George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Major General William Heath, 19 May 1777

From Major General William Heath

Boston May 19, 1777.

Dear General

Saturday last the General Court Martial appointed for the Tryal of Lieut. Colonel Farrington of Colo. Putnams Regiment (charged with behaving in a scandalous and infamous manner) gave in their Judgment that He was Guilty of the Charge alledged against him & have adjudged him to be discharged from the Army—Incapable to serve in the Continental Service and ordered him to be published in the News Papers. I have approved the Judgment which has this Day been put in Execution1—Immediately upon his being discharged from his Arrest the Council ordered him under close confinement.

The Friends of Peter Pickman Frye (who is under Sentence to be Shott for Desertion) have earnestly requested a Suspension of Execution, untill they can prefer a petition to the Honble Congress and receive their Determination thereon. As this request was backed by some Gentlemen of distinction I conceived it to be my Duty to indulge them with Time to present their Petition and have suspended his Executiong to the 12th of June next. His Friends beg a pardon, the public call for his Execution; The former say he is Insane, the latter that he is more Knave than Fool. For my own part I neither ask for a pardon, or Execution, but shall strictly execute the pleasure of Congress.2

General Du Coudray arrived here the last Week from France via of the West Indies and to morrow sets out to join your Excellency. He appears to be a Gentleman of Character and Abilities. He has here near twenty other Officers who he has directed to come on after him with the Artillery. We are told that he is to command all the Artillery and Engineers in the service of the United States, and that in consequence of his having assisted in the purchasing of Military Stores &c. the last Autumn his Commission is to have an Early Date. But will this be rewarding the Labours of those who early stood forth in Defence of the Rights of their Injured Country, and are still invariably passevering at every Hazard, or is their to be more Confidence put in a Stranger than in those who are bound by every Tie—natural & political to serve their Country.3

I am forwarding on the Stores from Cambridge to Springfield, 65 Chests of fire Arms (exclusive of the 25. mentioned in my former Letter)4 about 64,000. Flints, 70 Boxes of Musquet Ball and 6 Bales of Tents are now on the Road; and all the Teams possible to be procured are now engaging. Thirty odd peices of Cannon have arrived at Cambridge, and others are on the Road, General Knox has sent Capt. Lillie of the Artillery to conduct on thirtytwo peices of the Cannon and has desired that Horses may be purchased here for them I have directed the Assistant Q.M. General to do it as soon as possible, but Capt. Lillie informs me that it will be near three weeks before the Harness and other necessary preparations can be Compleated at Springfield5—The Expences attending the removal of so many Stores creates a very great Expence and the Chest is almost Exhausted.

I must again request your Excellency’s Direction as to the provision Stores in this State which are very considerable: At sherburn there are upward of 20,000 Bushels of Salt in one Store, the Q⟨uan⟩tity of Beef, Pork Liquors Rice and Flour are great of the last Article 3 or 4000 Barrels is already arrived and Capt. Tracy Informs me that if the Vessels which he daily expects should safely arrive the Quantity of Flour will be at least 20,000 Bbls.6 These Stores must have Guards. shall I engage a Sufficient Number of Men from the Militia in each Town where the Magazines of provisions are forming to Guard them? I take the Liberty to Enclose Copy of a Testimony given by Lieut. Colo. Farrington.7 I have the Honor to be Your Excellency’s Most Obt Servt

W. Heath

LS, DLC:GW; ADF, MHi: Heath Papers. The draft includes a paragraph about officers’ pay that is struck out.

1The proceedings of the court-martial that met in Boston from 15 to 17 May to try Lt. Col. Thomas Farrington on the charge of “behaving in a Scandalous, & infamous Manner, such as is unbecoming an Officer & Gentle Man, by receiving & passing Counterfeit Money, Knowing it to be such,” is in MHi: Heath Papers. Lt. Isaac Dodge testified that Farrington had received three hundred dollars in counterfeit money from Samuel Tarbell for which Farrington was to pay Tarbell two hundred dollars in legal currency. Heath approved the court’s verdict on this date.

