George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Major General William Heath, 28 March 1777

From Major General William Heath

Boston March 28th 1777

Dear General

yesterday I received the Honor of yours of the 13th Instant and immediately gave Orders Accordingly.

Brigadiers General Nixon, and Glover with Colonels Greaton, Sheppard, Nixon,1 Putnam, Wigglesworth, Alding, Bigelow, and late Pattersons, Regiments I have Ordered to Peeks-Kill, Brigadier General Patterson, with Colonels Marshall, Brewer, Bradford, Frances, Bailey, Wesson & Jacksons Regiments to Tyconderoga—Such as are armed & Equipt in those Regiments Destined to Peeks-Kill I have ordered to march Immediately, to that Place and their Clothing to be sent on as Mr Livingston Informs me it cannot be got ready here Soon; Such men as are not armed & Equipt I shall Order Under Inoculation agreable to your Excellencys Orders.2

I much Honor your Excellency’s Opinion of the Importance of having a respectable Body of Troops at Peeks-Kill as they will be well Situated to answer those purposes you are pleased to mention should Occasion require it:3 But if your Excellencys Intelligence that the Enemy mean to Draw a part of their Force from Canada by water be true, is there not Some probability,4 that they will attempt a Landing Some where more Eastward than their Main Army is at Present5—Monsieur Marmadale6 who Came to Town the Day before yesterday from Providence Informs me that the Enemy (by the accounts of Deserters) have received a reinforcement at Rhode-Island, and that their whole Force is Upwards of 4,000 men, how much Credit is due to the reports of Deserters your Excellency can well Determine.

as to the Harbour of Boston altho it has already Several good works is far from being in Such a Condition as I think it ought to be, a very Considerable work should be Immediately Constructed on Governors Island (so Called) which has great Command of the Channel and also of the Castle.7

The French Brigadier General De Borre is here waiting for orders from Congress or your Excellency, as are a number of Officers of Colonel Faneuils Intended Regt.8 They begin to grow Uneasy, They yesterday Informed me that they had Spent a Considerable Sum of money, that they were here on Expence that it was Uncertain whether they should be established or not, that they had not heard from their Colonel for Some Time, that Several Vessells were Soon to Sail for France, and that if nothing was in prospect for them they would return, I have advised them to wait a few Days in which Time it was highly probable they would have Some Intelligence from their Colonel9—The General has also applied for money, He has as your Excellency will Observe in his agrement with Mr Deane received five or Six months Pay,10 He Considers that Sum as a Gratification to furnish him for his voyage and not as Pay. His wants are many, I beg your Excellency’s Direction as Soon as agreable—I Know Policy leads us to do much for them, but how far I am to go I am at loss—I have been Obliged, upon his pressing application to give him an Order for Four Hundred Dollars as advance Pay, I have wrote to the Honble Congress on the Subject. I have the Honor to be with great respect your Excellency’s most Humble Ser⟨vt⟩

W. Heath

ALS, DLC:GW; ADfS, MHi: Heath Papers. The text within angle brackets is mutilated.

1Thomas Nixon (1736–1800) of Framingham, Mass., a younger brother of Gen. John Nixon, was colonel of the 6th Massachusetts Regiment at this time. Having served as a provincial subaltern during the French and Indian War, Nixon commanded a company of minutemen in the Lexington alarm of April 1775, and the following month he became lieutenant colonel of Col. John Nixon’s Massachusetts Regiment. Named lieutenant colonel of the 4th Continental Regiment on 1 Jan. 1776, Nixon succeeded his brother as colonel of that regiment in August 1776 when John Nixon was promoted to brigadier general. Thomas Nixon became colonel of the 6th Massachusetts Regiment on 1 Jan. 1777, and he served in that capacity until 1 Jan. 1781 when he retired from the army. Nixon moved to Southboro, Mass., in 1784. He drowned in August 1800 after falling off a ship sailing from Boston to Portland, Maine.

2For Heath’s orders regarding the march of the Massachusetts troops to Peekskill, N.Y., see his Circular to the Officers Destined to Peekskill of 27 Mar. and his letters of 28 Mar. to brigadier generals John Nixon, John Glover, Enoch Poor, and John Paterson, all in MHi: Heath Papers.

3In the draft Heath first wrote: “As they will be at Hand to act, either Northward or Southward as Occasion may require.” He then struck out that phrase and inserted the wording that appears in the text of the LS.

4In the draft Heath first wrote: “reason to apprehend.” He then struck out those words and wrote “Some Probability” above the line.

5In the draft Heath first wrote “Philadelphia.” He then struck out that word and wrote “their Main Army is at Present” above the line.

6Heath is referring to François Lellorquis, marquis de Malmedy.

7Heath is referring to Castle William on Castle Island.

8Philippe-Hubert, chevalier de Preudhomme de Borre (1717–c.1790), a lieutenant colonel of French infantry who had contracted with Silas Deane on 30 Nov. 1776 to serve as a brigadier general in the American army, sailed from Nantes on 5 Feb. 1777 aboard the French ship Le Mercure and arrived at Portsmouth, N.H., on 17 Mar. (see Jean-Baptiste Le Roy to Benjamin Franklin, 28 Nov. 1776, Preudhomme de Borre’s contract with Deane, 30 Nov. 1776, Preudhomme de Borre to Congress, 19 Mar. 1777, and GW to Hancock, 5 April 1777, all in DNA:PCC). Preudhomme de Borre, who visited Heath’s headquarters at Boston on 23 Mar. 1777 (see Wilson, Heath’s Memoirs description begins Rufus Rockwell Wilson, ed. Heath’s Memoirs of the American War. 1798. Reprint. New York, 1904. description ends , 127), proved to be ill-suited for service with the Continental army. GW on 20 May 1777 gave him command of a brigade in Sullivan’s division (see GW to Preudhomme de Borre, that date, and General Orders, 22 May 1777). The officers of the brigade soon became contemptuous of their new commander, and the collapse of the brigade at the Battle of Brandywine on 11 Sept. 1777 prompted Congress two days later to direct GW to order a court of inquiry on Preudhomme de Borre’s conduct (see Dubuysson’s memoir, 6 Dec. 1776–31 July 1777, in Lafayette Papers description begins Stanley J. Idzerda et al., eds. Lafayette in the Age of the American Revolution: Selected Letters and Papers, 1776–1790. 5 vols. Ithaca, N.Y., 1977-83. description ends , 1:73–87; Hancock to GW, 13 Sept. 1777, DLC:GW; JCC description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds. Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774-1789. 34 vols. Washington, D.C., 1904–37. description ends , 8:740). Preudhomme de Borre immediately offered Hancock his resignation, which Congress accepted on 14 Sept. 1777 (see ibid.). On 1 Oct. 1777 Preudhomme de Borre wrote Hancock in broken English complaining that he had been condemned before being heard and asking to be promoted to major general (DNA:PCC, item 78). Congress flatly refused his request (see ibid., 9:763). Preudhomme de Borre sailed from Charleston, S.C., in January 1779 and reached France by the way of the West Indies in July. For Faneuil’s proposed regiment, see GW to Hancock, 20 Feb. 1777.

9At this place in the draft, Heath struck out the following sentence: “I Submit to Your Excellencys Superior Wisdom whether it would be not to Determine what ought to be Said to, or done for them.”

10See Silas Deane’s contract with Preudhomme de Borre, 30 Nov. 1776, DNA:PCC, item 78.

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