untried by the living, and still unknown to the dying—no fears, producing no alarm in the calm, quiet, peaceful minds of the pious victims of the scourge, redeemed and saved by faith alone, in the precious blood of the "Lamb that was slain." Safely and confidently trusting in the merits of a crucified Saviour, they passed joyfully and triumphantly through the "dark valley," or launched out fearlessly upon Jordan's cold waters, glorying in the blissful prospect of entering safely the bright haven of eternal joys.

These sleep well now.—The beautiful wintry snow has fallen above them as noiselessly as the rustling of the wings of the angels that came and [84] their happy spirits upward to the bright and heavenly land; but it is not a wakeless, eternal sleep. "The winter is past, and the flowers appear on the earth," and they bloom upon their graves. "The time of the singing of birds is come," and they carol merrily above their "lowly beds." The bright summer time has returned, and the balmy breezes play among the green foliage that bends over the quiet resting-place of the peaceful sleepers; and when the great day of the Lord shall dawn in its grandeur upon this sin-stricken earth, and the "awful Judge" shall descend, they will come up from the charnel-house where they lie, and stand forth in unfading youth, beauty, and glory, before the "great white throne."

"And I heard a voice from Heaven saying unto me, Write, Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord, from henceforth."

How priceless did true religion seem, how inestimably valuable, true faith in Christ in that period of terror, of loathsome disease, of nature's sudden dissolution, when fond friends and relations were parting, or quickly following each other through the sombre "shadow of death;"or, indeed, pressing on together to the solemn portals of the tomb!

The following graphic sketch of that period of [85] terror and woe is from the pen of the venerable senior editor of the Herald, who remained during the entire progress of the scourge:

"No pen can adequately portray the horrors of that dark period, which, brief as it was, has sufficed to produce an age of misery and woe, unprecedented in the records of similar visitations.

"Yes, those who were safe from the pestilence, have, in numerous instances, been made to feel, not less keenly than those who were exposed to its terrors, the effects of its desolating ravages; but they who were not present can form but a faint idea, if any, of its startling, its unearthly horrors, during the worst period of its career. The sick, with few exceptions, were far too numerous to be reported, and, ere it could be known beyond their immediate neighborhood that they were sick, the tidings of their death were spread abroad. Consternation, hurry, and confusion were visible everywhere. The great anxiety at one period— from August 29th to September 4th,—was to procure coffins for the dead, though the mortality had not then reached its maximum of sixty-to seventy a day! The undertakers, though constantly at work, night and day, could not half supply the [86] demand, and rough boards were made into boxes, and boxes, that had been used for other purposes, were substituted for coffins. Into these, the dead, whatever their character or condition in life, were huddled, sometimes two together, and hurried off in a common cart or wagon, for interment in a trench, for want of time to prepare separate graves. Delicate and interesting women, aged matrons, and venerable sires in the respectable walks of life, were among the number subjected to this summary and revolting mode of interment—giving cruel poignancy to the grief of their surviving connections. But it was unavoidable. Yet, in spite of all this indecent haste, many corpses were left unburied for twenty-four, and in some instances thirty-six, and even forty-eight hours—thus adding fuel to the fire, and augmenting the virulence of the disease. A supply of coffins (fifty in number) was received from the Relief Committee in Baltimore, on the 3rd of September, and eighty more from the authorities of Richmond on the 4th; and coffins were continued to be sent by both, in numbers sufficient for the demand—so that this painful exhibition in the drama of woe was not repeated. There was enough without it, however, to have overwhelmed the sensibilities of the [87] stoutest heart in ordinary times; but to those who remained involuntary spectators of what was passing, repetition had almost blunted the sense of woe; and events, the recollection of which is now, doubtless, wringing many a heart, made but little impression at the time of their occurrence—such is the force of habit. The city was wrapped in gloom. All the stores, and the dwellings of absentees, were closed; few were seen passing in the streets on foot, and these on some errand of mercy or necessity, or led abroad by curiosity to see and hear what was passing. Most of the inhabitants present were either confined at home by sickness, or in attendance on the sick, or, deeming it safer, preferred remaining within-doors. There was, however, no one place more safe than others. The disease was epidemic throughout the length and breadth of the city. And though there was the perpetual din of carriages, continually passing, from early dawn till a late hour of the night—the physicians' carriages, and hacks conveying nurses and members of the Howard Association, and the hearses, and the ever-moving "sick wagon"—rattling and rumbling to and fro in every direction, and with unwonted velocity—there was no sign of wholesome animation—no- [88] thing betokening vitality in any of the occupations of life but those of the physician and the undertaker. Every day brought with it fresh griefs and regrets for the heavy losses which the city was continuing to suffer, in the removal of its most valuable citizens—men who had directed its affairs, and lent a helping hand in various ways to sustain its credit, promote its prosperity, and embellish its society. There was no need of the daily press to spread the melancholy tidings. The night's disasters ran through the city each morning with lightning speed.

