Decision Activity: Dr. William Leddel
Morristown, NJ, Winter 1779
I am the son of William Leddel, a French naval surgeon who settled in Elizabethtown, New Jersey, born in 1747. Upon my father’s death in 1766, I (William Jr.), moved to Mendham, New Jersey and apprenticed myself to Dr. Ebenezer Blachy. I established myself as a physician and practiced in Mendham for the remainder of my life.
I chose to be active in military matters, serving as a lieutenant in the Morris County Troop of Light Horse during the Revolution. I participated in the Battles of Connecticut Farms (Elizabeth) and Springfield and in the retreat of George Washington from New York.
I married Phoebe Wick, the daughter of Henry Wick, in 1770 and we settled at Washington Corner on a part of the Wick tract in Mendham. It was here that we raised our five children: Mary (1774-1780), Henry (1776-1799), Tempe (1779-1810), Eliza (1781-1803), and John (ca.1784-1865).
I also used my medical skills to tend to Washington’s troops during their stay in Morristown in the winter of 1779-1780. Later, I was a major in the forces that put down the Whiskey Rebellion of 1794 and served as a captain of the cavalry during the War of 1812.
I served two terms as Morris County’s sheriff from 1783-1785 and tried cases before the Justices of the Peace.
Decision Activity 1:
The Leddel family had a lot to lose in this fight. He was a well-established doctor in the prosperous colony of East Jersey and living on a large property in Mendham with three young children. During the war, they faced many risks to their lives and property. When Dr. Leddel provided medical care to General Washington’s army during their retreat through Morristown, the conflict was brought to the doorstep of their home.
1. Should Dr. William Leddel join the Continental Army in 1776?
2. Should Dr. Leddel join as a foot soldier, medical doctor, or in another capacity?
3. Should his wife, Phoebe, encourage him to remain at home in Mendham or to join the Continental Army?
Decision Activity 2:
Dr. Leddel’s father left France during a time of conflict, high taxes, and economic difficulty. As the son of immigrants who came to New Jersey in search of a better life, how might his family’s story have influenced his decision to support the ideals of the American Revolution?
1.During the winter of 1779, Tempe was born and her five year old sister, Mary, was ill. General Washington’s troops, his entire army of about 13,000 troops, are at Jockey Hollow and in need of medical care. Should Dr. Leddel leave his family and provide care for the soldiers?
2. What are some possible challenges the Leddel family faced, as a family from France, when they moved to New Jersey? Write a few sentences about the possible challenges they faced, especially during the years of the French and Indian War.
3. How did the events of the French and Indian War impact the urgency of the decision? How could the relationships and attitudes change between the colonists and England deteriorate so quickly? How should Dr. Leddel and his family handle the impact of prejudice against colonists of French heritage?
4. Explain the implications or consequences for the Leddel family. How were they impacted socially, economically, professionally and politically?
Talking point and Comparison of modern conflicts (Writing Prompt):
Dr. Leddel and his family risked everything in his decision to support the American Revolution. The Wick family, he married into, was a leading family in Morris County. This made for a very contentious debate within the family. His wife, Phoebe’s sister supported the Loyalists. In 1780, after the death of Tempe’s father, her mother became seriously ill and asked Tempe to get Dr. Leddel to care for her. How did the Revolution bring conflict within families and how do you think families dealt with these divided positions of support? Were they able to trust each other?
Wick House – Henry Wick built this Cape Cod Style house around 1750. His 1,400 acre farm, most of which was covered by forest, made him the largest landowner in Morristown. Henry Wick’s trees attracted Washington’s army to the area as a winter encampment site because they needed logs to build cabins for shelter and wood to burn for heating and cooking. During the winter of 1779-1780 the army chopped down over 600 acres of his trees on Mr. Wick’s property and more on the neighbor’s property. Additionally, Major General Arthur St. Clair, commander of 2,000 Pennsylvania soldiers, made his quarters in Mr. Wick’s home for the winter. Today the house is furnished to portray its use as a general’s headquarters.