George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Major General William Heath, 4 May 1778

From Major General William Heath

Head Quarters Boston May 4th 1778.

Dear General,

I this day forward from this place to the Treasury at York Town 127,334 ⅓ Dollars in Specie under the care of John Adams Esqr. who will have the honor to deliver this.1 The Money is loaded on three Waggons, the Boxes marked, Musket Cartridges, and covered with upward of 5000 Canteens for the purpose of deception. The Escort is commanded by Captain Hutchins of the State of New Hampshire;2 his detachment consists of between 80 and 100 Men of the Hampshire Troops who have principally been at home on furlough and to cure their wounds; I have directed Captain Hutchins to call upon General McDougall at Fish Kill and ask his direction for the most safe and expeditious rout through the Jersies; and I would request that your Excellency, if you think there is any danger, would send such additional Escort to the most dangerous passes as you may think proper; not being acquainted where the greatest danger would be, Capt. Hutchins has orders to escort the money to York Town unless he should receive your orders to the contrary. I therefore beg leave to submit to your Excellency the reinforcing or dismissing the Escort when and where you may think best; and that the Canteens may be ordered to be unloaded at such place as may be most convenient if the Waggons do not pass the Army on their way to York Town.

I beg leave to congratulate your Excellency on the safe arrival of Two Ships from France, one at Portsmouth, the other at Cape Ann, loaded with Cloathing both made up and in the piece, and many other Articles of Stores. These are part of the Fleet ordered out on account of the United States.3

I do myself the honor to send you Two pounds of the best Wax and a few Quills—hope you have found the other in this.

Agreeable to your instructions of the 14th March enclosing a letter from the Board of War of the 14th February, I remonstrated to Major General Massey Commanding Officer at Halifax, on the unjustifiable treatment of Mr Heister; I have received a most haughty and insolent answer; I take the liberty to enclose copy of my Letter with his answer. I also enclose paragraph of a letter which I received from Captain Willoe, late Aid-de-Camp to General Reidesel who went to Halifax in the flag, by whom I wrote to General Massey and to whom I mentioned the matter when here.4 Mr Heister obtained his flag from the Council, not from me. If your Excellency has any further instructions on this matter, I shall, on sight, obey them.

Enclosed is also a request from an Ensign Jones for leave to resign his Commission which I could wish might be accepted.5 I have the honor to be With great respect Your Excellency’s Most Obedt Servt

W. Heath

P.S. I am just now certified that General Massey is in the Department under the Command of General Howe.


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

1Heath explained in a letter of this date to the Treasury Board that the money came from the paymaster of the Convention troops in payment for fuel, straw, and provisions provided to them since their capture at Saratoga (MHi: Heath Papers). John Adams was an assistant deputy paymaster general.

2Nathaniel Hutchins (1742–1832) was appointed an ensign in the 1st New Hampshire Regiment in April 1775 and was promoted to first lieutenant in the summer of that year. In 1776 he served as a first lieutenant in the 5th Continental Infantry Regiment, and in April 1777 he was appointed a captain of the 1st New Hampshire Regiment. He retired from service in January 1781.

3On 4 May the Boston Gazette reported that “Last Friday [1 May] the Dean frigate, Samuel Nicholson commander, arrived at Portsmouth from France. She had nine weeks passage, and has brought a valuable cargo, consisting of 12000 suits of cloaths for the army, compleat, a large quantity of copper, tin and lead, besides many other valuable articles.” The newspaper also reported that “Saturday Evening [2 May] an Express arrived at the Navy Board, with an Account of a large French Ship being arrived at a Neighbouring Port, with Cloathing,” presumably the same ship that Heath reported as having arrived at Cape Ann, above Gloucester, Massachusetts.

4The enclosed copy of a letter from Heath to Col. Eyre Massey, dated 15 April at Boston, reads: “Some time in the last Autumn Mr Daniel Heister Junr an Inhabitant of the State of Pennsylvania, a Gentleman of good family & fortune, having a Brother-in-law one Jonathan Hager, unfortunately made a prisoner of War at the reduction of fort Washington and afterwards sent to Halifax, from principles of affection and friendship was led to sollicit of the Board of War proper credentials and a pass port, and on the 18th of September obtained of the Council here permission to go in a Cartel to Halifax for the purpose of effecting if possible an exchange for his said Brother-in-law, or to settle with him some private business of great importance to the family. But I am informed that upon his arrival at Halifax he, the said Heister, notwithstanding his being under the sanction of a flag, was seized as a Spy, his papers and effects taken from him and he closely confined. A proceedure so extraordinary being a violation of the Law of Nations, and contrary to the invariable usage and practice heretofore observed between the Armies of the United States of America and the King of Great Britain, as a duty to my situation and in obedience to express orders received from His Excellency Genl Washington, I do hereby remonstrate against such an unjustifiable proceedure, and demand the immediate release and return of the said Daniel Heister Junr with his papers & effects together with a proper compensation for, and the reason of his detention, and will not doubt your readiness to see strict justice done” (DLC:GW).

The copy of Massey’s reply, dated 22 April at Halifax, reads: “I received your very unpolite Letter, dated the 15th of April from your Head Quarters at Boston; which letter, I shewed to the Lieut. Governor, who I prayed would answer it, he says, it is filled with falsehoods.

“I must now tell You, Sir, I never before heard of such a Man as Heister; therefore your attack on me for a breach of faith is the more unkind. But to be plain with you, Sir, if the fate of War should occasion us to meet I will give you every proof. I know nothing of your United States, but to oblige them to be under the same Glorious laws; prescribed by His Majesty King George” (DLC:GW).

Heath also enclosed an extract of a letter to himself from Samuel Willoe, dated 24 April at Halifax: “I have made enquirey for Mr Heister; he has been gone some months from this Town; but where to I cannot learn; it seems he came in so suspicious a manner, that the Governor had him taken up & examined before the Council; he had a very considerable Sum of money (about £400 Stg) sewed up in his waistcoat & breeches; and his conduct, as I am told, while here, gave very just Reason for his being particularly examined; General Massey I believes writes to you about him” (DLC:GW). Willoe was commissioned an ensign in the 8th Regiment of Foot in January 1761 and earned promotion to lieutenant in November 1768. In 1777 he became secretary with the rank of captain to Maj. Gen. Friedrich von Riedesel, and he was captured at Saratoga in October of that year. Willoe was released on parole in early 1778 and went to Canada, where, except for a brief return to England in the winter of 1780–81, he remained as Riedesel’s secretary until 1783. For more on the Hiester affair, see Horatio Gates to GW, 14 Feb., and GW to Heath, 14 March.

5Winzer (Windsor) Jones served as a private in the 12th Massachusetts Regiment and was appointed an ensign in the 3d Massachusetts Regiment in April 1777. For his letter of resignation and GW’s reply, see GW to Heath, 20 May, n.2.

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