Dear Theodosia / by Jeff Leyco

I'm obsessed with Hamilton, you guys. This is the most obsessed I've been with music in a long while--the last time I got this into music was with The Decemberists' The Hazards of Love, which is totally worth a listen (or several hundred).

I haven't even seen Lin-Manuel Miranda's musical, largely because getting tickets is nigh-impossible unless you're incredibly lucky and win the lottery, or you're made out of money. But I've had the musical on repeat for a long while now, and I've begun to let my curiosities get the best of me.

Miranda succeeds in telling a mostly factual version of Alexander Hamilton's life, with some creative liberties taken here and there. Perhaps the most notable one I can think of is the fact that Philip died in a duel in 1801 ... after the election of 1800 in which Hamilton supported Jefferson over Burr. But as all good storytellers will tell you: never let the truth get in the way of a good story.

But Hamilton was surrounded by many, many incredible characters with stories all their own. I've been drawn to reading up on the lives of other people in the story: the Marquis de Lafayette, Aaron Burr, HERCULES MULLIGAN!, and others who haven't been quite so prominent in our history books. And I think I'm going to write up some interesting tidbits I find about a lot of them in the near future.

For now, I've been particularly interested in Aaron Burr's daughter, Theodosia, subject of the wonderful penultimate Act I song, "Dear Theodosia." Burr sings of his love for his daughter. Throughout the musical, other characters question him:

If you stand for nothing, Burr, what will you fall for?

The answer, ultimately, is his daughter:

I had only one thought before the slaughter

This man will not make an orphan of my daughter

For such an important symbol in Burr's life, Theodosia doesn't get too much play in the musical itself, and isn't even mentioned in the epilogue song, "Who Lives, Who Dies, Who Tells Your Story?" It left me curious: just who was Theodosia, and whatever did happen to her after the story of Hamilton ended?

You will come of age with our young nation ...

Theodosia Burr Alston

Theodosia Burr (1783-1813) was the first-born daughter of Aaron Burr and Theodosia Bartow. Theodosia Bartow had previously been married to one James Marcus Prevost ...

Burr: She's married to a British officer.

Hamilton: Oh shit.

However, Prevost died in 1781, leaving Bartow with five children. She soon married Burr, and would later die of stomach cancer in 1794. They had four children together, but only one survived to adulthood: Theodosia, who had been named after her mother.

Theodosia, nicknamed Theo, grew up under the very unique guidance of her father:

For Aaron Burr, providing his little girl with an extraordinary education was a lifelong obsession. But Burr's desire to rear a superior woman-child went far beyond mere education. By the time she could walk, Burr had envisioned an incredible goal for her and crafted a master plan to achieve it. Every moment of her day was directed by her father to shape Theodosia into something new, radical, and monumental. He was not interested in turning out just a smart, pretty girl; a father's pride; or a husband's delight. Burr was no petty theorist. He was a passionate, egotistical visionary on scale that made the gods cringe. With his vision and his daughter's talent, Burr intended to push the envelope of mortal achievement to its absolute limit. Burr's goal was to sculpt Theodosia into a model for the woman of the future: a female Aaron Burr.

She studied arithmetic, music, and dancing, and could speak fluent French, Latin, and German, and could read Greek by 12. At 14, she was serving as hostess in Burr's country estate in present-day Greenwich Village. After her mother died, she became her father's closest confidante.

In 1801, she married Joseph Alston, an heir to a Southern rice-planting fortune, and moved south to Georgetown, South Carolina.

Things more or less went downhill from there.

I'll make a million mistakes ...

In 1802, Theo gave birth to a son, Aaron Burr Alston, but complications with the pregnancy untreatable at the time left her infertile with frequent bouts of illness. By all accounts, however, the young Aaron was perfectly healthy and Theo and Joseph loved him very much.

1804 marked the year of the famous Hamilton-Burr duel, in which, spoiler alert, Hamilton got blown away. Burr was charged with murder but later acquitted, but his political reputation was ruined. In 1806, Burr traveled west to Ohio and Theo accompanied him, where things got ... pretty weird:

There Aaron Burr met Irishman Harman Blennerhassett, and they were later joined by General James Wilkinson. These men were rumored to be planning to encourage Louisiana and other western states to secede from the Union and form a separate empire, with Burr as emperor and Theodosia as empress.

It became known as the Burr Conspiracy. Eventually, President Thomas Jefferson (yep, that guy) heard about the plan and Burr was charged with treason. He would later be acquitted, once again, but he nonetheless voluntarily exiled himself from the United States while Theodosia returned to South Carolina.

I'll make the world safe and sound for you ...

Aaron Burr Alston, Theo and Joseph's son, died of malaria in 1812. This same year, Burr returned from his self-imposed exile in Europe and settled in New York City to resume practicing law (albeit under the name "Edwards", to avoid creditors and/or awkward conversations). Not to mention, the War of 1812 had also broken out and the U.S. was once again fighting with England, among others.

It was an interesting time to be alive.

Burr convinced Theo to sail up from South Carolina to see him in New York. Joseph was reluctant to let Theo take the trip, especially with the British Navy right off the American shore. He'd also recently been elected governor of South Carolina and wouldn't be able to take the trip with her. Nonetheless, through his contacts, he secured safe passage for Theo aboard the ship Patriot, and on December 31, 1812 she set sail for New York.

The journey should have only taken a few days, but she never arrived. The ship came across the British navy on January 2 and, thanks a letter written by Joseph, was allowed to pass. It was the last time anyone saw the ship--neither Theodosia nor anyone on the crew was seen again.

Theodosia's disappearance remains a mystery today. One popular theory is that the ship was waylaid by pirates along the way. A more plausible story is that the ship fell victim to a powerful storm after passing the British fleet. Aaron Burr sent search parties out to find his daughter but recalled them after weeks of finding nothing.

Aaron Burr, himself, lived until 1836.