Sir:Knox sent this letter with three guineas (a coin used mostly by gentlemen) “To Doctor White of the King’s Hospital, Boston.” He sent a similar letter with five guineas “To Doctor Peterson of the ship ‘Captain’ and Surgeon to his Excellency Admiral [John] Montague, Boston.”
The mariner, when the danger is past, looks back with pleasure and surprize on the quicksands and rocks he has escaped, and if perchance it was owing to the skillfulness of the pilot or great activity of some brother seaman on board, the first ebullitions of his gratitude are violent but afterwards settle to a firm respect and esteem for the means of his existence. So, Sir, gratitude obliges me to tender you my most sincere thanks for the attention and care you took of me in a late unlucky accident.
The readiness with which you attended, your skill to observe and humanity in executing, are written upon my heart in indelible characters. Believe me, Sir, while memory faithfully performs her office the name of Doct. White will be retained with the most pleasing sensations. Accept then, Sir, the annex’d as the smallest token of respect from him who is with the greatest pleasure your much obliged and most obd’t H’ble Servant,
It appears that the “late unhappy accident” Knox alluded to was when he blew off some fingers on his left hand while hunting birds on a Boston harbor island on 24 July 1773, according to his earliest biographer. Gen. Henry Burbeck recalled the event this way: “the fusee accidentally bursting in his hand occasioned the loss I think of two or three of his fingers and otherwise mutilating his hand.” (This is of course a widely published example of a gun accident in the founding era.)
It’s notable that the two doctors who attended Knox were attached to the British military. The “King’s Hospital” had been set up to treat the soldiers at Castle William, and Peterson arrived with the navy. Those men may simply have been the nearest physicians, but Knox sought care from British military surgeons instead of the town’s notable Whig doctors. As I’ve written before, I think contemporaneous evidence shows Knox trying to find middle ground in pre-war politics rather than, as later biographers said, being a well-known Whig.