"The sketch here given, represents with little variation, the woes of our sister city, Portsmouth, which preceded us in the dreadful race of suffering, and has drank her full proportion of the cup of affliction with us."

On one day there were announced as among the dead, John G. H. Hatton, president of the Select Council, and teller of the Farmers' Bank, Alexander Feret, first accountant of the Exchange Bank, and Ignatius Higgins, the teller of the Virginia Bank. On another, William E. Cunningham, senior editor of the American Beacon; William D. Roberts, the delegate elect from the city to the Legislature; Thomas C. [89] Dixon and John Shuster, two old and highly respected citizens. On another, Richard Gatewood, jr., one of the proprietors of the Beacon; Wilson B. Sorey, U. S. Deputy Marshal for the Eastern District of Virginia; Bray B. Walters, proprietor of the National Hotel; R. S. Bernard, a well-known and skillful druggist; and Archibald Briggs, an extensive merchant. On another, John Tunis, member of the Board of Health, and capitalist; Dr. George L. Upshur, a distinguished physician; Josiah Wills, an extensive and enterprising merchant, and president of the Virginia Bank; ex-Mayor William D. Delany; and William P. Burnham, an extensive builder and skillful brick-mason. On another, Alexander Galt, post-master; William B. Ferguson, an extensive merchant, and president of the Howard Association; William Reid, ship-broker, and recent candidate for the mayoralty; and on another, Charles H. Beale, inspector-general of lumber, formerly editor of the Daily News, and an able writer; Caleb Bonsal, one of the proprietors of extensive flour-mills; John D. Gordan, a well-known banker, and Joseph Murden, an accountant in the Exchange Bank. But hundreds of other estimable citizens, of both towns, including many very estimable ladies, [90] young, middle-aged, and aged, useful and respected, were hurried to the grave, and causing, when they fell beneath the crushing force of the scourge, a sad vacuum in the two afflicted communities.


The lamentable condition of the cityThe previous happy and prosperous state of
affairs in Norfolk and Portsmouth
Eloquent and thrilling descriptions of the scourge.

"Our city," wrote an observant and respected resident, "may be aptly compared to a ship at sea without rudder, or compass, or officers to direct, and with only a few hands at the pumps to keep her from sinking, and these nearly exhausted with fatigue. Such, in sad and sober earnest, is a similitude of its forlorn condition. Without a government to direct and provide for the public safety—a majority of the Court and Councils being absent; an onerous duty devolving on the chief executive officer, the Mayor, which is overtasking his physical powers; the collection of the revenue suspended; the city treasury locked up! The Corporation is thus virtually dissolved, and nothing, it seems, can save the city from a state of downright anarchy and perdition, but a committee of safety, assuming the powers necessary to meet the extraordinary exigencies of the time being. That [92] committee seems to be already recognized in the Board of Health, the members of the Council Committees who remain in town, and the Howard Association—whose exercise of the requisite responsibilities, we feel assured, will be fully sanctioned and commended by the legitimate authorities. Let them do their duty to the city and to humanity, then, without hesitation and without fear of consequences.

"We make these remarks in no spirit of complaint or reproof. The condition to which our city is reduced, as we have before taken occasion to remark, has been willed by an all-wise and inscrutable Providence, and is beyond all human control."

