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To George Washington from Major General William Heath, 27 May 1777

From Major General William Heath

Boston May 27, 1777.

Dear General

I have received the honor of yours of the 10th Instant, and immediately sent on Lt Colo. Sprout who is an Active Spirited Officer to correct those Abuses committed by the Troops on the March mentioned by your Excellency. I have desired the same of General Nixon who is also on his journey to Pecks Kill, at which place he will have arrived before this reaches you. But surely all the Troops have not been delitory! some detachments, have reached Albany in ten days, from the Time they left this place.

Colo. Putnam having marched off his first Division, was desirous to take the Small pox by Inoculation, he is now upon the recovery, and as soon as able will go forward agreeable to your Excellency’s direction.

Our greatest difficulty is the want of Clothing; those Troops who marchd without it, and were told that they would be supplied at Pecks Kill are disopointed. The men there, are almost naked, and many of them Lousey and not a second Shirt to their Backs, some have been told that large Quantities were sent to the Northward, and Officers have been as far as Albany in Quest of it, and have finally returned here, with their mouths filled with Complaints. Vast Quantities of Cloathing has gone forward but to where I know not; The Agents tell me that they are obliged to send it on to the Cloather General; but had it been sent on, on the Mens Backs the heavy expence of transportation would have been saved The Colonels have applied till they are discouraged as your Excellency will observe by an enclosed Line from Colo. Putnam,1 I have sent! I have spoke! I have wrote to the Agents repeatedly; two of their written Answers I take the liberty to enclose,2 I do not charge them with any Neglect: But your Excellency will see that I have done all in my power unless I had taken the Cloathing by Force.

As vast quantities of Stores & Provisions are moving back, the Commissaries apply for large Store Houses. Shall I order such to be built as are necessary as they inform me they cannot be Hired?

Colos. Lee & Jackson have represented to me that some of their officers have been long appointed, and devoted to the Service (altho’ they have but few Men Inlisted) and that they are in want of some pay, will it be advisable to pay them any before they are Commissioned?

Major General Gates has wrote to the Council of this State that Tents and Camp kettles are much wanted by the Army in that Department and observes that “finding a number of Tents and a Quantity of Tin had arrived at Portsmouth from France” entreats that they would order Two thousand of the former and as much of the latter as can be spared to be sent without delay to Albany.3 The Council have sent me a Copy of the Letter. The number of Tents mentioned is double the number that arrived. I am agreeable to your Excellencys Orders sending them on to Springfield which is on the Rout to Albany if your Excellency should think proper to order them on to that place.

I am this moment informed, the Cloathing for Colo. Putnams Regiment will be obtained Here. I have the Honor to be With great respect Your Excellency’s Most Obediant Servt

W. Heath

LS, DLC:GW; ADf, MHi: Heath Papers; copy (extract), M-Ar: Revolution Letters. The extract consists of the third paragraph regarding clothing for the troops.

1The enclosed copy of Col. Rufus Putnam’s letter to Heath of this date, which was written at Sewall’s Point, Mass., reads: “I have often applyed to your Honor with respect to Cloathing: ’Twas with heart felt Sorrow I obeyed your Order in marching them from Worcester when I did: They are yet without Cloathing, and some of them have not been Shirted for thirty days. I beg Sir you will oblige the Agents to deliver Capt. [Haffield] White 190 Suits to forward to the first Division if this Request for my Men is denyed I shall be discouraged ever asking Justice for them any more and you will expect nothing from them but Murmers & desertions” (DLC:GW).

2Heath enclosed a copy of his letter to Abraham Livingston and William Turnbull of 23 May concerning the unavailability of clothing for the Massachusetts regiments and copies of their replies to him of 23 and 27 May (DLC:GW). Livingston and Turnbull in their letter of 27 May say: “We thought we had been sufficiently explicit in our Letter a day or two ago respecting Cloathing for the Troops at Pecks Kills; however we are now to inform you that James Mean [Mease] Esqr. in the Name of His Excellency Genl Washington has requested us to forward them on to him. We have acquainted that Gentleman of the Situation of the Troops at Pecks Kills, he will no doubt take the necessary Steps to furnish Cloathing there. . . .

“We are sorry we have it not in our power to comply with your order in furnishing Colo. Putnams Regiment for the following reasons The sole direction of Cloathing all Continental Troops has been committed to Mr Mean [Mease] Cloather General, we are only purchasing in the capacity of Agents. If the Commissary in this Town [Boston] has any Cloathing he will readily deliver it on producing the proper returns. The Invoices of this parcel of Goods you alude to is already gone forward & the proper receipts taken by us, they are therefore out of our possession and if that was not the case, it is not in our department to Issue any Cloathing whatever a proper issuing Commissary is appointed in Town, under his notice comes all the returns &c. If Capt. White takes upon himself to stop the parcell on the road, all we can say, it is out of our power to prevent, Besides he cannot get at what he wants out of the parcell without opening at least thirty packages, The Goods are now on the way to Pecks Kills where they will be stoped as Colo. Putnams Men are there, what difference it can make to him the receiving his Cloathing here, or there: We confess we are at a loss to account. A person will set out to morrow Morning to oversee the Teams, and we are sure he will use all the despatch in his power.”

3See Gates to the president of Massachusetts, 9 May, in Gregory and Dunnings, “Gates Papers.”

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