Manuscripts Division
William L. Clements Library
University of Michigan

Finding aid for
Amos A. Evans Collection, 1812-1813, 1833

Finding aid created by
Richard Bates, 2005; Philip Heslip, May 2010

Summary Information
Title: Amos A. Evans collection
Creator: Evans, Amos Alexander, 1785-1848 and Evans, Alexander, 1818-1888
Inclusive dates: 1812, 1813, 1833
Extent: 3 volumes
The Amos A. Evans collection is comprised of 3 volumes: a "Prescription book of the U.S. Frigate Constitution ," also known as "Old Ironsides" (1812); a "Daily Report of Cases in the Marine Barracks at the Navy Yard" at Charlestown, Massachusetts (1813); and a "Reefer's Log" written by Evan's son, Alexander Evans, during a trip from Maryland to Boston in 1833. These volumes provide an overview of the health of seamen aboard an American warship in 1812, along with the medical treatments of the day.
Language: The material is in English
Repository: William L. Clements Library, University of Michigan
909 S. University Ave.
The University of Michigan
Ann Arbor, MI 48109-1190
Phone: 734-764-2347
Web Site:

Access and Use
Acquisition Information:

1935. M-262, M-264.

Access Restrictions:

The collection is open for research.


Copyright status is unknown

Processing Information:

Cataloging funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) and the "We the People" project.

Preferred Citation:

Amos A. Evans Collection, William L. Clements Library, The University of Michigan


Amos Alexander Evans (1785-1848), United States naval surgeon during the War of 1812, was born in Elkton, Maryland, to Mary Alexander and John Evans, owner of a foundry that supplied copper to the early American navy. Amos studied medicine under Dr. George Mitchell of Elkton, and attended lectures by Benjamin Rush in Philadelphia. He was appointed a surgeon's mate in the navy in September 1808, and his first assignment was at the New Orleans Marine Hospital. He was promoted to surgeon on April 10, 1810 and from 1812 to 1813, served on the U.S. Constitution ("Old Ironsides"), where he witnessed the defeat of the British ship La Guerrière (August 19, 1812). He was next stationed at the Charlestown, Massachusetts, navy yards, and received a medical degree from Harvard College while on shore duty, in 1814. Commodore Bainbridge appointed Evans as the first Surgeon of the Fleet in 1815, and assigned Evans to the U.S. Independence for its voyage to the Mediterranean during the Second Barbary War. Evans set up a private practice in Maryland in 1817 and resigned from the navy in 1824.

Evans married Mary Oliver (1795-1881) in 1816; they had three children, a daughter, Mary, and two sons: Alexander (1818-1888) a lawyer who served in the US House of Representatives from 1847 to 1853; and Andrew Wallace, a West Point graduate who served in the Union Army and achieved the rank of general. Amos A. Evans died at Elkton, Maryland, on January 15, 1848.

Collection Scope and Content Note

The Amos A. Evans collection is comprised of 3 volumes: a 266-page "Prescription book of the U.S. Frigate Constitution " (March 26-August 27, 1812); a 17-page "Daily Report of Cases in the Marine Barracks at the Navy Yard" at Charlestown, Massachusetts (1813); and a 33-page "Reefer's Log" written by Evan's son, Alexander Evans, during a trip from Maryland to Boston in 1833. The collection also contains 8 loose documents, located in the back of volume 1, including hospital expenditures, a medical supply inventory for the Constitution , and notes on the crew of the Independence .

Volume 1 , entitled "The Daily Prescription Book on Board the Frigate Constitution ," contains records of the daily treatments Evans prescribed for his patients, providing an overview of the health problems of seamen aboard a United States warship on the Atlantic coast during the War of 1812. Evans listed both in-patient and out-patient visits for each day, and recorded their names, complaints, diagnoses, and treatments. The most common entries relate to sexually transmitted diseases (often gonorrhea and syphilis), with diarrhea (gastroenteritis) being the next most common. Other complaints include delirium, opium overdose, epileptic convulsions and coughing up blood. In accord with the advice of Dr. Rush, Evans treated vomiting with an emetic, ipecac; diarrhea with a laxative, castor oil; and other complaints with bleeding, blistering and poultices. On average, Evans listed about 30 patient visits per day.

Evans witnessed the Constitution 's encounter with the British ship, Guerrière , on August 19, 1812, one of the first sea battles of the War of 1812. Evans described in detail the injuries and treatment of five crew members and two officers wounded during the battle (pages 255-263).

