George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Major General William Heath, 16 July 1777

From Major General William Heath

Boston July 16, 1777

Dear General

Yesterday afternoon a Committee from the Board of War of this State presented me the inclosed Resolve of the General Assembly & Estimate of Stores and provisions necessary for the secret Expedition to St Johns River, an Expedition some time since recommended by the Honble Congress, of which I doubt not your Excellency has been fully acquainted.1 The Committee desired that I would furnish them with the whole, or so many, as I could conveniently of the enumerated Articles, including Arms. I informed them that I could not do it without your Excellency’s knowledge, or direction; but I would by the first oppertunity lay the matter before you. I would request a signification of your Excellency’s pleasure as soon as it is agreeable. I shall direct my conduct strictly conformable thereto.

Every peice of Intelligence which we receive from the Northern Army is fraught with Accounts more & more disagreeable of the loss of almost every species of Stores; but the most agrevated circumstance of all is, that many Soldiers are coming home pretending that they were far pursued by the Enemy, lost their Arms Cloaths &c. I am endeavouring to apprehend them, and have appointed a Special General Court Martial for their Tryal. I hope that some severe punishment here, and sending a number of them back in Irons to their respective Regiments will put a stop to a practice, both dishonorable and dangerous to the Army.

Yesterday two or three of the Enemy’s Cruizers were so near in the Bay as to be seen from the Town—A valuable prize is sent into Newbury port, taken by Capt. Lee, Brother to Colo. Lee;2 The prize has sundry articles of Cloathing on board, both Linen and woollen together with Liquors, provisions &c., Another prize Ship is sent into Dartmouth having 530. Hogsheds of Sugar on Board, She mounted 20 Guns. It is said that 13 of our Armed Vessels were cruizing for 100. & odd Sail of Sugar Ships who were under Convoy of three British Frigates.

It is reported that the Fox Frigate is Retaken by a 64 Gun Ship, I wish it may not be true.3 I have this Moment received the Honor of Yours of the 4th Inst. I have the Honor to be very respectfully Your Excellencys Obedient Servant

W. Heath

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

1The Massachusetts general court passed a series of resolutions between 5 June and 9 July 1777 concerning a proposed secret expedition to the St. John River. The enclosed resolution has not been identified, but it probably was the one passed on 4 July, which was accompanied by a list of stores and provisions considered necessary for the expedition. All of the resolutions are in DNA:PCC, item 65. GW forwarded the list of stores and provisions to the Continental Congress in his letter to John Hancock of 27 July. Heath wrote GW about the expedition again on 22 Oct. 1777.

2The 100–ton, 12–gun Massachusetts privateer brigantine Fancy, commanded by Capt. John Lee of Newburyport, Mass., had captured four British vessels since sailing out of Newbury, Mass., in late June 1777 (see journal of H.M.S. Foudroyant, 6–7 Aug. 1777, 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 , 9:554–55). The Fancy was captured by the H.M.S. Foudroyant in August 1777 (ibid.). Lee, the brother of Col. William Raymond Lee, had been commissioned captain of the Fancy on 20 May 1777.

3For the recapture of the Fox on 7 July 1777, see the journal of H.M.S. Flora, 7 July, William Jennison’s diary entries, 1–7 July, John Brisbane to Lord Howe, 9 July, and George Collier to Philip Stephens, 12 July, all ibid., 228–29, 229–30, 246–47, 269–73; see also Hector McNeill’s series of sketches of the action at sea, 7 July, ibid., 988–99.

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