George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Major General William Heath, 1 April 1777

From Major General William Heath

Boston April 1st 1777

Dear General

This will be handed to your Excellency by Monsieur Mauduit de Plesis, who lately arrived here with the French General De Borre—He has represented to the Council of this State, that he is charged with Dispatches to the Honble Congress—The Council have desired me to assist & forward him.1

I take the Liberty to enclose Copy of a Letter from Col. Wayne dated at Ticonderoga the 25th of March 1777, to the Council of this State, by which it appears the Garrison there is very weak—Cols. Marshall’s[,] Bradford’s, Brewer’s & Francis’s Regiments who had received marching Orders from the Council or General Ward before my Arrival in this State, & had partly marched, are those mentioned to have arrived so badly Officer’d2—Col. Marshall informed me that his Orders were to march when Two Thirds of his Regiment were gone—By his last Return he had Inlisted 403–362 of whom have march’d—Col. Francis has returned 503 including Officers; upwards of 400 of whom have marched—The number enlisted or marched, in Cols. Bradford’s & Brewer’s, I cannot ascertain—A Return is made of about 300 who have march’d from the Two—but I think a larger number have since marched.

The Orders which I have given to the other Regiments are to march their men under a Field Officer & other proper Officers, in proportion to their numbers and I have given express orders for the Field Officers of the Four Regiments before mentioned, to join their Regiments immediately—The first division of Col. Greaton’s Regiment marches for Peeks-kill to morrow morning, including all who are equip’d—A Division of Col. Nixon’s & Patterson’s will also march this Week—the want of arms causes the Delay—A part of those lately arrived at Portsmouth, are expected here this day—I shall arm such Troops as are otherwise ready, & forward them with the utmost Expedition, to the places of their Destination. Part of Cols. Wesson’s, Bailey’s & Jackson’s will march as soon as armed to Ticonderoga, as will part of Shepard’s & Wigglesworth’s to Peeks-kill—I this moment hear that, 4000 arms are arrived. I have the honor to be Very respectfully Your Excellency’s most humble Servt

W. Heath

P.S. Upon receiving your Excellency’s last, I wrote to General Poor, to forward the New-Hampshire Regiments, which I am informed are in great forwardness, with the utmost Expedition to Ticonderoga.3


LS, DLC:GW; ADfS, MHi: Heath Papers.

1Thomas-Antoine, chevalier de Mauduit Du Plessis (1753–1791), a French artillery lieutenant recommended by Benjamin Franklin, sailed from Nantes on 5 Feb. 1777 on the Mercure and arrived at Portsmouth, N.H., on 17 Mar. (see Du Plessis to Franklin, c.11 Jan. 1777, in Franklin Papers description begins William B. Willcox et al., eds. The Papers of Benjamin Franklin. 40 vols. to date. New Haven, 1959—. description ends , 23:154–55). GW on 12 April wrote Hancock: “Having seen a letter, from Doctor Franklin, and many other credentials, in favor of Monsr Le Chevalier Du-Plessis, he appears to me to be a person worthy of the notice and encouragement of Congress. He has served in the French Artillery, and, both his inclination and qualifications, make it proper he should have an appointment in ours. There are some vacancies in the Artillery for Captains, one of which may be offered him as a beginning. The superior ranks are all completed” (LS, DNA:PCC, item 152).

Congress read and accepted GW’s recommendation on 15 April (see JCC description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds. Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774-1789. 34 vols. Washington, D.C., 1904–37. description ends , 7:268, 269), and the young Frenchman soon became a volunteer captain on General Knox’s staff (see GW to Du Coudray, 13 July 1777, DLC:GW). Du Plessis distinguished himself during the Philadelphia campaign later this year, fighting well in the battles of Brandywine and Germantown and playing an important role in the defense of Fort Mercer where he served as both engineer and artillery commandant. At GW’s urging Congress on 19 Jan. 1778 brevetted Du Plessis a lieutenant colonel, dating his rank from 26 Nov. 1777 (GW to Henry Laurens, 13 Jan. 1778, DNA:PCC, item 152, and JCC description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds. Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774-1789. 34 vols. Washington, D.C., 1904–37. description ends , 10:64). On 5 Nov. 1778 Congress permitted Du Plessis to go home to reenter French service (see ibid., 12:1104–5, and GW to Laurens, 21 Oct. 1778, NcD: Francis Warrington Dawson Papers). Sailing with Lafayette, Du Plessis reached France in March 1779, and in June he was appointed a captain in the Metz Regiment of artillery. In 1780 Du Plessis returned to America with Rochambeau’s army as senior adjutant of the artillery park. He participated in the Battle of Yorktown in 1781 and remained in America until Rochambeau’s army departed in 1783. Named colonel of the Port-au-Prince Regiment in 1788, Du Plessis later served in Saint Domingue, where in 1791 he was killed during a revolt by his troops.

2Anthony Wayne writes: “A party of Cochnawaga Indians under the Command of Capt. McCoy [Samuel Mckay] of the British Forces—have killed several of our People—and taken Captain [Alexander] Baldwin with twenty one men Prisoners, at a place called Sabbath day point, on the 20th Instant—by which means the Enemy, who are now all collected at Montreal, Chamelle [Chambly], St Johns, and their Vicinity, will be but too soon Informed of the Debilitated State of this Garrison—which at present does not consist of more than twelve hundred Men, Sick & Well—Officers included, Four hundred of which are a Militia from Berkshire, and Hampshire in your State—whose times expires in ten days—but this in Confidence.

“It’s the Opinion of those who are best acquainted with the Lake Champlain that it will be navigable in the course of two, or three Weeks at farthest—so that we have every Reason to expect the Enemy here in full force as soon as that Happens, being ready prepared for the purpose.

“It is my duty therefore to Request you in the most pressing manner—to use every possible means in pushing on the Troops—properly equip’d—near one half of those who have arrived are destitute of Arms, & Accoutrements, and sent on without any Officers except a few Subalterns—for Gods Sake rouze your Field, & other Officers from their Lethargy[.] Its their duty to be on the Spot in order to Manœuvre their people, and to give them some Idea of Discipline previous to their entering into Action” (DLC:GW).

3See GW to Heath, 13 Mar., and Heath to Enoch Poor, 28 Mar., MHi: Heath Papers.

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