George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Major General William Heath, 7 June 1777

From Major General William Heath

Boston June 7th 1777.

Dear General

I have just received the enclosed Line from Cohoss, from the Revd Doctr Langdon of Cambridge. It was wrote to the Doctr by Colo. Hurd of the Militia who lives at Haverhill, in the State of New Hampshire, about 150–Miles from St Johns. The Doctr informs me that he is a Man of Veracity and thinks the Account may be depended on; if so little is to be feared from that Quarter.1

One of our State, Armed, Vessels has lately taken2 a Transport with Eighty four Hessians on board, bound for Quebec, and have sent her into a port at the Eastward, from whence we expect her the first fair Wind. About 1500. Hessians are coming out in the whole, part destined to Quebec & part to New York. I doubt not, but many more will fall into our Hands. A valuable prize is sent into Salem laden with dry Goods, among which are large number of Blankets, an Article much wanted.3

I am sending on the Cannon, Stores &c. to Springfield as fast as Teams can be provided.4 inclosed is a Return of what has already gone on.5 At the Time I requested of Your Excellency that Six peices of Cannon might be left here, I mentioned the same to the Board of War & Ordnance, to whom I then sent Returns of the Stores. They wrote me that Six peices might be detained, and that I must acquaint your Excellency therewith. But your Excellency having been pleased to signify your pleasure in your last on that Head, with such weighty reasons against it that I shall send them all on, the moment the Teams are ready.6 The Assistant Q.M.G. has purchased 50. or 60. Horses to take the Cannon directly on to the Field, by which a Considerable Expence will be saved in the transporting of them. But the Expence of purchasing the Horses is considerable, and our Chest is now intirely exhausted, and without a speedy supply the Service will suffer greatly. I have been obliged to pay a number of the Regiments a part of their pay, as they were in great want. Our Troops continue to march off pretty briskly, both to Ticonderoga and Peckskill. Upon Try⟨al⟩ we find the late Rout to Peckskill by the way of Kenderhook or Claverac⟨k⟩ much further, and more inconvenient than the former one, by Litchfield. Shall I order the Troops in future that way or continue the late rout?

I have applied to the Assembly for the necessary Guards for the Stores and in order to render them still more Secure, I have requested of them, in case of an Alarm, Insurrection or Invasion, to Assign a certain Number of the Militia, which I have mentioned, to each, as their alarm Post instead of repairing to any other Quarter, by which means, any preconcerted plan may be defeated,7 this is now before the Assembly, & I am informed will be adopted: They also discover a disposition first to compleat the Continental Regiments agreeable to your recommendation.

The Cartridge Boxes which have been commonly made for the Army are made of the most miserable Materials, and in case of Storms commonly serve only to waste the ammunition which is carried in them. Colo. Lee who undoubtedly may be called a Martinet in Military matters is desirous that the Boxes for the Three Regiments which are to be posted Here, may be made of better Leather. He has brought me a sample; the first Expence will be considerably more than that of the present modle, but in a long run they will be much the cheapest as they will, with proper care last the War, whilst the other will scarcely last one Campaign, I would beg your Excellencys Opinion.

Capt. Sullivan who was detained in Canada for some time as a Hostage has applied to me for some pay. He tells me that your Excellency informed his Brother (General Sullivan) upon an application to you that the Officers on parole were not to be continued in pay but that the Hostages were; That they must not engage in any Business, but be ready to return on the Shortest notice, I beg to be informed in this matter, as to Capt. Sullivan.8 I have the Honor to be with great Respect Your Excellency’s Most Obt Servant

W. Heath

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

1The enclosed letter from John Hurd to Samuel Langdon has not been identified. John Hurd (1727–1809), colonel of the Coos Regiment of the New Hampshire militia, served in the New Hampshire provincial congress in 1775, and in January 1776 he was elected a member of the provincial council. Hurd moved to Exeter, N.H., in late 1777, and by 1779 he was living in Boston, where he became keeper of the public storehouse.

2The draft reads: “Our Privateers have lately taken.”

3The Massachusetts navy brigs Tyrannicide and Massachusetts on 22 April captured the British transport Favorite, which was bound from Portsmouth, England, to New York with 63 Hessian chasseurs on board, and on 27 April they captured the snow Sally, which was sailing from London to Quebec with various European goods, including three to four thousand blankets. The brig Trespassy, which was sailing from Topsham, England, to Newfoundland with a cargo of salt and other goods, was captured by the two Massachusetts warships on 30 April (see the journal of the Massachusetts, 22, 30 April 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 , 8:787, 803; Jonathan Haraden to the Massachusetts Board of War, 27 April, 1 May 1777, ibid., 796, 806; and the Boston-Gazette, and Country Journal, 9 June 1777).

4The draft reads: “Procured.”

5This return has not been identified.

6See Heath to GW, 11 May, Heath to the Board of War, 11 May, MHi: Heath Papers, and GW to Heath, 23 May.

7See Heath to the Massachusetts General Court, 30 May, and Heath to the Massachusetts council, 31 May, 5 June, MHi: Heath Papers.

8Ebenezer Sullivan (1753–1799), who had been commissioned a captain in Col. James Scammon’s Massachusetts Regiment in May 1775 and a captain in the 15th Continental Regiment on 1 Jan. 1776, was captured at the Cedars in May 1776, and he was one of the several hostages sent to Montreal to secure the parole of the other Americans who were taken prisoner there. Sullivan was paroled in March 1777. On 6 June he wrote his brother John Sullivan from Boston: “I have made sundry applications to the General Court of this state, to consider my Losses; but all to no purpose. I this day applied to Genl Heath for a Warrant for my wages, but he declined giving any after March last: he says he’ll immediately write Gen. Washington, which I suppose will reach him about the time you receive this. Whether my wages are to go on or not pray be so kind to see his Excellency upon the matter—The losses I sustained, together with being deprived of liberty to engage into any business has all ready rendered my Circumstances much worse than I think my services merited. I pray they may not be made worse. You’ll be kind enough to see his Excellency on the matter & write me by the Post; as will his Excellency Genl Heath. I ardently wish to be in the service of my Country while there is something to be done. Pray use yr influence with his Excellency to hasten my redemption. I think I have not deserved to be slighted & Trust I shall not, when it lays in his Excellys power with prudence to help me, if you’ll only be kind enough to make mention of me. As it cannot be expected the fatigues of his important business can give him leisure to think of every one that wishes to hazard their lives for him” (Hammond, Sullivan Papers description begins Otis G. Hammond, ed. Letters and Papers of Major-General John Sullivan, Continental Army. 3 vols. Concord, 1930-39. In Collections of the New Hampshire Historical Society, vols. 13–15. description ends , 1:373–74). GW referred the question of continuing Ebenezer Sullivan’s pay to Congress (see GW to Hancock, 5 July 1777), and after much delay Congress resolved to allow him pay and rations as long as he remained a prisoner of war (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 , 10:288–89, 296–97, 304–5). Sullivan was not formally released as a hostage until 11 Feb. 1782 (see Joshua Loring’s certificate, that date, DNA:PCC, item 42).

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