Frederick Douglass Gerrit Smith, October 10, 1863
Rochester[, N.Y.] 10 Oct[ober] 1863.
HON: GERRIT SMITH
MY DEAR SIR:
I am this day from NewYork where I have been during the last three weeks
bending over the Sick bed of my Dear Son Lewis, who has been until now
quite too ill to be removed home.1Lewis received a furlough to travel from Hilton Head, South Carolina, to New York City to obtain medical treatment. He arrived in New York in September 1863 and consulted with two black physicians, J. F. Chauveau and his father’s longtime friend James McCune Smith. Their assessment for the military authorities stated that Lewis was seriously ill from “diarrhea, cachexy (cachexia) and spontaneous gangrene of left half of scrotum.” They recommend several months of recuperation before a return to active duty. An U.S. Army surgeon later examined Lewis in Boston and found him “incapable of performing the duties of a soldier because of a scrotal gangrenous now a fistulous opening.” Douglass traveled to New York City to attend to his ill son. He and his friend Ottilie Assing visited Lewis daily for approximately two weeks. Robert Ewell Greene, Swamp Angels: A Biographical Study of the 54th Massachusetts Regiment: True Facts about the Black Defenders of the Civil War (Madison, Fla., 1990), 87-88; Diedrich, Love across Color Lines, 254. My absence will explain my silence.
Lewis left Morris Island on a furlough granted him for “good Conduct in
the field”—and will return to his post as soon as his health is restored.2Lewis never fully recovered his health and was discharged from the Fifty-fourth in May 1864. Lewis H. Douglass to FD, 22 August 1864; Greene, Swamp Angels, 87-88. I
was in hopes when Dear Rose3Rosetta Douglass. told me in a letter—that a note had arrived
from you—she would have mentioned my absence—but she did not open
it till last night—Hoping to See you on Tuesday—
As ever Yours Very Truly
FRED’ K DOUGLASS—
ALS: Gerrit Smith Papers, NSyU.