"The whole country," said Rev. Dr. Doggett, in a masterly description of the visitation, "is appalled with the awful and almost unparalleled scourge which has visited, and is still desolating, two of the cities of Virginia—Norfolk and Portsmouth. Not only has the understanding been inextricably perplexed, but the imagination itself has been confounded, at the daily recital of those horrors which have filled their dwellings and their streets with mourning, lamentation, and woe. Three months ago, no communities reposed or re- [93] joiced in scenes of greater health or hilarity than they. For years, none have been more exempt from the ravages of disease. Beautiful gems on our Atlantic coast, twin sisters on opposite sides of the finest harbor in the world, they were shining, in the pride of their beauty, and rivaling each other in the display of their charms, and in the resources of their merchandise. The spirit of enterprise had awakened their emulation, and internal improvements are directing the channels of wealth towards their marts of trade. Shipping of every class, and almost of every flag, from the line-of-battle ship to the pleasure smack, rode proudly at anchor, crowded their docks, or merrily ploughed their noble river. Churches thronged with devout worshipers, and musical with the chimes of bells, made their Sabbaths a blessing and a praise; while refinement and luxury offered their soft allurements to the devotees of pleasure.

"What are they now? The angel of death has claimed them for his abode; spread over them the mortuary pall; shed through their atmosphere his pestilential breath; hurled his fatal darts into every family, and rioted in a carnage more frightful and astounding than that of an invading army. Wrapped in the mysterious folds of his dismal mantle, [94] from an invisible citadel, he has issued his orders, and hecatombs have obeyed the summons, even before the unsuspecting victims had time to ask, When, where, how? Beauty has had no fascination, youth no innocence, health no strength, intelligence no skill, business no plans, and piety no power to repel his shafts, or to retard their flight. From the cradle of infancy, from the hearth-stone of affection, from the bench of the mechanic, from the counter of the merchant, from the office of the physician, and from the altar of religion, his exactions have met with a success which has stunned, if not paralyzed, the most intrepid minds. The highest medical ability has been baffled at every turn, exhausted in every effort, and has been compelled to acknowledge itself as weak as the baldest empiricism. Prosperous congregations have been despoiled of their membership, and pastors have been severed from their flocks. Happy households have been agonized with the spectacle of their loved ones dead and dying, at the same moment. Survivors have been doomed to the melancholy task of nursing, closing the eyes, shrouding and burying their own relatives. Insufficient help has left others to suffer in solitude, and to expire unattended. Orphans have clamored [95] to parental hearts motionless in death, and have increased in numbers that will tax, for years, the charities of the good. Markets have been deserted; food has become scarce; friends powerless; and coffins have been in such demand, that undertakers, at home, have been unequal to the supply; bodies have putrefied in the open air, been put into rough and unsightly boxes, or buried, by heaps, in pits; and the impurity of the infected air has emitted a corpse-like stench. Entire families have been dismembered or extinguished. No one has been left to call or answer to the hereditary roll, and houses, once filled with cheerfulness and mirth, are as tenantless as the desert, and as voiceless as the tomb. Thoroughfares, once gay with business or with fashion, are horribly vacant. The hum of human concourse has yielded to the rattle of the physician's carriage, or the hollow rumble of the sluggish death-cart. The ominous plague-fly has made its disgusting appearance, and the howl of the watch-dog, separated from his master, has added its doleful note to the solemnities of a decimated population. Multitudes, seized with apprehension, have fled from their homes in affright, are now scattered over the adjacent country, awaiting, with mingled solicitude and hope, the [96] consummation of this startling havoc of their friends and fellow-citizens. Still the tragedy goes on, and who is able to calculate its catastrophe or its termination! During this period, in our judgment, few, if any, less than three thousand human beings have left the walks of the living, to inherit the abodes of the dead, and with magic, but revolting rapidity and numbers, have created a populous city of graves conterminous with that so recently occupied and animated with their presence.

