The Tragedy of Angelica Hamilton

On 25 September 1784, Alexander and Eliza Hamilton welcomed into the world their first daughter, Angelica, named for Eliza’s closest sister. Little Angelica was baptized four years later at Trinity Church alongside her older brother, Philip, and younger brother, Alexander Jr, on 12 October 1788. Her affection for her brothers was undoubtedly encouraged in the growing, close-knit Hamilton family, but it would lead to Angelica’s tragic downfall.

Trinity Church, New York City

Trinity Church was a familiar place to Angelica. Her mother, Eliza (Schuyler) Hamilton, made a priority of bringing her children to services, where they rented pew 92, even if her husband was often too busy to join them. Her father might not have always been at her side in church, but Angelica still had fond memories of singing and playing piano with him at home. As the first United States secretary of the treasury, Alexander was always busy, but he strived to make time for his growing family.
Alexander Hamilton

As familiar to Angelica as the bustling city of New York were the rolling fields of her grandfather’s Albany farms. Philip and Catherine Schuyler often hosted Eliza and her children when they escaped the heat of the city, leaving Alexander behind to work. Angelica was too young to be aware of her father’s more nefarious escapades. During one of her trips away from her father, Alexander wrote to Angelica to encourage her in her studies.

I was very glad to learn, my dear daughter, that you were going to begin the study of the French language. We hope you will in every respect behave in such a manner as will secure to you the good-will and regard of all those with whom you are. If you happen to displease any of them, be always ready to make a frank apology. But the best way is to act with so much politeness, good manners, and circumspection, as never to have occasion to make any apology. Your mother joins in best love to you. Adieu, my very dear daughter.

Angelica loved her family and had every reason to anticipate a bright future as the eldest daughter of the famous Alexander Hamilton. She was closest to her older brother, Philip, and her life unraveled when he participated in a duel with George Eacker on 23 November 1801. Philip was shot and died the next day.
Philip Hamilton
(some sources label this sketch as William Hamilton, which is possibly true)

His parents were grief-stricken by the loss of their 19-year-old son. Robert Troup, who was present at Philip’s deathbed, reflected, ‘Never did I see a man so completely overwhelmed with grief as Hamilton had been.’ Eliza, pregnant with their eighth child, was so delirious with grief that it was feared she might suffer a miscarriage. The son she gave birth to on 2 June 1802 was named Philip after his deceased older brother.
Angelica was 17-years-old when Philip was killed, and she never recovered from the shock and grief of the event. Her parents tried every treatment available at the time, but early nineteenth-century mental healthcare left much to be desired. Angelica lived until 1856 speaking of her brother as if he had never died.
Hamilton Grange, New York City

The Hamiltons were in the process of building The Grange when Philip died, and they moved to the home that they had planned with such optimistic future hopes shortly after his death. Visitors can still see the piano that Angelica played with her father there. Although Angelica was courting age, she did not receive suitors and never left the care of her mother as her mental health steadily declined. Her conditioned worsened when Alexander was also killed in a duel not three years after his son on 12 July 1804.
Angelica took refuge in playing her piano and speaking to her dead brother as if he were still there, while often failing to recognize other family members. She eventually required the continuous care of a doctor and was placed in the Bloomingdale Insane Asylum directed by Dr James Macdonald sometime after 1825 but before Eliza’s sale of The Grange in 1833.
Elizabeth Schuyler Hamilton

In 1837, Eliza traveled to western territory in order to visit her son, William. She wrote to her youngest son, Philip, asking him to ‘write to me and let me know how Angelica is.’ Philip had either agreed to visit his sister at the asylum during their mother’s absence or Angelica was being cared for in Philip’s home. Angelica died on 6 February 1857, but her life had truly ended with her brother’s long before. Her sister, Eliza, said of Angelica’s eminent death, ‘Poor sister, what a happy release will be hers. Lost to herself a half century!!’
Additional reading:
Alexander Hamilton by Ron Chernow
Reminiscences of James A Hamilton by James Hamilton
The Intimate Life of Alexander Hamilton by Allan McLane Hamilton
Coming in 2022: 
Women of the American Revolution by Samantha Wilcoxson