David Hosack Hears Shots Fired

David Hosack Hears Shots Fired

David Hosack was the doctor who attended to Alexander Hamilton after he was shot by Aaron Burr.

Hosack went on to do SO MUCH MORE with his life.

PS- This is the last article surrounding The Duel for a long time, I promise.

The Duel

Over the past two days, we’ve discussed the two men who were present to see the duel of Aaron Burr and Alexander Hamilton.

Today, we will close out our duel-related discussions with David Hosack, the third man who attended the engagement. Though Hosack didn’t see the duel, he certainly heard it.

Dr. David Hosack was the Physician who attended to care for any man who was wounded. As they say in the Broadway play Hamilton, ‘the doctor turned around so he could have deniability.’ This was, in fact, how duels worked back then and explains why Hosack only encountered the audio portion of events (though according to Hosack’s account, he stayed out on the edge of the woods until he heard the shots).

David Hosack

Before the duel, David Hosack had established himself as one of the preeminent Physicians in New York City.

Hosack had studied medicine throughout several Mid-Atlantic States, most notably with Dr. Richard Bayley (even getting struck in the head with a rock defending their laboratory during the NYC Doctors Riots).

David had a strange path, as he received his medical degree in the United States before traveling to Europe. Most American doctors went to Europe first, if they went at all.

Upon his return, Hosack started his practice while simultaneously working to advance medical education. He lectured at several universities and made attempts to start his own school.

Hamilton Family Doctor

This is the situation Dr. Hosack found himself in when called to supervise the duel.

David had been the Hamilton Family’s physician for some time already, previously working on Hamilton’s son, Philip, after he was wounded in an earlier duel with George Eacker. He had also been friendly with Aaron Burr for quite some time, which made him the perfect candidate to be the nurse on site.

Hosack was the man to whom Hamilton said, ‘this is a mortal wound, Doctor.’

He then sailed across the Hudson River on a small row boat, keeping Hamilton alive long enough to say goodbye to his wife.

Elgin Botanic Garden

Though this would be a nice place to end David Hosack’s story, the truth is he went on to live another thirty years.

In that time, Hosack contributed an extraordinary amount to New York City. He continued to educate about medicine, but also to other intellectual and scientific pursuits.

Most notably, he founded the Elgin Botanic Garden, the first botanical garden in the nation. Additionally, he was a founding member and president of the New York Historical Society. Hosack was also known for his weekly dinners which had some of the brightest minds in the city come for good food and conversation.


Interestingly, David used his accumulated wealth to patronize local artists. Perhaps the most astounding of these was Samuel Morse, who would later use these funds to survive while he was inventing the telegraph.

In 1835, the Great Fire of New York came through the city. Many lives were destroyed. David Hosack lost most of his property. The value of this property would (in today’s money) be work just under eight million dollars!

Dr. Hosack would suffer a fatal stroke and pass away just one week later.

To continue reading about Revolutionary Doctors, check out my articles on Nathaniel Scudder, James Tilton and Nathan Brownson.

If you’d like to learn more about the extraordinary life of Dr. David Hosack, pick up a copy of ‘American Eden’ through the Amazon affiliate link below.

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