George Washington Papers

To George Washington from William Heath, 7 February 1781

West Point, Feb. 7. 1781

Dear General,

The enclosed was handed me by Lt Col. Comdr Sprout. From what I can learn, the case is briefly this: Capt. Smart was a Captain and Paymaster in the 13. Massachusetts regiment—was in a bad state of health, and desired on that account to quit the service. He is so good an Officer, that the regiment were loth to lose him, and advised him to get leave to retire for the recovery of his health, which he did—but has not been so fortunate as to recover it, and is determined to resign his Commission—he is not able to come on to settle his accounts; and by reason of his not doing it, and getting a discharge, the promotion of a Captain is prevented; which gives uneasiness to those whose right it is to receive promotion. To avoid this inconvenience, and to prevent the continuation or increase of uneasiness, Lt Colonel Sprout and Major Porter will give bonds for the settlement of Captain Smart’s accounts; if, on that condition, it should be thought admissible to discharge him previous to the settlement of his accounts, which is submitted for your Excellency’s determination.

Enclosed is also a petition from Serjeant James Larvey of Colonel Putnam’s regiment, who has for two or three years past been Coxswain of the Commanding Officer’s barge at this Post, & was compelled by Arnold to convey him on board the Vulture sloop of War at the time that perfidious officer went to the Enemy. The conduct of Larvey at that time is fully known to your Excellency. He informs me that in the month of November last he presented a petition to you, and had incouragement from one of your Aids de Camp that something should be done for him, either an indulgence to serve in the Horse for a certain term, or some other consideration. He now wishes that he may be allowed to procure a man to take his place, or, as the procurement of a man would require all the earnings of his almost six years service, would serve chearfully for the term of one year longer, if at the expiration of that time, you would please to grant him a discharge. As he is a man of strict integrity the most unshaken bravery and warm attachment to his country, I am compelled to lay his petition before your Excellency for such decision as you may think proper.

There are many vacancies for Ensigns in the Massachusetts line; are they to be filled? And in such case, What mode is to be observed in doing it?

There are a considerable number of Prisoners in the Provost at Fishkill. If we are to judge from past experience, it is not a place of the greatest Security; and from the nature of the adjacent country, and nearness of the Enemy’s Posts, Prisoners who at any time escape, are rarely retaken. It therefore seems expedient, if any advantage is to be derived from the prisoners taken, if sent to that place, that they be either soon exchanged, removed farther, or a better place provided. I have frequently given orders for the repair of the Provost, and for the better securing it; but have been repeatedly informed that the construction of it forbids its being rendered properly secure. I have the honor to be with the greatest respect Your Excellency’s Most obedient Servant

W. Heath

DLC: Papers of George Washington.


West Point Jany 6th A.D. 1781

To the Honorable Major General Heath Commanding the Garrison at West Point, and its Dependencies The Petition of James Lurvey Humbly Sheweth.

That, your Honor’s petitioner has spent almost Six Years of the Bloom of his life in the service of his Country, and now stands engaged for the War in Colonel Putnam’s Regiment.

That your petitioner when he was prisoner with the Enemy thro the perfidious Conduct of the late General Arnold was flattered (by that fell Officer) to stay in the Enemies Service by the promise of a Commission, and other Offers, advantageous enough perhaps to have staggered some Resolutions; but which your petitioner thro a sense of the Integrity he owed his Country rejected with the highest disdain.

That your petitioner has always endeavoured faithfully to fulfil the duties of his Station; but as his Circumstances and Connections are such that it will be highly detrimental for him to stay any longer in the service.

He therefore would humbly solicit your honor to permit a Good able bodied American Born Man (whom he will procure at his own expence) to be accepted in his Room, and grant your petitioner a Discharge from the Service, as he doubts not he could be very serviceable to his Country in a Domestic Life.

And your Petitioner as in duty bound will ever Pray.

James Lurvey


West Point Feb. 5th 1781


Capt. Smart of the late 13th Mass. Regt sollicited for a discharge fom the Army last spring on account of his ill state of health but was prevail’d upon by some gentlemen who were loth to loose him to service, being a good Officer, to retire a while for the recovery of his health, & on the recruiting service, he has often since, being unable to come to Camp sollicited a discharge, the want of the Certificates required has been the only obstacle. he is unalterably determined to leave the Army, tho very disagreable to him on every other account, but his inability to endure the fatigues of camp. his health at present will not admit his coming to Camp to settle his accounts—Officers are very uneasy at the delay of his discharge—he is very anxious for it—as he is blamed for not obtaining it.

Under these circumstances we wish if possible he may be discharged. we are well persuaded of the regularity of his accounts, & are willing to be answerable they shall be satisfactorily settled whenever he shall be calld upon. we are Sir with due respect your most Obedt & very Humle Servts

Er Sprout Lt Col. Comdt

John Porter–Major

late 13th Regt

Index Entries