George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Major General William Heath, 23 April 1777

From Major General William Heath

Boston April 23rd 1777

Dear General

I most Heartily Congratulate Your Excellency on the Safe arrival of the ship Amphitrite, at Portsmouth from L’Orient in France, with a most Vallueable Cargo for the United States Manifest of which will be Handed to you by mr Champney the Express.1

I am Pushing off the Troops with all Possible dispatch to the Places of Destination, A Second Detachment from Colo. Cranes Battalion of artillery march to morrow morning to Joyn your Excellency, (about 60 fine fellows).

We Swarm with French Officers at this Place, Two arrived in the Ship on Sunday at this Place They are much Superior to any that I have as yet Seen, One is an Engineer The other a Captain of Cavalry, They are Gentlemen of Education, Sense and Genius, The Captain has with him Two Treatises on the Discipline and management of the Horse, written by himself, and much Approved by all the Generals in the French Service, He has Letters to Congress, to your Excellency, and to Some Private Gentlemen from Dr Franklin & Mr Dean, who have wrote to have the officers forwarded wherever they may arrive, which will be done as Soon as Possible.2

I think the Cannon & Stores lately arrived should be Immediately moved forward to Some place more Centerical to the Seat of war than the State of New Hampshire.

Two Frigates are Cruzing in our Bay Ours are talking of Puting to Sea.3 I have the Honor to be your Excellencys most Hbble Servt

W. Heath

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

1Richard Champney also brought GW a brief letter of 22 April from John Langdon, the Continental agent at Portsmouth, N.H., informing GW of the Amphitrite’s arrival at that port “with Brass Field Peices, Small Arms, Tents, Flints, Cloathing &c.” and that he “had not time to get the Manifest translated.” The Amphitrite, one of several ships fitted out by Pierre-Augustin Caron de Beaumarchais, the French playwright who was supplying secret military aid to the Americans, sailed from L’Orient on 24 Jan. 1777 and arrived at Portsmouth on 20 April. The manifest that Champney carried to GW has not been identified, but see the “Invoice of Ammunition, Artillery and other Stores on board the ship Amphitrite, Captain Fautrel,” that Beaumarchais enclosed in his letter to Congress of 28 Feb. 1777, in Naval Documents description begins William Bell Clark et al., eds. Naval Documents of the American Revolution. 11 vols. to date. Washington, D.C., 1964—. description ends , 8:622–23, n.2. The cargo included “52 Pieces of Brass Cannon with all the Apparatus, 6132 Stand of Arms, 255,000 Gun Flints, 925 Tents, 21 Bales and one Case Cloths, Serges, Linnens &c. Five Bales Blankets, 62 Packages of Tin Plates, a large Quantity of Iron and Lead Balls, Intrenching Tools, Granadoes, 1029 bls. of Powder, &c.” Coming as passengers aboard the Amphitrite were “22 commissioned Officers of the Train, &c. Also a Number of Workmen and Artificers” (Freeman’s Journal, or New-Hampshire Gazette [Portsmouth], 26 April).

Richard Champney (c.1735–1810), a merchant in Portsmouth, N.H., was appointed a coroner for Rockingham County by the general assembly on 22 Nov. 1777.

2Augustin Mottin de La Balme (1736–1780), a French cavalry officer noted for his abilities in training horses and riders, had arrived at Boston three days earlier on the Dutchess of Mortimer, accompanied by three other officers: Victor Ruault (born c.1772), Pierre Miribat (born c.1744), and Jean Ducasse (born c.1755; see Lasseray, Les Français sous les treize étoiles; 2:331). La Balme’s letters of introduction included one to GW from Silas Deane dated 17 Oct. 1776 at Paris, in which Deane says that La Balme was “long a Captain in the Cavalry of the Armies of this Kingdom . . . & having made the business his Study has wrote on it to the approbation of the Public here, he now Voluntarily offers his service to America, and is content with such employ, & respect, as his knowledge, & services, on experience, of him, shall be found deserving of” (DNA:PCC, item 152; see also Deane to Hancock and to the Secret Committee of Congress, both 17 Oct. 1776, DNA:PCC, item 103, and Benjamin Franklin to Hancock, 20 Jan. 1777, DNA:PCC, item 82).

La Balme entered the Gendarmerie, an elite corps of the French cavalry, in 1757 and spent most of his career supervising riding schools. Appointed quartermaster with the rank of captain of cavalry in 1765, he was promoted to quartermaster major the following year and retired from French service in 1773 as maréchal de logis. His two treatises were: Essais sur l’équitation, ou principes raisonnés sur l’art de monter et de dresser les chevaux (1773) and Eléments de tactique pour la cavalerie (1776). Congress appointed La Balme a lieutenant colonel of cavalry on 26 May 1777, and on 8 July it named him inspector general of the cavalry with the rank and pay of colonel (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 , 8:385, 539). Offended when Congress on 15 Sept. 1777 named Pulaski as brigadier general of the American cavalry rather than him, La Balme submitted his resignation on 3 Oct., and Congress accepted it eight days later (see Mottin de La Balme to Congress, 3 Oct. 1777, DNA:PCC, item 41, and ibid., 9:797). Although Congress on 13 Feb. 1778 settled his accounts and informed him that it had no further need of his services, La Balme remained in America (see ibid., 10:157). In 1778 he unsuccessfully tried to raise a cavalry unit of foreign volunteers in Pennsylvania, and in 1779 he participated in an American mission to the Indians in Maine that was aborted by the British incursion at Penobscot Bay. La Balme in 1780 went to the Illinois Country, where he raised a force of about eighty French inhabitants and Indians and marched against the British garrison at Detroit. La Balme was killed on 5 Nov. 1780 when a party of Miami Indians surprised his camp near present-day Fort Wayne, Ind., and killed or captured all of his men.

3In the draft Heath originally wrote: “Ours are going to put to Sea in Quest of them.” He then changed the sentence to read as it does in the text of the ALS.

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