2On 25 May the Salem, Mass., committee of correspondence, inspection, and safety appealed to Congress to spare Frye’s life because he “is not possessed of a common share of understanding: and ... he is really incapable of committing a Crime, maliciously and with design, deserving so severe a punishment” (DNA:PCC, item 42; see also Heath to Hancock, 17 May, DNA:PCC, item 157). Congress on 20 June directed Heath to pardon Frye only if he determined beyond any reasonable doubt that Frye was “of unsound mind” and “by no means on account of his friends or connexions, who should never be considered when public justice demands vicious men to suffer” 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 , 8:483–84). Frye was pardoned in September 1777.

3The arrival in America of Philippe-Charles-Jean-Baptiste Tronson Du Coudray (1738–1777), a knowledgeable but troublesome French artillerist and engineer who had contracted with Silas Deane on 11 Sept. 1776 to become “General of Artillery and Ordnance” in the Continental army with rank as major general dating from 1 Aug. 1776, provoked a storm of protest from American officers, particularly Knox, Greene, and Sullivan, who threatened to resign their commissions if they were superseded by Du Coudray (Isham, Deane Papers description begins Charles Isham, ed. The Deane Papers. 5 vols. New York, 1887-91. In Collections of the New-York Historical Society, vols. 19–23. description ends , 1:229–32). Lacking an aristocratic lineage, Du Coudray began his career in the French army in 1760 by becoming a lieutenant in the artillery, which, unlike other branches, valued technical talent over noble birth in its officers. He was promoted to captain in 1766 and chef de brigade in September 1776. Although Du Coudray gained a reputation in France as a technical expert by publishing works on artillery, metallurgy, and saltpeter, he became equally well known for his vanity, contentiousness, and for his involvement in quarrels and controversies both inside and outside the artillery corps (see Jacques Barbeu-Dubourg to Benjamin Franklin, 10 June-2 July 1776, 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 , 22:453–71). Du Coudray’s faults soon became apparent in America, where he alienated almost everyone he met including many of his compatriots. Congress on 11 Aug. 1777 tried to reconcile Du Coudray’s demand for high rank with the protests of American officers by naming him “inspector general of ordnance and military manufacture with the rank of a major general.” His commission was not backdated, and a committee was appointed to define his powers (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 , 8:630). Du Coudray’s death by drowning on 15 Sept. 1777 at Schuylkill Ferry near Philadelphia, while on his way to GW’s army, prompted John Adams to write in his diary three days later: “This Dispensation will save Us much Altercation” (Butterfield, Adams Diary and Autobiography description begins L. H. Butterfield, ed. Diary and Autobiography of John Adams. 4 vols. Cambridge, Mass., 1961. description ends , 2:263).

5John Lillie (1753–1801), a cooper from Boston who had been a member of Capt. Adino Paddock’s artillery company before the war and a second lieutenant in Col. Richard Gridley’s regiment of Massachusetts artillery from May to December 1775, became a second lieutenant in Knox’s Continental artillery regiment on 10 Dec. 1775, and he was promoted to first lieutenant the following August. Commissioned a captain-lieutenant in the 3d Continental Artillery Regiment on 1 Jan. 1777, Lillie became a captain in August 1780, and on 1 May 1782 he was named an aide-de-camp to General Knox (see GW’s certificate to Lillie, 1 Dec. 1783, DLC:GW, and General Orders, 12 June 1782). Lillie was assistant engineer for fortifying the eastern ports from 1794 to 1795, inspector of customs at Boston from 1799 to 1800, and a captain in the 2d Artillerists and Engineers, U.S. Army, in 1801.

6Jared Tracy (1741–1790) of Norwich, Conn., served as a commissary during the siege of Boston, and in January 1777 when Congress authorized Commissary Gen. Joseph Trumbull to import flour and other provisions from the southern states, Tracy was directed to obtain ships for that purpose in New England ports and send them south (see Trumbull to Tracy, 11 Jan. 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 , 7:927–28). Tracy directed this importation effort from Boston until late summer 1777 (see Tracy to Trumbull, 6, 22 Mar., 3 July 1777, ibid., 8:37, 178, 9:210).

7This undated deposition, in which Farrington gives a rather convoluted account of his dealings with Samuel Tarbell, is at the end of the documents for May 1777 in DLC:GW, series 4.

Index Entries