Thursday, January 22

A Letter to the Doctor


19 December 1813

Dear Sir,
                                                                                        
It will most likely come as surprise to hear from your old loblolly boy, but rest assured Sir I have not forgotten you. Perhaps you may have asked yourself over the years ”I wonder what has ever became of old Silas Craig?”. 

Well Sir, for such a kind and generous soul as yourself, the true story would make you weep. The very next commission after I served with you I had a gun to crush my foot. The surgeon took it off at the ankle, but after a bit the leg Above it become corrupted and he took it off at the knee and they sent me to the hospital in Greenwich, but I survived anyhow. 

I had hoped to get a commission then as a cook, but there was none to be had and they sent me off a poor cripple with just a small pension to try and survive on. What was I to do? Well Sir, you will well remember I was never one to beg charity- and no one was handier than me on a make and mend day. 

I begun to take old discarded clothes and patch and mend them up and sell them again at a fair price. I done good enough at it that folks begun to bring me clothes they no longer needed which I would buy from them and mend and sell. After a bit they begun to bring me broken or old odds and ends that I would patch and mend and polish to sale at a fair price. My father was a tinker so I knew a bit of how to do such things. 

With my pension and my mending and such I was getting by when- who could have known- the constables grab me up! They claim that the things I had been buying was stold! And a bunch of them blackhearts what sold things to me lined up in court to say so. A sorry situation it was. I might have been hanged were it not for Lieutenant Murtry- you will remember him as midshipman Murtry- stepping up and putting in a kind word for me. 

As it was they sent me to Botany Bay. Oh Sir, I well remember how fond you was of seeing the bushes and bugs and fish and such of a new place- but there is nothing to love here! Every bush that does not draw blood with thorns and such will give you a rash. The animals here is all scorpions, spiders and snakes and such so poisonous that a fellow does not go three paces after he is bit. 

And the people from here is all Blackfellas that would just as soon spear a man as look at him. So here I am a poor cripple, innocent of any crime, condemned to labor in such a place. So I survived my time- and a miracle it was, me being a cripple and all- and now I am a gain a free man, if free it can be called to have to live in such a desolate and God forsaken place as this. 

Now I scrape by as a servant for Reverand Elias Penwell, who was an innocent persecuted unjustly on false testimony of villains and sent here like myself. His eyes are going and often times he will have me to read for him. I was reading him an old copy of the Navy list which had made its way here when I come across you as the surgeon of the Acasta.

"Is that the same Doctor Roberts you always peak so highly of?" he asks me. 

"I am sure it is the same " I reply. 

"You should write him of your distress here" he says to me. 

"Oh Sir " say I "I could never bother him with my problems". 

"Why Mister Craig" he says  "I am surprised you would treat the good Doctor Roberts with such disrespect!" 

"Never in this life should I disrespect the Doctor!" says I. 

"Well Sir, you should well know that nothing cheers a Christian heart more than helping those in need and distress! If this Doctor Roberts is half the magnanimous fellow you describe he would be distressed beyond measure to find he could have helped you in your time of need but was deprived of the opportunity through ignorance. To deprive him of this opportunity to practice Christian Charity would be cruel indeed!"

So after the Reverand had explained things with such intelligence the wisdom of his words was undeniable.

So Sir you might send whatever charitable ammount you seen fit to me here at Botany Bay through the Reverand Penwell.  Also good would be - if you have any influence at home- would be to see that I might be allowed to return to my native land and not die here a poor cripple in this desolate place.

Ever your loving and obedient Servant, 
Silas Craig

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