"The ill-omened Ben Franklin, it is supposed, discharged the fatal poison from a foreign port on a Portsmouth wharf. Infested, no doubt, with local malaria, it instantly communicated its virulence, and from this terrible centre rolled its destructive tide, in utter defiance of all human precaution. Alas! that from this inconsiderable source, so calamitous a flood should have overflowed two entire cities, and overwhelmed in its waves the very flower of their population! Who can divine, who can explain the cause or the course of this portentous phenomenon? Philosophy owns its incapacity; speculation surrenders its haughty pretensions; and theology submits, without the temerity of inquiring, "What doest [97] thou?" Undoubtedly it is of God, who, in his judicial character, and for reasons infinitely wise and good, has chosen thus to assert his prerogative; not to avenge, on these cities, his wrath, but through them to display to the whole nation his august majesty, which they have ceased to reverence, and to exact that homage which is described in the words of the Apocalypse: 'Great and marvelous are thy works, Lord God Almighty; just and true are thy ways, thou King of saints.'"

"On the northern bank of the Elizabeth river," said the Rev. E. S. Storrs, of Brooklyn, "in that ancient Commonwealth, the first settled of our Confederacy, within a town fronting a harbor commodious and safe beyond most others—a town whose families have been refined, their hospitalities liberal, and their society charming almost to a proverb, the pestilence had commenced its desolating work. Matron and maiden, the husband and the son, the physician to the body and the physician to the soul, those of all ranks in life, of either sex, and of every age, the child and the grandparent, the slave and his master, alike were falling beneath its power. In private houses and in hospitals, in all places of usual public resort, in the streets and in the court-house, in the forest [98] and in the fields, in the very sanctuaries of God, men met the descent of the invisible destroyer. No physical habit, no mental equipment, and no moral state, brought rescue or release. The loveliest form turned loathsome and expired. The manliest frame shook down, like a tree decayed at the heart, under the whirlwind, before that strange, appalling onset. Childhood forgot its smile and bloom. Old age was not spared for the calm steps of decline. The chief officers of the city, the nurses and attendants, the distributors of charity and the ministers of Christ, all sank together, with those whom they assisted, into one death, to be buried together in one grave.

"Death was on every hand, in his austerest and gloomiest aspect, his sternest panoply of assault and destruction. And yet, as each one died in turn, as families disappeared, absorbed into the grave, as streets became silent and cemeteries grew crowded, there were no other than sad relations attending the event. No forces ran out from it, moulding, exalting, or regenerating history. No pressure was lent by it to the progress of society. No blow was struck by it on barbarism, idolatry, and old decay. No light was shot on national annals. It was all an inevitable and promiscuous [99] destruction, unrelieved by any such moral relations; the trampling of so much life from earth, with fearful certainty and more fearful celerity, amid terrific and appalling phenomena, without recall. * * * There burst no red artillery upon Norfolk, when the pestilence commenced there. No tremor shook the firm ribs of the earth, and no canopies of overhanging and thunderous gloom shed up the heavens. The air was smiling and calm as ever; the fields as green, the scenery as sweet as when each day came freighted with new pleasures, and business and friendship walked hand in hand alone; the streets. * * Men raised the window and death came in. They walked the streets, and he joined them at the corners. He met them in their business, put up the shutters, padlocked the door, and drove home with them, before a single plan for him was made. They fled abroad, but no rail-car outran him. They hid themselves at home, and their very rest was their ruin. * * We live every moment in the midst of an atmosphere, whose every drop, by some slight change, might, on the instant, be loaded with poisons, its motion become a desolating march, its pause a conquest of families and cities. The train is laid on every hand. One pestilential spark [100] might kindle it tomorrow, and fill our eager and populous scene with clouds more dread than those which wrapped Pompeii in their shroud, or which now weave their glowing and swift desert-dance around the terrified caravan. How good to remember, amid such exposures, that God holds all these powers in his hand; yet how wise to be prepared to meet and greet death, whenever he shall come!"


Correspondence—The fever still rages fearfully—Sad evidences of the reign of the pestilence—
The colored people—Howard Association—Nature still beautiful—The work of the undertakers
goes on rapidly—The grave yards filling up—A splendid morning. The harbor deserted—
The silence of the church-bells—The clergy—The sabbaths of the pestilence—
Burying in pits—Mistakes in burying the dead. Hasty interments.

