1813: Samuel Swett to Major Abraham Eustis

Abraham Eustis (1786-1843)

In this brief letter, Samuel Swett informs his brother-in-law, Major Abraham Eustis (1786-1843), that their mother-in-law has died. Major Eustis was married to Rebecca Sprague (1787-1820), mentioned in this letter. Rebecca’s mother was Rebecca Chambers (1755-1813), the wife of Dr. John Sprague, Jr. (1752-1800). See biography below for Eustis.

Samuel Swett (1774-1853) was the husband of Elizabeth Delano Sprague (1776-1813). Her death occurred on 2 July 1813 – just ten days before her mother’s death. Samuel Swett was a merchant and ship-owner of Boston and Dedham, Mass., and played a prominent part in the development of the merchant marine in Boston. He also owned extensive real estate in Boston and Dedham.

At the time this letter was written, Major Eustis was serving on the American frontier during the War of 1812. This letter was directed to Fort Niagara, still in American hands, though the British later captured it late in 1813.

Addressed to Major Abraham Eustis, Fort Niagara

Dedham [Massachusetts]
July 13th 1813

My Dear Friend,

I understand from Rebecca that she has informed you of the melancholy bereavement of my Dear wife. Oh! my friend, it was a sad stroke to me, as you can readily imagine. But no more of that.

I have now the painful task to communicate the death of our Mother Sprague. She was taken in a fit on Thursday morning last and continued senseless ‘till she expired which was at eight o’clock last evening [12 July]. Her funeral will be on tomorrow from her son John’s in Boston. I know it will give you consolation to hear that Rebecca through all these scenes of distress conducted herself with the greatest magnanimity and firmness of mind that ever adorned her sex. She is a Prodigy. Do write her by every opportunity. It will be a great consolation to her.

Your afflicted friend, — Samuel Swett


Abraham Eustis was born in Petersburg, Virginia in 1786 (died 1843). He was educated at Harvard College and Bowdoin College. He served during the War of 1812, in the Black Hawk War (1832), and in the Seminole Wars in Florida.

In 1830, Eustis became the first commander of Fort Monroe, which guards the entrance to Hampton Roads at Old Point Comfort in southeastern Virginia. There for many years, he commanded the school for Artillery Practice.

In May, 1838, Eustis took command of Fort Butler, one of the main military posts built for the forced removal of the Cherokee known as the Trail of Tears. Nearly 5,000 Cherokee of North Carolina and adjacent Georgia were taken to Fort Butler, thence to the main internment camp at Fort Cass. The troops stationed at Fort Butler were those of Eustis’s command from the Second Seminole War in Florida (Duncan 2003:190).

He was the father of Brig. Gen. Henry L. Eustis.

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