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Benjamin Rush Portal: The Revolutionary War

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Rush Revolutionary War Timeline

  • January 10, 1776: Common Sense by Thomas Paine is published (Rush edited the pamphlet and arranged for its publication).
  • January 11, 1776: Rush marries Julia Stockton.
  • June 23, 1776: Rush finishes writing Pennsylvania's Declaration of Independence.
  • July 20, 1776: Rush voted into the Continental Congress.
  • August 2, 1776: Rush signs the Declaration of Independence for Pennsylvania; his father-in-law Richard Stockton signs for New Jersey.
  • September 1776: Rush is appointed to the Medical Committee of the Continental Congress.
  • December 12, 1776: Congress adjourns as British troops get too close to Philadelphia; Rush sends his wife to safety in Maryland, and joins Pennsylvania troops along Delaware.
  • December 24, 1776: On his 31st birthday, Rush visits General Washington at his camp.
  • December 26, 1776: Rush renders medical attention to wounded soldiers of The Battle of Trenton.
  • January 1777: Rush renders medical attention to wounded soldiers of The Battle of Princeton.
  • March 1777: Rush is voted out of the Continental Congress.
  • April 1777: Congress immediately appoints him Surgeon General of the Middle Department for George Washington’s troops.
  • April 22, 1777: Rush publishes his landmark essay, “Directions for Preserving the Health of Soldiers”.
  • July 1777: Rush's Son, John Rush is born.
  • October 1777: Rush tends to the wounded of the Battle of Brandywine and Germantown.
  • January 1778: Rush resigns from military service in protest of the way patients are being treated in hospitals.
  • January 12, 1778: Rush writes the infamous letter to Patrick Henry, ruining his relationship with Washington.


Washington V. Smallpox

Washington was not only fighting against the British. He was also fighting against an invisible enemy: smallpox.

Washington was quarantining his army who had the virus, but the British army wasn't as exposed to smallpox in Britain as much as Washington's army in America. They thought they were going to lose because everyone was getting sick. Washington initially said he was going to quarantine people and NOT inoculate them. But he changed his mind. Thanks to Rush, who wrote to Washington on February 13, 1777, on behalf of the Medical Committee, Washington decided to inoculate his soldiers.

But there were risks: if someone had smallpox, there was a 1 and 3 chance this soldier would die. If someone was inoculated and passed it along to other soldiers, his whole army would die.

But he took a chance, changed course, and took the risk in order to have the chance to fight for freedom.

‚óŹ  To George Washington from the Continental Congress Medical Committee, 13 February 1777


Benjamin Rush's Challenging Friendship with George Washington

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