The Yellow Fever Epidemic in Philadelphia 1793

July 19th, 2010

Philadelphia 1793: It was an unusually hot and dry summer. Mosquitoes were ravaging the population of what was then America’s largest city. Philadelphia was also a major international port, and at the time hundreds of Caribbean refugees were filing off the ships bringing Yellow Fever. It was the mosquitoes that spread the disease among the inhabitants, but not even renowned Philadelphia physician Dr. Benjamin Rush, seemed to understand this.
Many simply fled the city until the fall, including Congress, the President and the War Department staff, including Secretary of War Knox. All told, about four thousand died. One of the War Department staffers who remained in the City was Quarter Master and Military Store Keeper Samuel Hodgdon.  Check out his heart-rending descriptions of the suffering.