Early in September the writer commenced a regular correspondence with a daily newspaper in Baltimore, one in Richmond, and another in Petersburg. Letters were written, almost every day, during the greater part of that and the two succeeding months, describing, from actual observation, the scenes of death and woe that were here enacted, showing the progress of the scourge, and giving the current and most interesting incidents of that time of desolation, dismay, and wretchedness. These contain, perhaps, as true a history of the plague, and of Death's doings, as we could present in any other form.

We proceed, therefore, to present extracts from [102] some of these letters. Although before published, they contain, it is believed, much that will prove interesting to the reader. The letters, generally, concluded with a long list of the sick and dead.

Extracts from the special correspondence of the Richmond Dispatch:—

"Norfolk, Sept. 11, 1855.—There appears to be some abatement of the violence of the scourge; but it still rages fearfully. The work of death goes on, and there are many new cases. With a large population the number of deaths would be correspondingly large. Norfolk, but two months ago, so busy, bustling, healthful and prosperous, now bears, on every deserted street, avenue, and square, sad evidences of the desolating reign of the pestilence. Widows and orphans have been made by the hundred. A thousand homes, but recently happy, are now desolate, sad, and comfortless, and in some cases, the unsparing arm of the angel of death has claimed all, and they are quiet and stir-less tenants of the grave-yard. How terrible and extraordinary has been this visitation of Providence! But I give you some particulars: The number of burials on the 1st inst. was about 76; on the 2nd, 45; 3rd, 52; 4th, 58; 5th, 48; 6th, 66; 7th, 48; [103] 8th, 52; 9th, 56; 10th, 65. This is an awful mortality for so small a remaining population.

* * * * * *

"It is certainly dangerous for persons to come to the city from abroad. Those who venture, almost invariably get the fever, and generally die. Very many colored people are down with the fever—several hundred—many have recently died, and a number are in a suffering or dying condition. The Howard Association is doing all in its power to alleviate distress, and lessen the force and power of the terrible disease."

"Wednesday, 12th.—Many of our citizens are still falling victims to the scourge. There are lamentation and mourning in many parts of the town and in Portsmouth. We are yet in the midst of one of the most terrific calamities that ever visited any place. The people are still falling beneath the leveling arm of the destroying angel, at the rate of fifty a day or more! Men, unaccustomed to weeping, are shedding tears now, and hearts are made to feel deeply and almost to break with grief. All nature looks beautiful and charming; but here, in our ill-fated city, the silence of death and the look of desolation chill the heart, and depress the spirits.

[104] "We hear scarce a sound but that of the hammers, and saws, and wagons of the undertaker, and the rattle of the physicians' vehicles. Business has ceased, and the voice of mirth and revelry is not heard.

"More than five hundred have been buried in the two principal cemeteries in eleven days. Many have been buried in the Catholic burial ground and elsewhere. There have been about 1,500 deaths in the city."

"Monday, Sept. 17.—This was one of the most delightful autumnal days that ever dawned in loveliness upon our beautiful world. Just without the limits of the city, the air seemed as balmy and invigorating as that of the mountain regions. I stood off this morning half a mile distant to southeastward, and looked over the splendid and capacious sun-lit river that rolls along in its strength and beauty, upon poor Norfolk—one of the two intensely afflicted towns—and no human being appeared upon its wharves, but recently the place of life, business, and activity. Near a hundred vessels, and a number of steamers, only a short time ago, were moored at the piers and in the docks, now, a single, solitary ship, and the ferry steamers only, are to be seen upon the [105] waters of our wide and deep harbor. The spacious warehouses are closed, the streets are silent; for the busy people that were there are either dead or absent! The cupolas, turrets, and spires are seen distinctly towering above the numerous surrounding buildings; but the cheerful sound of the 'belfry bell' is not heard. True, a few loud notes of the sonorous old bell of one of the churches broke in upon the stillness yesterday; but soon silence resumed its solemn reign. No sermon was preached; no prayer was offered; no exercises were held in any house of worship here, excepting, perhaps, St. Patrick's.

