George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Major General William Heath, 17 December 1777

From Major General William Heath

Boston December 17th 1777

Dear General

General Burgoyne recd the information of the Resolve of Congress of the 1st Decemr (restricting the embarkation of his Troops to the port stipulated by the Convention of Saratoga and no other) with no small disopointment. I had before given him my opinion that an alteration would never be allowed; but he flattered himself otherwise. He is now anxiously waiting an answer to his Letter some time since transmitted to your Excellency in hopes that himself and Suit will be permitted to embarke before the Troops. The day before yesterday he desired that I would forward a Letter for him to Genl Pigot to order the Transports round to Boston, yesterday he was hesitating about it, & observed that if it were probable that an answer to his Dispatch would arrive in a day or two he would defer sending to Rhode Island—General Riedesel observed yesterday that it was very doubtful whether the troops would get away this Winter,1 for if the Transports should attempt to get round it was more than probable that many of them would be blown off the Coast: what their final determination will be I cannot tell; but they all appear much disopointed.

The purchases of Lead and Cloathing have been very successful here, considerable Quantities of both are now on the road, forwarding to you.2

Enclosed is a Letter from the Baron de Steuben, who is here with two french Gentlemen.3 I have the honor to be With great respect Your Excellencys Obed. Servant

W. Heath

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

1Baron Friedrich Adolph von Riedesel of Eisenbach (1738–1800), commander of the first group of Brunswickers sent to America by the duke of Brunswick in 1776, began his military service as an aide-de-camp to the duke, with the rank of ensign, during the Seven Years’ War. He quickly rose through the ranks, being promoted to cavalry captain in 1759, to lieutenant colonel in 1761, and to colonel of carabineers in 1772, and serving as adjutant general of the Brunswick army from 1767 to 1772. He was promoted to major general in February 1776. Riedesel surrendered with Burgoyne at the Battle of Saratoga in October 1777, and in November 1778 he was sent with other prisoners of war to Albemarle County, Va., where he was befriended by Thomas Jefferson. He returned to New York on parole in late 1779, and after his exchange in October 1780 he resumed active duty, commanding at Long Island. Riedesel was ordered to Canada in July 1781 and remained there until he left for Germany in August 1783.

2For more information on the shipping of this clothing, see GW to James Mease, 21 Jan. 1778.

3Heath enclosed Steuben’s letter to GW of 6 December. Accompanying Steuben were two young French officers whom he had engaged in Paris to be his aides-de-camp, Louis de Pontière and Pierre Etienne Du Ponceau (1760–1844), the latter of whom also served as Steuben’s translator. Both men were given brevet commissions as captains in the Continental army in February 1778. Pontière was breveted major in 1783 and returned to France the following year. Du Ponceau, who was furloughed in 1779 for health reasons, became second undersecretary to Robert R. Livingston in the recently established Department of Foreign Affairs in the fall of 1781, serving to 1783. After the war Du Ponceau settled in Philadelphia, where he practiced law and wrote books on legal history and linguistics, and in 1828 he became president of the American Philosophical Society.

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