George Washington Papers

[Diary entry: 31 July 1770]

31. Got to my Mothers to Dinner and staid there all Night.

Patsy Custis became gravely ill today, suffering not only from “her old complaint” of epilepsy, but also “ague and fever” (GW to Jonathan Boucher, 15 Aug. 1770, excerpt, American Art Assoc. Catalogue, 21–22 Jan. 1926, item 294). Dr. Hugh Mercer of Fredericksburg was promptly summoned to Ferry Farm, where he bled the patient and gave her medicines. Patsy remained under his care until the family returned home nine days later (receipt from Mercer, 8 Aug. 1770, ViHi: Custis Papers). The grip that epilepsy now had on Patsy is documented by a record of her seizures that GW kept 29 June–22 Sept. 1770 on the margins of the printed calendar pages in his almanac. Of the 86 days included in that period, Patsy had “fits” on 26, often two a day. For 31 July GW entered the notation “1 very bad Do.,” indicating the exceptional severity of this day’s attack.

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