"The excellent minister pro tem. of Christ's Church lies sick of the fever; the familiar voices of the pastors of two of the Methodist churches are hushed in death—their remains sleep, profoundly, beside those of beloved children, in the cold, silent tomb. 'There is rest for the weary in the grave.' They spoke words of peace and comfort, and consolation to the dying members of their flocks, and to others who preceded them in the dark valley, and their spirits, too, are now in vast eternity—gone to their reward—away from these scenes of death, and woe, and tears. Another minister, after battling with the fierce fury of the destroyer, [106] and yielding to its power, has gone, disabled, from the scene, like a brave, but wounded warrior from the battle's rage; while other faithful divines, valiant soldiers of the Cross, are in the chambers at the bedsides of those who have been struck down by the terrible destroyer.

"A Sabbath without preaching and religious service; but every day is like a Sabbath. No, alas, for the silence of the bells, these vacant, grass-grown streets, these untrodden sidewalks, with no happy Sunday-school children, present not the appearance of the blessed, hallowed Sabbath. And how many of those who went to the sanctuary, and, sad to say, those who went not, to hear the word of life, will no more be seen on earth! The voices of many a pious one in prayer and praise, will no more be heard below the skies. Verily it is a time of mourning, and sadness, and tears here; but, perchance, of glory, and gladness, and joyful greetings in the spirit land.

"But enough of these gloomy reflections for the present; and I proceed to give the death-list."

Here followed the long death-roll.

"Sept. 19.—The plan of burying in pits still continues. Eight coffins are put down side by side, then dirt is thrown in and leveled off; then [107] another tier, and so on. There have been as many as four tiers.

"Mistakes in burying are common, and persons sometimes find it impossible to learn anything definite with regard to the place where their dead relatives have been deposited. Mr. Hawkins, the attentive superintendent, finds it very difficult to prevent incorrect and improper interments; and when the fierce and furious destroyer shall cease its destruction of human life, and our people return to their homes, and to health and business, the authorities will, no doubt, attend to this important matter—directing that more dirt, where necessary, be thrown upon the graves and pits, and thus prevent a result which might be attended with the most serious consequences hereafter. Unless the putrid bodies are placed sufficiently deep in the ground, and properly covered, a poisonous and offensive gas may escape, and produce another fearful pestilence.


A day and night of beauty—The death-silence disturbed by the roar
of cannon and the toll of a bell—Deserted mansions—Fury of the fever.
Lasting effects of the pestilence—Respected and valuable residents falling—
Malignity of the fever—Death of the president of the Howard Association,
the postmaster and others—Heart-rending scene—Reflections—The disease
rages still—Its deceptive and mysterious character—The weather—Returning
refugees—Danger of breaking out again—Death of a minister—The grave-digger.

"September 21.—This was a day of pleasantness and brightness. The sun went down in cloudless glory, and now the moon shines forth clearly and mildly. It is a night of beauty; one of the great guns of that leviathan of the waters, the Pennsylvania, has just roared out loudly, and its echoes have died away down the distant recesses of the forest, but rolling on, till heard distinctly even on the Atlantic shore; and the loud tones of the ponderous city bell have just been flung out upon the still, ambient, and pestilential air. The sound was so like the slow and measured tolling of a funeral knell, that it aroused the mind up to [109] a full sense of the doings of death in this ill-fated city.

"Thousands of houses, many of which are furnished in costly and elegant style, are closed, tenantless, and dark, and as silent as the tomb. But, alas, in how many others is the fatal malady exerting its power on the occupants—a number of whom will be still in the deep sleep of death before the rising of to-morrow's sun!

"There is a large number of new cases in the suburbs, and in the northern section of the city.

"The fever this week has been exceedingly malignant. The physicians say it is worse than anything they ever witnessed in the South. Many die in two or three days—baffling all skill and treatment.

