[Manuscript Diary of Edward Cutbush, Surgeon for the Pennsylvania Militia and United States Navy, containing letters from the Whiskey Rebellion and recording his voyage on the U.S.S. United States during the Quasi-War with France]
[Various places, including Bedford, Pa.; Philadelphia; Geneva, N.Y. 1794-1803]. Oblong folio. 7 5/8 x 12 inches. 40 leaves, manuscript written in ink and pencil, plus three watercolor sketches.
Contemporary reverse sheep. Housed in a blue morocco backed box.
The diary kept on ship by the first surgeon of the United States Navy, with significant architectural drawings.
An outstanding journal kept across a decade spanning the end of the 18th century by Edward Cutbush, the first United States Naval Surgeon, and the pioneer of American naval medicine. Beginning in 1790, Cutbush was the resident physician of the Pennsylvania Hospital and the diary commences with a series of retained letters, with a number of his signatures, from his appointment as Surgeon General of the Pennsylvania Militia during the 1794 Whiskey Rebellion, and provides instructions for the operating of field hospitals and the proper form of a hospital register. Cutbush's entry of May 28, 1799 announces that he has been, "Appointed Surgeon in the Navy of the United States, and rec'd orders to join the Frigate United States. 50 Guns. Commodore John Barry. James Barron Capt. Now, commences a new scene of life." The U.S.S. United States, one of the six original frigates ordered by the Naval Act of 1794, is considered the first ship of the U.S. Navy. The principal voyage recorded here set out in November 1799, when the United States left Newport with the Envoy Extraordinary to the Republic of France, a group of diplomats that included Elbridge Gerry and Oliver Ellsworth, Chief Justice of the United States. The political environment during the Quasi-War was tense, and each ship encountered on the voyage is avoided or nervously approached including one which was "Rather shy of us, kept at a distance and hoisted American colours, & no doubt was pleased to see the American colours hoisted on board of us." After making landfall in Portugal and describing the situation in Lisbon, the delegation headed towards France but were waylaid by an unscrupulous Spanish sailor who intentionally led them astray and into great peril ("the rascal ought to have been hung"). With La Coruña in sight, a group of heavily armed ships was spotted as they approached, including one which: "Came within gun shot and hoisted English colours, the frigate fired a shot, which fell ahead of us, we fired a gun to leeward and hoisted American colors. Lieut. Church came from Admiral Duckworth's ship Leviathan 74 guns, to apologize in the name of the Admiral, to Commodore Barry, for having fired the shot, he supposed us a Spanish ship under American colours." Upon their arrival in Spain in January 1801, Cutbush received news from another ship of the death of George Washington: "The bright luminary of the Western Hemisphere. Washington! The Father of the American people.is alas no more. May the almighty God who led him through the path of victory and who raised him to the highest pinnacle of Earth's glory, place him in majesty at his right hand, thus to preside over and protect the Infant Republic of the United States whose welfare was ever the nearest wish of his heart." The subsequent account of the return journey across the Atlantic past the Bahamas and up the eastern seaboard contains several tables of navigational calculations, with a discussion of calculating longitude, and records some of the details of the voyage, which Cutbush deems 'long and disagreeable.' The section ends with three striking watercolor drawings, one of a water spout seen after a gale off the coast of Spain, and renderings of a Spanish friar and 'a Spanish lady in a fashionable winter dress.' By Jan. 1801, the ship was near Antigua and several pages are devoted to a Thermometrical Journal recording the temperature of the atmosphere, a type of chart associated with Benjamin Franklin, with Cutbush noting, 'The water sparkeles very much, which is contrary to the opinion of Dr. Franklin....' In May 1802, during the Barbary Wars, the manuscript resumes from Gibraltar where Cutbush has arrived on the frigate Constellation and he provides a long description of the coast there and repeats the warning of the Algerian Consul that a Portuguese vessel had been taken with 70 killed and 278 made slaves. Cutbush's last note is dated June 1, 1802, when he visited Carthage, and following this is a short conclusion of his life events through 1829. The remainder of the diary, nearly twenty pages, is devoted to finely accomplished plans and drawings in ink and pencil of Cutbush's estate in Geneva, New York. Several leaves are devoted to the design on the house itself, with detailed layouts for each floor, the construction of the staircase, and the appearance of the exterior. The rest of the plans deal with farming and out buildings of the estate, such as the barn, stables, and other animal enclosures, designed by Cutbush to be built around a central barnyard. There is also a design for a wine press based on an apparatus for producing cider. These drawings are an extremely early example of surviving manuscript American architectural designs, and therefore constitute an important document in and of themselves. All together, this diary represents a fascinating amalgam of different records, with one volume acting as a letter copybook, diary, scientific and navigational journal, and artistic and architectural sketchbook, kept by a foundational figure in the history of the United States Navy.