23 October 1862: “Alas, I am sorry to say many are interred without even a prayer!”

Item description: Letter, 23 October 1862, from Henry Drane, Wilmington, N.C., to Mary Lindsay Hargrave Foxhall (1840-1911) about the yellow fever epidemic raging in the city.

Item citation: From folder 1 of the Foxhall Family Papers #4531, Southern Historical Collection, The Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Item transcription:

Wilmington NC Oct. 23/62

Dear Mary,

Your kind and welcome letter of the 17th reached me safely and would have been answered sooner but for a very great press of both public and private engagements. I gladly [?] the opportunity to write you. By God’ mercy I still continue well and it is purely through His mercy for I have been greatly [?]. All are well at the Rectory and often enquire after you all. I have received two letters from Ma recently. Please say to her I will write her in a day or two. And poor Miss Henrietta has gone too! She died on Monday evening 20th, near seven o’clock, a week within a day of father’s death, and near the same hour. She was conscious when I received your letter, and your message seemed to gratify her very much. Being the only one here I attended to all matters pertaining to her interment. As she had not lot, at the request of Dr. McRee[?] and in consonance with my own feelings, I had her buried in our lot in the Cemetery. The remains were enclosed in a box so that they could be removed if necessary. Dr. McRee[?] I think will purchase a lot and have both her and her mother removed to it. She suffered a good deal in her sickness and particularly towards the close of the disease. She was, however, conscious up to within probably three hours of her death. There being no clergyman here I got Mr. [?] to bury her. He now buries all the dead over whom any service is said. Alas, I am sorry to say many are interred without even a prayer! Miss Henrietta felt very much her [?] condition. Not a friend of hers was here but Griffith McRee and myself. It is a terrible thing to die under such circumstances! I myself feel now much depression, for since Dr. Thomas has gone, should I be taken sick and die, I would die too alone. I have no relation or connection here. Of course, I would not let Ginnie come to town. You cannot imagine the distress and gloom here. The deaths are not correctly reported in the papers. I regret to say old Mrs. McRee will doubtless die. The old Dr. is better. Griffith McRee was taken down last night. I fear he will have a hard time. I have received a number of kind letters since father’s death. He was truly respected and loved. Mr. Pritchard is very [low?] with the fever. He & Mr. [R?] have acted nobly, standing to their forts faithfully. Mr. Murphy has been very sick but is better. Then, with father, even the only ministers who remained here. All the others fled. Dr. Corcoran (Roman Catholic) of Charleston came over very kindly to assist Mr. Murphy. He has been sick but is better. All the ministers, including father, were very friendly during the epidemic and much cordiality grew up between them. I suppose this arose from the great common danger and the duties in common they [?]. During his sickness & since his death they have been very kind & sympathetic. I could not give you near a list of them who have fallen. Mary you know and many more you do not. Coffins have had to be brought both from Fayetteville & Charleston. It is a sad sight indeed to see and hear dray loads of them daily going through the streets. I regret to say my last clerk Mr. Schenck was taken down with the fever last night. I am now without any assistance, either white or black, all being down. Poor Jerry Lippitt[?], good Jerry, was the first. Mr. Haines was next. He is recovering but is still in a critical condition. The fever has gone through my lot. [?] Mary took it first, next Fred, then Martha, next Laura, a little girl who nurses Martha’s child, and now Betsy, Laura’s mother. She is now on the lot very low. Her case is doubtful. In seeing the poor as chairman of one of the District Committees in our Howard Association; in nursing those on my lot and father; and in further nursing my clerks & others connected with you both officially and friendly in the [?] I have had much to do with the fever. Dr. Thomas Rufus is now down with a sharp attack of it and I have to see to him. It is a singular fever indeed. It leaves the system in a [?] condition, so weak & so frail that one is incapable of any service for weeks and months. The Charleston doctors, (a noble set of gentlemen), say sometimes it is six months before a person is truly well again. All my servants are fit for nothing. The least exertion sets them to aching all over, with weakness, loss of appetite, depression, &c. This is the case with all who have recovered. Dr. Thomas was just that way. I was sorry to hear by a letter from Mrs. Thomas today he was down sick with similar symptoms in Louisburgh. He will be better in a few days. Dr. Anderson I am glad to say is up again & so is Dr. Swann. Both are, however, in that condition. I suppose you knew father had all the physicians to dine with us, just about a week before he was taken sick. There were some twelve or thirteen of them in all, both resident & visiting. They enjoyed themselves so much and seemed so pleased too with the attention. All of them were very kind to him when he was sick. Please say to Ma I have written to Charleston for the [?] & [?]. I have also written Mr. Abott[?] to send her the Church Intelligencer and spoken to Mr. Fulton to send Journal. No papers arrived. All in his office are sick. I have written you a very hurried & disconnected letter. It is the best I can do at present with the pressure of engagements on me and the distracted and distressed condition of my mind. [?] Give my love to Ma, Robby[?], Martha and Jim. God bless, protect, and sanctify us all.

Hastily yours affectionately,
Henry M. Drane

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