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Angel of Andersonville : Prince of Tahiti : the extraordinary life of Dorence Atwater

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Atwater, Dorence 1845-1910

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The two of them wrote reports which can to this day be found with what is known as The Atwater List. It is still available through the Andersonville National Historic Site. Upon return to Washington D. They were breaking their contract, and the year-old was not going to let them profit by selling news of death to already mourning families. They tore his hotel room apart and looked everywhere they could think, except the one place his father had taught him to hide things—in plain sight.

Dorence had hid the List at the house of Clara Barton. The head of the clique gave Dorence a choice to either tell them where the List was or be courtmartialed. Upon telling them he needed further consultation to decide, they stepped in front of the door, put Dorence in ankle chains and marched him through town to be taken to Old Capitol , a prison which housed the worst criminals. Atwater was placed under arrest and immediately taken to be court martialed. He was given twenty minutes, no defense, a dishonorable discharge , and a march in shackles through the streets of Washington.

Dorence Atwater - Wikipedia

The penalty for refusing to reveal the location of the true List amounted to a life sentence. Clara Barton, knowing very well Dorence would not be able to last even a month, once again arrived at Dorence's aid. She consulted with President Andrew Johnson. Suddenly, Dorence had a general pardon. Later when Johnson realized Atwater's intelligence and will to stand up for what he believed was right, Dorence found himself training to be the U.

Consul to the Seychelles Islands. Dorence went to Hartford with Clara to say goodbye to the many friends he had there. People who had been in the Seychelles assured him the weather there would be good for his health. Unfortunately, the weather did not end up helping.

Clara Barton

The Seychelles were almost constantly rainy. While working as Consul in the Seychelles, Dorence received a rare invitation to India to be an honored guest of the prince. Dorence was gaining influence in his world.

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He sailed the Indian Ocean on a whaler and was met by the year-old prince. An extended visit did wonders for Dorence's health and he met many fascinating people. After three years, Dorence was sent to be Consul to Tahiti. It was love at first sight, both for him and the people of the Society Islands.


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He earned praise for his work, he made friends easily, and he loved working with the lepers. Few people at this time understood how difficult it was to catch the disease. They were married in , and brought joy to the islands with their senses of humor, entrepreneurship, and care of the less fortunate. The Atwaters had a home in San Francisco as well as in Tahiti.

Unfortunately, their San Francisco house stood on Market Street and while they were vacationing in Mexico , the great earthquake of occurred. In order to create a firebreak, Market Street had to be demolished by explosives and with it, the Atwater home. In their house was the original Death List, the one Dorence had copied at the risk of his young life. It never occurred to him that the Smithsonian or Andersonville itself would one day dearly love to display his hard work. Through the years, Dorence had done his mission with the List, established a shipping line, pearl fishery, and worked with the poor and sick all while suffering bouts of illness and severe asthma attacks.