"We hope, however, for returning health and rest from the melancholy labors requisite in the midst of so appalling a visitation; and surely two or three more weeks will terminate the course of the death-dealing agent. But the thick, dark cloud of sorrow that has hung over this city so long, may measurably pass away; the atmosphere may resume its wonted salubrity, and the citizens may go forth without the fear of inhaling the dreadful poison of the life-blood; but long years will not [110] suffice to obliterate from the mind the heart-rending scenes that have been witnessed here since the commencement of this awful scourge."

"September 22.—Our remaining citizens are constantly shocked to hear of the sudden departure from our midst of our most useful and highly respected residents. We feel that the chastening hand of a just God is upon us. Alas, how many of those who were here but a few days ago, actively engaged in their duties, and in visiting and comforting the sick and suffering, are gone to their account! We fancy we still hear the familiar sound of their voices in social converse. Verily, we are in the midst of death. The fever is continuing fearfully and rapidly in its course, doing its deadly work upon the strongest men in from two to five or six days, and baffling the superior skill and long experience of professional men, and the most vigilant and careful nursing. But God's will must be done. His decree has gone forth, and the dreadful commission must be executed by the mighty angel of death, though hearts break, and the most powerful men and the most amiable and lovely women be struck down by this terrible and calamitous visitation.

"A thrill of pungent sorrow has been felt to-day [111] by hundreds of hearts, from the intelligence of the death of the worthy and indefatigable President of the Howard Association. William B. Ferguson is no more! He, too, has fallen a victim. Mysterious, indeed, are the ways of Providence. Mr. Ferguson had endeared himself to this afflicted people by ties that even relentless Death cannot sever. His name will be remembered by old and young, rich and poor. The little ones, bereaved by the monster, will talk of his deeds of generosity, and love, and mercy for long years to come. Time will not obliterate the recollection of his efforts, of his energy and perseverance during the reign of the conqueror, in the full rage of the destroyer—at night and in the day. Alas! he sleeps quietly now, from his labors and toils among the sick, the dying, the suffering, and the dead. Honor to his memory!

"Dr. Alexander Galt, too, our excellent, gentlemanly, and attentive Postmaster, has fallen. Only four or five days ago, he was faithfully engaged in the discharge of his official duties. Now, his well-known and active form is shrouded, coffined, entombed—cold, still, and wakeless in death, and silent in the grave.

"Wm. Reid, an enterprising merchant, recently [112] candidate for the Mayoralty, and an active officer of the Howard Association, has gone at the same time. He was, physically, a strong and exceedingly healthy man; but this is no shield from the malady. He leaves a large and interesting family. "Mrs. Delk, the lady of E. H. Delk, of the firm of Hardy & Delk, extensive merchants, died last night, quickly following her infant through the valley of the shadow of death.

"Miss C. A. Crosbie, whose mother and sister recently died, was buried to-day. They formed a happy and very pleasant little family, and the devoted trio, united on earth, have followed each other in quick succession; and thus does the unsparing conqueror triumph, striking down whole families. 'Insatiate archer!'"

"Samuel Lightfoot, son of the late Dr. Lightfoot, aged sixteen, is also among the dead—an estimable, intelligent, gentle youth, comely in person and amiable in character, the prop of his affectionate mother, widowed but a few weeks ago. She and his fond sisters, whose pride and joy he was, gathered around his youthful form, as it lay still and pale in the cold arms of death, and a scene of the most intensely painful and heartrending interest was witnessed; and this is but [113] one of many of the kind. How hearts are bleeding, and tears are flowing, and cries are ringing out here, and breaking upon the stillness of the evening hour! The fairest, the best, the most endeared and loved ones, are torn away from the hearts that loved them, perhaps too well. The cold earth falls heavily and quickly upon them; the snows of winter-time will come down lightly and quietly, and rest upon their graves; the wintry winds will moan then; the spring flowers will bloom there; affection's tears will fall there; the breezes will bend the tall green grass that will grow there, and the gay birds will sing over them, and home-hearts will cherish them; and there will be days, and months, and years of fond remembrance. I must proceed now with the death-roll, having given you, in my last, the list up to a late hour of yesterday.

