This letter was written by Gen. John Sedgwick (1742-1820), the son of Benjamin Sedgwick (1715-1757) and Ann Thompson, and an officer in the American army during the Revolutionary War. John was married to Abigail Andrus (1745-1811), by whom he had at least twelve children. Two of the children are mentioned in this letter: Sarah Sedgwick (1765-1815) — a 50 year-old spinster whose death is described; and Pamela Sedgwick (b. 1778) who would marry Jonathan Bates in 1821 after her father’s death.
John wrote the letter to his daughter-in-law, Anne Baldwin, the daughter of Maj. Isaac Baldwin and Hannah Sackett of Litchfield, Connecticut. She was married to John’s son, Stephen Sedgwick (1783-1830) in 1811. Stephen attended Yale college and probably studied at Litchfield Law School before practicing at Ithaca, NY and Cincinnati OH. He and Anne were divorced about 1818 and she married his law clerk, Daniel Gott in 1819. It was said of Stephen Sedgwick that “his intellectual powers were brilliant and fascinating, and he was gigantic in form.” But he died early, about 1830, in Cincinnati, OH, “the victim of intemperance.” Source: History of Tioga, Chemung, Tompkins & Schuyler counties
Before their divorce, John and Anne had three children: Henry James Sedgwick (1812-1868), John Sedgwick (1813-1824), and Charles Baldwin Sedgwick (1815-1883).
Daniel Gott, Anne’s second husband, completed his education in New London and at age 16 began teaching school. In 1817 he moved to Pompey, New York, where he studied law with Stephen Sedgwick and was admitted to the bar in 1819. He practiced throughout western New York, and several prospective lawyers studied with him, most notably US Attorney General George H. Williams. In 1846 he was elected to the US House of Representatives as a Whig and served two terms, 1847 to 1851. In 1848 he offered a resolution condemning the slave trade in Washington DC, which passed 98-88. This act is viewed by historians as a precursor to the Civil War because it caused pro-slavery Whigs from the South to leave the party, resulting in its demise and leading to the founding of the anti-slavery Republican party in the 1850s. After his term in Congress ended Gott moved to Syracuse and resumed his law practice.
Addressed to Mrs. Anne Sedgwick, Pompey, New York
18th October 1815
My dear and loving child,
I have seen your letter to Pamela of October 2d. She says she has written you three letters the summer past. I have written none since the one projecting your coming and abiding with us thro the winter, of which I had small encouragement by your return letter. I have and still do hope in due time you may be restored to your husband with your children. This would be the greatest joy of my life. I got one letter from him soon after his arrival at Cincinnati at which time he had just recovered from a dangerous fit of sickness and would not judge of his prospects. It would be extremely gratifying for you to be informed of his situation and prospects as of your own, and if you have not a direct communication, send by mail. I hope I shall never be wanting avoiding to my strength to do you good. I do not expect ever to see my son in this life. I should be very glad to see his wife and some of his posterity. Whatever may happen, I hope for the best to all concerned, if he could get business and a small portion of this world’s goods. I hope you may yet be happy enjoying some of this life. Should I live to know this, it would add greatly to my enjoyment and peace. We all have our joys and our sorrows, We are sorrowing all of us — sorrowing but blessed be God, not without hope.
Our daughter Sarah, altho long afflicted and very weak for many years, died very suddenly on the 4th of instant October, being Thursday. The day before she died, she came down from her chamber dressed at breakfast and dinner, and in the afternoon was knitting as usual for her amusement and labour. In the evening, she was taken with an ague. I was called up and after applying to her stimulants, we put her to bed and she became easymont [?] and comfortable to all appearance. This, I believe, was about 11 o’clock. Pamela went to bed in the same chamber and about 2 o’clock she got up and she appeared as usual comfortable. I ought to have to have observed just after Pamela went to bed, she (Sarah) prayed audibly that her sins might be pardoned, that her enemies — if she had any — might be forgiven, [and] for her friends, as Pamela thinks for half an hour as her usual practice had been. In the morning, I went up and found she lay quiet. We turned her over and she appeared to me like a person under the operation of opium, in a kind of stupor, with hard breathing. I asked Pamela if she had not given her a larger portion of opium than usual, or had not given her twice throu mistake. She said not. She took opium every evening. I was by her attending to her when I thot she breathed shorter than she she had done. I called Pamela and she thot she evidently did, and I do believe she _____ed in about 30 minutes from our first apprehension. She was going without a struggle or a groan in the 50th year of her age — most of which has been under great bodily debility. At the same time she possessed the most kind and, I believe I may say, the most Christian disposition. She is gone, I believe and hope, to the regions of the blessed, where all tears are wiped from all eyes, and where there is peace and joy forever through Jesus Christ our Savior.
I am comforted. I have children yet with me. None can be kinder. There is a poignancy at parting with children, which none but parents know. They are a part of one’s self. There is a great responsibility in parents, duties omitted — attention neglected — and a period to them all at death. This I desire you will communicate to your husband. She could never since his removal speak of him without emotion. I do desire the correspondence with my son might be by you. I want to know the date of his last letter. If you will take upon you to inform me of all you know of him, how he is, how his prospects are, and when he can take his family home. I hope the divine favor will protect him. I desire you and the children will be in the protection of Almighty God, and should you not join your husband and I should live, I hope to see you have [joy] with some of the children whom God hath generously given you.
I do not expect to come into your parts again. Perhaps I may. They all send their love to you. Kiss the boys for me. Respects to your father, mother, & brothers. Respectfully, your loving father, — John Sedgwick