Nova Scotia Archives

A Nova Scotian Observer at the Burning of Washington, August 1814

Letter from Dr. John Fox, Assistant Surgeon, HMS Majestic, Chesapeake Bay, to his father, Cornelius Fox.  5 September 1814. — Page 4 of 4: 30 x 38 cm.   Nova Scotia Archvies MG 100 vol. 35 no. 105 (accession no. 1983-279).


note: transcription publicly contributed - please contact us with comments, errors or omisions

my mess has been very Expensive as we have been in bad places for procuring supplies, and always two or three and sometimes more Supernumerarus [supernumerarius] Passengers or Visitors, Lord Spencer. A son of the Duke of Blandford's has for some time been A mess mate of ours — he is A midshipman of about 19 years of age & A very fine young man, going out to Join the Superb — this will be sufficient to give you A hint of the Expense that must attend us, I have paid all together about 16 or 17 at different times Exclusive of Agents Charge since coming to sea — I wrote to my Brother by H.M. Brig Recruit who carries the Dispatches to England —

Previous to our sailing I had the unpleasant task of appearing as principal Evidence upon A Court Martial where the Prisoner / one of our men / was condemned to be hangd at the yard arm for knocking A man off the fore yard, about two months before, in consequence of which he died the same evening & happening to attend the decease at the time, heard some Expressions In Consequence of which I was calld — the Court Marshall was held on board La Roque — the hono.b Captn Capel Presiding & 6 other Port Captns — the Prisoner was however in consequence of some favourable Circumstances Recommended to the Admiral for mercy & left on Board the Guard Ship —

We are losing men here every day with the Dysentery or Flux as the Water is extremely unwholesome & the Fruit Green the Former of which I never taste without destroying its bad Qualities by Boiling or Otherwise, & the latter I never taste when Green — So that I enjoy / Blessed be God / A most Perfect state of health more so both here and at Bahama than in A Climate like Halifax, Excepting that I am greatly tormented with Prickly heat which is only A Temporary Complaint well known in the West Indies & other hot Climates & may be compared to the Itch only that the Patient feels no Effects of it in A cool shade upon Deck, or in A free air at sea, whether we are now proceeding & in the Course of an hour small be at the mouth of Chesapeake Bay So that I Expect Every minute to see the Signal hoisted for Parting Company with the Espoir I might therefore Seal and look for an opportunity of sending on Board I must therefore Conclude with love to my mother sister & Brothers &c &c &c I remain Your Dutiful Son John Fox

[written down left side] PS have the Goodness to write every opportunity & direct to the Chesapeake which will be our head Quarters

Dr. John Fox, a native of Cornwallis Township, Nova Scotia, was Assistant Surgeon on HMS Majestic. The Majestic joined the squadron of Admiral Sir Alexander Cochran in Chesapeake Bay for the attack on Washington, D.C., by British forces commanded by Major-General Robert Ross. A large part of the city was burned on 24 August 1814.

Nova Scotia Archives —

Crown copyright © 2024, Province of Nova Scotia.