August 12: Henry Lee Heiskell (1855)

After receiving his degree in medicine from the University of Pennsylvania in 1828, Henry Lee Heiskell was appointed assistant surgeon in the U.S. Army and later rose to the rank of surgeon. After serving in various stations, he was called to the City of Washington in 1840 and assigned to duty in the Medical Department, as assistant to the Surgeon-General. In this position he remained until his death, a period of fifteen years, having in that time repeatedly received the appointment of Acting Surgeon-General, and discharged all the duties of that office. To the performance of the highly responsible, and often delicate, duties devolving upon him, Surgeon Heiskell brought a clear, comprehensive, and sound judgment, and an elevated sense of honor and justice.

Through his first marriage, Heiskell became a stepfather – apparently both a loving and well loved one – to Mary Julia Baldwin. During the Civil War, Mary would become headmistress of her Staunton, Virginia alma mater, Augusta Female Seminary, then built it over many decades into the institution that bears her name today, Mary Baldwin University. Heiskell’s second wife was Elizabeth Kortright Gouverneur, granddaughter of President James Monroe. The marriage of Elizabeth’s parents was the first to be held in the White House. The youngest of Henry and Elizabeth’s children, Sydney Otho Heiskell, was baptized at Epiphany in 1853. Henry was confirmed at the church a year later, and then his burial is recorded in the parish register following his death on August 12, 1855. His obituary stated, “with a firm reliance upon the promises of the Saviour, he awaited his final orders and became a true soldier of the cross.”

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