"Sept. 24.—The hope expressed in my former letters, that the fever would materially abate in its violence before this time, was vain. I am pained to state that some of our best men are still dying. The cool weather seems to increase the violence of the disease, and it runs its fearful course in a few days, in spite of the most skillful medical attendance and careful treatment. The [114] physicians are discouraged, and say they have never witnessed so unmanageable a malady. The patient often, after a lapse of four or five days from the commencement of the attack, seems to be in a fair way to recover, and the physicians pronounce him convalescent and out of danger. But suddenly the black vomit or another unfavorable symptom is developed; in a few hours the sufferer breathes his last, and is ready for his shroud and his coffin.

"The disease is lurking about the suburbs, entering the habitations of the poor and the destitute, and striking down the strong as well as the weak. Indiscriminate in its attacks, however, the rich, as well as the poor and the lowly, are attacked—are speedily crushed by its irresistible power, and are as soon the tenants of the graveyard as the least regarded mendicant. It is a mysterious, terrible agent of destruction—a scourge, a fearful plague, that appalls the people, and causes the hardest hearts to feel—the most powerful to tremble.

"Sept. 25.—I am highly gratified to inform you that the cool weather seems to have caused a rapid abatement of the fever. Our remaining citizens are at last cheered by the prospect of returning [115] health. There were forty deaths on Saturday, twenty-five or thirty on Sunday, and only about fifteen to-day!

"October 2nd.—The weather is damp and warm, and the fever still lingers in our city, attacking the few who have thus far escaped, and who vainly hoped to be among the favored ones who will be allowed to pass uninjured by this fierce destroyer of health and life.

"Some families, learning that there had been frost here, have ventured to return, and I hear that several have already died, and that some others are ill. It will be hazardous to come to the city before one or two good frosts—some say, a good freeze and ice.

"The buildings, stores, dwellings and warehouses, from cellar to attic, should be opened and well aired. Clothing, bedding, carpets, etc., should be exposed to the rays of the sun, and the cool, dry winds from the north and west; and suitable efforts should be made to get rid entirely of the cause of the hateful disease, before the return of our people to their homes.

"This fever is a most mysterious and invidious, as well as rapid and fatal malady; and after the return of the thirteen thousand of our people from [116] the healthful mountain regions, and the salubrious cities of the north and east, a few warm days in November might cause it to break out afresh, and fearful havoc might be made again. It will be wise, therefore, for those who are absent, to be patient, and wait until physicians say that it is prudent to return.

"October 4th.—I am pained to state that Rev. Wm. M. Jackson, the esteemed and faithful incumbent of St. Paul's Church (Protestant Episcopal), died last night. At the still hour of midnight this good man closed his eyes in death, and his freed spirit took its flight to the land of eternal rest; and to-day, at noon, his remains were conveyed to the cold grave. From the commencement of the fatal epidemic, to the hour of his attack, he went diligently forth in the discharge of his pastoral duties, speaking words of consolation to the suffering and dying, comforting the bereaved widows and the weeping orphans; entering, at night as well as in the day, the ample mansions of the rich, and as readily the humble cottage-home of the poor, and doing his duty as a faithful minister of Christ.

"The death of this excellent divine has caused a deeper gloom to rest upon our citizens. At this [117] time of distress and affliction, this sad bereavement is most sensibly and painfully felt by our community. He and his kind offices will be remembered long and fondly by a large number of our people; and the scattered members of his flock will be deeply pained to hear of the death of their beloved pastor." Mr. J. is at least the fifth minister who has fallen at his post, during the reign of this dreadful disease. The names of Rev. Messrs. Chisholm, Dibrell, Eskridge, and Jones, have been added to the list of the dead.

"Mr. Dubbs, the master grave-digger for the cemeteries, is also dead. During the long and tedious days and nights of the pestilence, he had superintended the opening of the numerous graves and pits that have closed over the loathsome dead that were crowded into the burial-places; and now he, too, and his wife are both resting within the narrow limits of the tomb.

"The weather continues cool, dry, and clear; but I occasionally hear of new cases: the disease is still very malignant in its attacks, and in many instances soon terminates in death.

"A good frost, it is hoped, will put a final end to its existence in our city, and enable us to feel once more that the work of death has ceased.


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