George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Major General William Heath, 30 August 1777

From Major General William Heath

Boston August 30th 1777

Dear General

The Council of this State have ordered the prisoners lately taken near Bennington to this place where they intend to confine them on board Guard Ships, which they are preparing for the purpose. I suppose they will arrive about the middle of next week. Inclosd is a Copy of a Vote of Council sent to me a few days since.1 I have given orders for the prisoners & Guards being supplied with provisions at the different Stores on the Rout from Springfield to this place, as it will be almost impossible to obtain them otherwise, With respect to victualling of them here I objected to it; but upon the pressing importunity of some of the members of Council, I have consented, untill I can obtain your Excellency’s pleasure.2

The scarcity of provisions here is such, especially of Bread, that it is with difficulty that the Inhabitants can obtain a supply. Almost every article of the necessaries of Life is either really or artificially scarce and nothing plenty except money.

I could wish that the prisoners were taken under the direction of the Continental Commissary, it would most certainly be best.

In the late Draft of the Sixth part of the Militia to go to the Northward, the Towns, and Individuals who were drafted have given from twelve to forty pounds pr Man for three Months. The State by their Resolve have promised each Man two pounds ten shilgs pr Month over and above their Continental pay, this I fear will not only greatly retard the filling up the Continental Army but also tend to make the Soldiery, already inlisted, very uneasy.

We have lately apprehended a number of Deserters and are sending of them back; among the rest a Light Horseman who deserted from the Troops now doing duty with the Northern Army. He not only brought home the Horse on which he was mounted in the Troop, but led home another which had been taken from some of the disaffected by our Scouting parties. One Woodward, alis Williams, alis Brown, an abandoned villain, who has inlisted & deserted several times, and was not long since whipped 200 Lashes, has again been found guilty, and is now sentenced to be Shot on the eleventh of September.3 I have the honor to be with great respect Your Excellency’s Most Hble Servt

W. Heath

LS, DLC: Elias Boudinot Papers; ADfS, MHi: Heath Papers.

1A copy of the enclosed order of the Massachusetts council, dated 25 Aug., is in MHi: Heath Papers. The council ordered “that General Heath be desired to Issue out his orders that the prisoners aforesaid together with the Guard that may accompany them may be supplied from the Continental Stores with Rations on their Way from the County of Hampshire to this Town & also with provisions during their tarry in this place.”

2At this place in the text, the draft includes the phrase: “which I request as Soon as may be agreable to you.”

3Elijah Woodward was sentenced to be shot “on the bottom of the Common in Boston” on 11 Sept. (Neagles, Summer Soldiers description begins James C. Neagles. Summer Soldiers: A Survey & Index of Revolutionary War Courts-Martial. Salt Lake City, 1986. description ends , 278; see also Heath to GW, 10 Sept.).

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