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Lewis Wolfley letters, 1837-1840

17 items

The collection consists of 17 items containing 18 letters (one item contains letters from two different correspondents), addressed to Lewis Wolfley, a Navy surgeon. All of the correspondents are doctors, most with naval appointments. Topics include almost exclusively Navy matters, including political debates concerning the Navy during the period, but also scattered references to medical cases and treatments, and some details of financial transactions.

This collection consists of 17 items (containing 18 letters) addressed to Lewis Wolfley: 9 letters are from N. C. Barrabino, a surgeon in the United States Navy; 5 are from V. L. Godon, an assistant naval surgeon; 4 are from various correspondents. Most of the material refers to naval matters: general lack of funds, rumors of officer appointments, the convening of examination boards, pending courts martial, etc. Barrabino also discusses the public debate about charges of naval corruption. He mentions a series of letters published in the Richmond Whig by the pseudonymous Harry Bluff (in reality, Matthew Fontaine Maury, a naval officer), criticizing the bureaucracy and inefficiency of the navy and calling for reforms. Barrabino admits that the navy is guilty of many of the charges, but blames "the abuses and contemptible trickery of the Left since the commencement of Jacksonism…" (25 August 1838).

Another political topic addressed is the question of whether the Navy should have its own Surgeon General. Although Barrabino initially supports the idea, upon reflection, he concludes that it would be a mistake: "…consider how humiliating it would be for a fleet surgeon to receive medical instructions from, probably, a pompous ignoramus at Washington" (27 March 1838).

Several letters refer to medical matters. In the letter of 1 February 1840, V. L. Godon inquires after the health of Wolfley's family following their journey from Philadelphia back to Lancaster, Ohio. Wolfley's son had been ill with smallpox, and Godon sends more than his regards: "I had provided myself with some vaccine matter of the original stock imported about 40 years ago, with which I have succeeded to my satisfaction. I enclose you with great pleasure a portion of the scab." Godon also describes several interesting medical cases and treatments (3 June 1840, 2 September 1840) and the autopsy of a man who died of tuberculosis (3 June 1840).