At the back of the volume are 8 loose manuscripts:

  • March 6, 1813: An inventory of medicine, instruments, and supplies for the Frigate Constitution .
  • December 10-23, 1815: Expenditures of hospital food stores, signed S.D. Townsend.
  • January 7-20, 1816: Expenditures of hospital food stores, signed by S.D. Townsend.
  • January 16, 1816: Receipt of goods for the ship Independence .
  • January 25-27, 1816: A medical report and autopsy on the treatment and death of William Oaty, who suffered as a result of the accidental discharge of a pistol.
  • [1816]: A report on damages to the Independence .
  • [1816]: Copy of accounts to George Bates for supplies for the Independence .
  • April 9, 1846: A copy of a report from Evans to Commander Christopher Morris stating that John Wentworth was wounded on board the Constitution , on August 10, 1812. Evans also described his treatment of the injury.

Volume 2 is entitled "Daily Report of the Cases in the Navy Yard at Charleston." Covering from August 7-16, 1813, and spanning 17 pages, Evans recorded his treatments for cases of syphilis, gonorrhea, other venereal diseases, drunkenness, diarrhea, dysentery, scurvy, infections, coughs, injuries, and other ailments. Evans wrote down the name, symptoms, and treatment for each patient, and gave each a case number. He sometimes noted rank and whether or not the patient was a marine.

In the back of the book is a single case history of a man who punctured his lung from fractured ribs sustained from a fall off a wagon (July 18, 1818). Despite Dr. Evan's treatment of drawing more than five pints of blood over the ensuing five days, the patient recovered and was able to walk five miles by the end of the month. By this time, Dr. Evans had returned to private practice in Elkton, Maryland.

Scattered throughout the largely-blank interior of the book are six brief entries on plant and flower classification. These notes were written in a different hand and one entry is dated 1850.

Volume 3 is a 33-page travel log, entitled "A Reefer's Log," written by Alexander Evans, and addressed to his father, Amos Evans (September 7, 1833). Alexander Evans described his trip from the family home in Maryland to Boston by steamship and buggy, with stops along the way in Delaware, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, and Rhode Island. Evans wonders at the improvements in travel: "it is no longer necessary for one who goes from city to city to make his will...what used to be an immense journey 100 years ago[,] vis. From Maryland to Boston[,] but now is no more than a hop skip and jump" (page 1). He also described architecture, terrain, and people he encountered during the journey. In Boston, several old friends of his father's showed him the navy yard and the surrounding towns. Evans reported on the layout of the Charlestown navy yard as well as the interiors of the Constitution and the Independence (pages 10-11). He also toured a paper mill and wrote about the machinery in the factory (page 19). He visited Noah Webster (page 16), attended a Harvard commencement (page 25), and listened to a Boston glee club (page 20).

Subject Terms

    • Charlestown (Boston, Mass.)
    • Charlestown Navy Yard (Mass.)
    • Constitution (Frigate)
    • Guerriere (Frigate)
    • Harvard College (1780-)
    • Hospitals, Naval and marine--United States.
    • Independence (Ship : 1814-1913)
    • Medicine, Naval.
    • Naval hygiene--United States.
    • Ship physicians.
    • Surgery, Naval.
    • United States--History--War of 1812--Naval operations.
    • United States. Navy--History--War of 1812.
    • War--Relief of sick and wounded.
    • Webster, Noah, 1758-1843.
    Genre Terms:
    • Daily reports.
    • Logs (records)
    • Medical records.
    • Prescriptions.
    • Travel documents.
    Contents List
    Container / Location Title
    Amos A. Evans collection [series]
    Volume   1  
    Prescription Book of the U.S. Frigate Constitution ,  1812-1813
    Volume   2  
    Daily Report of the Cases in the Navy Yard at Charlestown,  1813
    Volume   3  
    A Reefer's Log,  1833
    Additional Descriptive Data
    Related Materials

    The Clements Library's War of 1812 collection contains two letters from Amos Evans, stationed in New Orleans, to his parents John and Mary Alexander Evans (February 13 and June 15, 1809).

    The USS Constitution Museum in the Charlestown Navy Yard, Boston, Massachusetts, has five volumes of notes, taken by Evans during lectures of Dr. Benjamin Rush, Dr. Physick, and Dr. Jackson of Boston.

    The Library of Congress has Evans' journal from his service on board the USS Constitution during the War of 1812.

    Yale University School of Medicine has a "Prescription Book" by Evans dated August 28, 1812, to March 5, 1813.


    Kimble S. T. "Amos A. Evans MD: Father of American Naval Medicine." Maryland Medical Journal. July 1991. Vol. 40, p. 587-592.