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Recollections of an old Soldier: A seaman’s Near-death experience

It is late autumn, 1762…

While I was on board that vessel, it appears to me that I died—that I went through the excruciating pains of the separating of soul and body, as completely as ever I shall again, (and such a separation must soon take place) and that I was immediately conveyed to the gate of Heaven, and was going to pass in; but was told by one, that I could not enter then, but in process of time, if I would behave as he directed, on the set time I should have admittance. It appeared to me that my feet stood on a firm foundation, and that I stood there for the space of about a half hour. In this time there appeared to be a continual flowing up of people, as we suppose they die; and none stopped, but all passed off, one way or the other. Just at my left hand, there appeared to be the opening of a great gulph, and the greater part of the grown people seemed to pass off there.

Once in a while one passed through the gate into the Holy City. One person appeared, with whom I had been intimately acquainted, and it appeared to me that I knew him as well as ever I did: it was Dr. Matthews—[and whether I saw him or not, he died, as I afterwards learned, while I was sick on board the ship].

The one that talked with me, told me about the Revolutionary War, and showed me the British vessels in the harbor of Boston, as plainly as I saw them when they came. And during the first year of that war, I was down there in Gen. Putnam’s regiment, and I went on Roxbury hill to see the shipping in the harbor, and they looked exactly as they had been shown to me many years before. This transition (as I firmly believe) from life to death, and from death to life, which took place nearly sixty years ago, is as fresh in my mind now as it was then; and not many days have passed from that time to this, which have not brought the interesting scenes I then witnessed, clearly to view in my mind.  But I never dared to say any thing about it, for a great many years afterwards, for fear of being ridiculed. 

About the [last of February or first of January, 1763], peace was declared between England, France and Spain, and the people rejoiced exceedingly on account of it. I told them we should have another war soon. They asked me why I thought so. I told them the British had settled peace with their foreign enemies, but they could not long live in peace, and they would come against us next. 

I never told my own wife, nor any other person, of what happened to me on board the vessel, as above related, for nearly thirty years afterwards, when a great deal was said in the neighborhood where I lived, about one Polly Davis of Grantham, N.H., who was taken very sick, so that no one thought she could live long, and many times the people thought she was dying. In one of these turns she had a dream or vision, by which she was assured that, on a stated Sunday, she should be healed, and go to meeting the same day. On the Saturday night, previous to the time appointed, many people stood round her bed, expecting every moment that she would breathe her last: but when the hour she had mentioned arrived, she rose from her bed, and said she was well: and Captain Robert Scott carried her some distance to meeting, behind him on horseback, the same day she recovered. There was so much talk about it, that I ventured to tell my experience as before described, and have since told it to a great many people; and some believe it, and others do not.

Extract from Recollections From an old Soldier: The Life of Captain David Perry (1741 – 1826)

 

 
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