Northumberland [VA]: April 29th 1814.
1 1/2 pp., bi-fold, pen and ink on paper, docketed on verso. 7.75 x 9.75 inches. DETERMINED ON A SEA LIFE. Old folds, toning, minor stain from seal, minor tears not affecting text, else fine. Item #308870
A former “belle of Philadelphia society,” now living in Virginia, who has been widowed and left in dire financial straits, writes to Biddle during the War of 1812, asking for his help in obtaining a naval commission for her son.
Reading in part: “I omitted answering your last favor in hopes of having it in my power to inform you of my sons succeeding in his wishes through your friendship and attention… It was some time before Sharp could visit the City oweing (sic) to the Enemy’s Ships laying in our waters… my son appears if possible more determined than ever on the Sea Life and that in a fighting way indeed I believe if he does not shortly obtain a Commission he will enter some Privateer should he obtain a warrant he will certainly pay a visit to Philadelphia & will gratefully receive any instruction & advice you may give him… Enclosed in my letter I received 50 dollars for which receive my sincere & grateful thanks… PS with the Spring returns alarms this and the neighboring Counties are in Arms the Enemy’s Ships are Scattered throughout our waters… some short time ago they came a Shore in the lower part of the County and…plundered seven or eight families of there all”
Sarah “Sally” Sharp Delany Moore (1767-1814) was the daughter of Colonel Sharp Delany, a Revolutionary War veteran and the first Collector of Customs for Philadelphia, and Margaret Robinson. Considered one of the belles of Philadelphia society, she married Major James Moore, also a Revolutionary War veteran and the son of a prominent Pennsylvania judge. The couple were known for their extravagant lifestyle which left them in debt after James Moore failed as a druggist and Philadelphia businessman. They moved to Northumberland County, Virginia around 1800, where Major Moore died in 1813. Sally fried a year later in 1814, eight months after she wrote this letter. to Charles Biddle.
Sally’s son, Sharp Delany Moore (1795-1816), received his commission as a midshipman in the US Navy, in 1814, and was assigned to the U.S.S. Ontario. Naval records report that he was “assassinated” on February 25, 1816, while serving with the Mediterranean Squadron during the Second Barbary War.
Charles Biddle (1745-1821) was the fifth child of William and Mary (Scull) Biddle. Biddle went to sea at the age of 18, eventually becoming a merchant ship captain. In January 1776, he joined Cowperthwaite’s Company of Quaker Light Infantry and served until August of that year. Biddle returned to sea and continued as a merchant ship’s captain throughout Revolution, during which time he was captured twice by the British and held as a prisoner-of-war. He married Hannah Shepard of Beaufort, North Carolina in 1778, and had ten children, the most notable of whom was Nicholas Biddle, President of the Second US Bank. In 1784, Biddle was elected to Pennsylvania’s Supreme Executive Council and later served as Vice President of the council under Benjamin Franklin. Biddle also served as prothonotary of the Philadelphia Common Pleas Court, was elected to the State Senate, was a founder of the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, a charter member of the Society of the Cincinnati, and a director of the Bank of Philadelphia. He died on April 4, 1821.
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