• Grieving Father Writes Naval Captain About Son's Death In A Duel Aboard His Ship

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    [MAINE] JONATHAN CUSHING (1743-1822) was a Revolutionary War veteran and state representative originally from Plymouth and Boston, Massachusetts, was one of South Berwick’s leading citizens at the turn of the 18th century.


    The Cushings had lived in Boston during the Revolution and the Siege of Boston and had known Gen. Lafayette.


    His wife, Olive Wallingford (c. 1758-1853), was a descendant of a leading shipbuilder of Rollinsford, NH. Their home, the Cushing Mansion, on the site that later became South Berwick Central School, was one of the town landmarks until its demolition in the 1920s, and well known to and described by Sarah Orne Jewett. 

    Offered here is a superbly detailed ALS, Berwick [Maine], May 9th, 1800, 2 pp, to James Seever. Cushing talks about learning of the death of his son (Samuel W. Cushing 1779-1800) who was in the navy and killed in a duel in 1799. Jonathan says he learned about his son's death from reading about it in the Portsmouth newspaper. Samuel Cushing was an Ensign on the USS Congress when it lost its mast in a gale in January 1800 under Captain James Sever. Custing was shot by Capt. John DuBose in a duel about an argument over the dismasting incident. Samuel was buried in St. Paul’s Episcopal Church Yard in Norfolk, VA.

    His father writes: “I wrote you someday since acknowledging your friendly & polite attention to my son who was with you and while under the pleasing hope of his future prosperity and advancement under your command...I am overwhelmed with anguish & distress at his fatal catastrophe, which I learned this morning from a Portsmouth paper under the New York head. That he should untimely meet his end is distressing to me & my family, beyond expression. He must have been hurried into the transaction. I fear for want of some friend to interfere in the dispute; or by the great provocation of his antagonist as I never knew him to get into any bout or quarrel of any consequence...Had the matter come to your knowledge in time, I presume you were so much his friend that you would have prevented the fatal transaction that cost him his life...The die is cast and his fate sealed forever and we now among many other misfortunes & affliction have to mourn the loss of a desirable & promising son and the public a valuable young citizen.  I hope his body was decently interned in some public burial place.  I request you to make a full enquiry into the matter & write me particularly on the subject.  If Dubois, who was said the be the person by whose hands my son fell, conducted...the means of bringing him into the fatal fired [incident], I hope he will be arrested by authority & meet the punishment he deserves for depriving a family of an amiable son & brother...and a worthy young citizen. You please to take care of his effects and forward them to me by way of Boston...”

    Ink bleed through. Some chipping in the external margins and a few archival tape repairs.


    A great piece of Naval and dueling Americana.


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