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Lot 6: August 12, 1780 Revolutionary War Period Autograph Letter Signed WILLIAM BROWN
29 October 2016
Rancho Santa Fe, CA, USALive Auction
Revolutionary War "Medical Department" Content Letter by William Brown Here Resigns from the Continental Army
WILLIAM BROWN (1752-1792). Listed in "Medical Men in the American Revolution," President of the trustees of the Alexandria Academy (secured George Washington's support for that institution). He was a Physician of the St. Andrews Society and an Original Member of the Society of the Cincinnati.
August 12, 1780-Dated Revolutionary War Period, Autograph Letter Signed, "W. Brown," 1 page, legal folio, measuring 8" x 12.5" tipped along its edges to a larger sheet measuring 11" x 14.5", Choice Very Fine. This historic Letter contains important personal expressions of frustration by Dr. William Brown. Excellent medical content in this Revolutionary War date letter in which Brown states to Craigie that he resigns from the Continental Army. It reads, in part:
"....I have at last got my baggage on the road again, & now sit down to take my leave of the Department & of you. You are no stranger to the struggles I have made to preserve the reputation of the Department... such has been the predominant influence of motives foreign to the good of the service... being disgusted with the circumstances & management of our affairs in general, & especially within & relating to the Medical Department, I have retired from it... I see little prospect of amendment... you have few to stand by you, & assist in keeping Virtue & honest... I bid you Farewell... (Signed) W. Brown."
Some minor soiling and a pencil notation of "Physician General" has been added beneath Brown's signature, otherwise very fine.
This rare Continental Army Medical Department related content Autograph Letter Signed, "W. Brown" by William Brown (American Physician and writer of the first pharmacopoeia to be published in the United States in 1778). This Letter addressed to Dr. Andrew Craigie, then Apothecary General of the Continental Army. Andrew Craigie (1754-1819) is best known for serving as the first Apothecary General of the Continental Army during the American Revolution. The one-time owner of the Longfellow House, a Washington's Headquarters National Historic Site, Craigie also developed much of East Cambridge, Massachusetts and was responsible for the construction of the Canal Bridge connecting East Cambridge and Boston, which later became known as the Craigie Bridge, and later was rebuilt as the Charles River Dam Bridge, but which is still also referred to as Craigie's Bridge.
From: "The Life and Times of Physician-General William Brown, By John D. Sinks, Fairfax Resolves Chapter, Sons of the American Revolution: Published December 17, 1999"
William Brown was born into the Maryland gentry. His father was the Rev. Richard Gustavus Brown of Port Tobacco, Md. From his tombstone, we can calculate his birth to be in the year 1748 or '49. According to Medical Men in the American Revolution, he was born in 1752 when the family was visiting relatives in Heddington, Scotland. He studied at the University of Edinburgh where he was awarded the degree of M.D. in 1770. He married Catherine Scott, daughter of the Rev. James Scott.
William Brown was active in resistance to British tyranny before the outbreak of the American Revolutionary War. In 1774 he as a member of the Fairfax Co. Committee for Safety. We do not know the exact date he began his service in the Continental Army, but it was by Dec. 9th, 1775 when Col. William Woodford, commanding the 2nd Virginia Regiment, wrote from Great Bridge to the President of the Virginia Convention in Williamsburg stating: "we are now under Arms expecting another Attack. Please forward Doctr. Brown's Chest of Medicines & Baggage down."
Dr. William Brown continued as Surgeon of the 2nd Virginia Regiment into 1776, when he became Assistant Surgeon of the Flying Camp. On 13 May, 1777 he was appointed Surgeon General of the Hospital, Middle Department. He continued in this capacity until Feb. 6, 1778, when he was appointed Physician and Director General of Hospital.
In 1778 he published the first "Pharmacopeia" published in the United States, "Fomulary of Simple Yet Efficacious Remedies". This medical work explained 84 internal medications and 16 surgical or external medications and was undoubtedly used by many military surgeons who did not have the advantage of university training. William Brown resigned from the army on 21 July 1780. The Continental Congress took note of his departure from service:
"Resolved, --- that Congress entertains a high opinion of the ability, integrity and past services of Dr. Wm. Brown, Physician-General, but as circumstances will no longer permit his continuance in the service, his resignation is accepted."
After the Revolutionary War, William Brown was active in the community. In 1782 he was elected Vestryman of Christ Church. He purchased portions of lots 65 and 66 at Prince and Fairfax in 1783. (When Alexandria was laid out, lots were block.)
He was the President of the trustees of the Alexandria Academy and secured George Washington's support for that institution. He was physician of the St. Andrews Society and an original member of the Society of Cincinnati.
William Brown died on 11 Jan. 1792. According to his tombstone, he was in the 44th year of his age. He as laid to rest at Preston Plantation at the mouth of Four Mile Run. Preston was the seat of Charles and Frances Alexander, and Frances was his sister.
In 1933 the bodies buried at Preston were reinterred here at Pohick Church. Brown was discovered to have been buried clothed in his Continental Army uniform, with a ribbon of some order on the breast of his uniform. The epitaph on the tombstone speaks well of him.