Malignant Fever

George Washington and Rush

Though Benjamin Rush had a contentious relationship with George Washington at times, he was a surgeon general of the Continental Army during the American Revolution, and the two worked together on various matters during their lives. On January 12, 1778, George Washington wrote to Benjamin Rush from Valley Forge in response to an earlier letter from Rush discussing problems with the medical department of the Continental Army. Washington states that he is considering having the hospitals inspected and establishing regulations for them. The two worked together on several projects over the years. 

Just two years prior to the 1793 outbreak of Yellow Fever in Philadelphia, Washington’s grandson had fallen ill due to a different “malignant fever” spreading through the city, as Benjamin Rush wrote to his wife Julia on July 16, 1791. Rush was not the attending physician for Washington’s grandson, yet the case revealed the seriousness of such fevers and the vulnerability of people of all walks of life. That reality would be further underscored when yellow fever broke out in 1793 – the first yellow fever epidemic to hit Philadelphia in thirty years.

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