George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Major General Horatio Gates, 14 February 1778

From Major General Horatio Gates

War Office [York, Pa.] Feby 14th 1778


Some new piece of Tyranny & Barbarity is constantly turning up on the part of the Enemy. The Board have received information of one in which they request your E[x]cellency’s assistance. A Colonel Daniel Heister Jr of this State an active good whig who in the association formerly existing here had a Regiment of Militia, applied to the former Board of War in the course of last June for Credentials & a Passport to go with a Flag to Halifax in search of a young man his Brother in Law one Hager who is possessed of a considerable fortune but went a Volunteer in the Maryland flying Camp and thr’o the cruelty of the Enemy at New York, he being made a Prisoner at Fort Washington, was induced to enlist among the new Levies and was sent to Halifax. Mr Heister obtained a flag from Genl Heath at Boston under the sanction whereof he went to Halifax where he was immediately seized as a Spy his papers and effects taken from him. This information was procured by the captain of the Vessel in which Heister went, & it is not known what became of him as he has never since been heard of. He has large property in this State & has left a distressed Family who have applied for his relief. I am therefore to request the favor of your Excellency to remonstrate with General Howe upon this conduct of the commanding officer at Halifax and endeavour to procure the return of Colonel Heister who made the unfortunate mistake of carrying too much money with him which is supposed to be one reason of his confinement and detention if not of his destruction as they charged him with a crime and then took every credential from him which could have evidenced his innocence. I have the honor to be your very obet Servt

Horatio Gates President

P.S. Would it not be proper to send a Copy of this letter to Genl Heath who gave the flag with your Excellency’s orders to send a Requisition by the first Flag to the commanding Officer at Hallifax.1

Copy in the writings of Richard Kidder Meade and Tench Tilghman, MHi: Heath Papers.

1Daniel Hiester, Jr. (1747–1804), of Upper Salford Township in Philadelphia (now Montgomery) County, Pa., was the son of Daniel Hiester, Sr. (1713–1795), of Reading, Pennsylvania. The junior Hiester served as colonel of the 1st Regiment of Philadelphia County militia in 1777 and, having returned from Canada unscathed, was lieutenant colonel of the 5th Regiment of Philadelphia County militia from 1780 until 1782. In May 1782 he was appointed a brigadier general of the Pennsylvania militia. He was a member of the Pennsylvania supreme executive council from 1784 until 1786 and a delegate from that state to Congress in 1789–96. The younger Hiester moved to Hagerstown, Md., in 1796, and he represented Maryland in Congress as a republican from 1801 until his death. Jonathan Hagar (Hager), Jr. (1755–1798), was the son of Jonathan Hagar (Hager), Sr. (1714–1775), and the brother of Daniel Hiester, Jr.’s wife Rosanna Hager Hiester (1752–1810).

GW sent a copy of this letter to Maj. Gen. William Heath on 14 Mar., along with Daniel Hiester, Sr.’s undated memorial to the Board of War: “The Memorial of Daniel Heister of the Town of Reading in the County of Berks & State of Pennsylvania, Sheweth That Daniel Heister Son of your memorialist & a Colonel of a battalion of the militia of this State, went sometime in the month of August last with a flag of truce to Halifax, there to transact some private business with a certain Jonathan Hager his brother in law—That your memorialist is since informed that his said Son has been most unjustly imprisoned and is yet detained as a prisoner, notwithstanding the sanction of a flag of truce with which he went, and in violation of the law of Nations and the usage and practice heretofore observed between the armies of the United States and the King of Great Britain—That your memorialist’s said Son has been in actual service of the United States as a Colonel of militia and has left behind him a wife and considerable property.

“Your memorialist begs leave humbly to state the above facts, not doubting but the Honorable Board will adopt such measures as will procure the enlargement and safe return of the said Daniel Heister and a suitable recompence for the injuries he has sustained” (MHi: Heath Papers). See also GW to Gates, 23–26 Feb., to Heath, 29 April, and Heath to GW, 4 May.

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