George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Major General William Heath, 6 January 1778

From Major General William Heath

Head Quarters Boston Jany 6th 1778

Dear General

I have been honored with yours of the 17th and 20th Ultimo. It gave me pain to find myself censured by your Excellency for not attending to your orders in the inoculating the Recruits before they were sent on to join the Army. If I have misapprehended your Excellency’s orders, I hope you will excuse such my mistake: But after you had been pleased repeatedly by Letter to order me to hurry on the Recruits of the Army without detaining them to go through Inoculation here when it could be done with great convenience at Peekskill and in its vicinity; and the Legislature had put a stop to inoculation in this quarter, I thought I was pursuing my duty in pushing them on. I have applied to the Council for their advice as to the most proper, and safe place for opening an inoculating Hospital, as there are none at present, and the Law severe against them to which they will pay immediate attention. I have also mentioned to them the compleating their several Regiments &c. agreeable to your Letter.1

I have taken the liberty to enclose a Resolve of Council lately sent to me,2 as it is intended to ascertain the true, State of the several Regiments raised by this State, I beg leave to request your Excellency’s order to the Adjutant General to take the necessary steps for its being carried into execution as soon as conveniently may be by those Regiments who are serving in the Army with you, and that when compleatd the papers may be sent here.3

A valuable Cargo of Ordnance and Stores have lately arrived here from Martinique, among which are seventeen peices of Cannon, a number of Granades, Shot, Flints Musket Ball, Fire Arms, pick axes, Spades, a quantity of powder, Slow-match &c. they are now unloading.4

General Burgoyne has this day sent an express to Rhode Island for the Transports to come round immediately. Congress have sent me a Resolve, directing that His Accounts of Subsistance be settled by a refund of provisions of equal Quantity and quality, or in Gold or Silver. General Burgoyne talks of refunding part of the Beef & Flour; if he can effect it, particular care will be taken to survey the provisions if any should be brought round in the Transports, which I have observed to him.5 If provisions should not be repaid, at least in part, I fear our Magazines will be in a most exhausted State in this Department.

I am fully sensible that the longer the Troops are delayed here the later the reinforcement who may be releived by them in great Britain will arrive in America; But if our Magazines of provisions should be exhausted and new-England should happen to be the Seat of War, or in part, so the want of provisions may be productive of disagreeable consequences.

I have sounded what your Excellency observed with respect to General Hamilton, General Burgoyne informs me that he never heard General Hamilton hint any such desire, but whether he should be exchanged or not, he must go to England as his Regiment is one of those under the Convention, and he is a General Officer only in America. I shall again sound the matter with General Hamilton with all due Caution. I have the Honor to be with great respect, Your Excellency’s Most Obedient, Humble Servant,

W. Heath

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

1Heath wrote to the council on 3 January. On 7 Jan. the council forwarded Heath’s letter to the house, which on 10 Jan. appointed a committee “to take into Consideration General Heath’s Letter of January 3. 1778, and report what further Measures are necessary to be taken for the speedy filling up the several Regiments in the Continental Army, which were raised within this State, and also to consider what Place is most proper for the Reception of such Recruits as may be raised and are to be inoculated for the Small-Pox” (Mass. House of Rep. Journal description begins A Journal of the Honourable House of Representatives of the State of Massachusetts-Bay in New-England. Boston, 1777–78. (Microfilm Collection of Early State Records.) description ends , May 1777–May 1778 sess., 145, 150).

2A copy of the resolve, dated 26 Dec. 1777, is in MHi: Heath Papers.

3Heath wrote an additional passage at this place on the draft: “I am Happy to find the Steps which I was obliged to take in the Commissarys Department meet with your Excellency approbation.” Immediately after this passage Heath wrote two more paragraphs that he later struck out, substituting instead the final paragraph of the LS. The struck-out paragraphs read: “I observed to General Burgoyne the Day before yesterday, that I heard Some Gentleman lately observe, that General Hamilton was Desireous of being Exchanged And of Continuing to Serve in america, He replied that He Had not heard it mentioned, that if He was Exchanged He must go to England as his Regiment was one of those under the Convention that He was not a General Officer Save in america, and added that He thought there Could be no Exchanges of General Officers, at present I replied with Indifferance that if Genl Hamilton was anxious to be exchanged, if application should be made it might perhaps be attended to—He again replied that Genl Hamilton must go Home, I shall Sound the matter again both with General Burgoyne and Hamilton, observing the Precaution hinted by Your Excellency.

“General Burgoyne after receiving the resolve of Congress that all applications from him to them should be made Directly to them Observed that this was a mere Punctillio, that He had received a very Civil Letter from your Excellency which He should answer.” GW had written Burgoyne on 20 Dec. 1777 enclosing Congress’s resolve of 17 December (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 , 9:1032). Burgoyne apparently replied in a letter dated 11 Feb., which has not been found, but see GW’s letter to Burgoyne of 11 March.

4On 1 Jan. the Independent Chronicle. and the Universal Advertiser (Boston) printed a report from Boston dated 1 Jan.: “Yesterday arrived safe in Port, a Letter of Marque Brig, from Martinique, with 17 Brass Cannon, a Number of small Arms, Military Stores, &c.”

5Henry Laurens wrote Heath on 27 Dec. 1777 enclosing this resolve, dated 19 December (Smith, Letters of Delegates description begins Paul H. Smith et al., eds. Letters of Delegates to Congress, 1774–1789. 26 vols. Washington, D.C., 1976–2000. description ends , 8:485; 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 , 9:1036–37). Copies of Heath’s letters to Burgoyne of 3, 5, and 6 Jan. and of Burgoyne’s replies of 4 and 5 Jan. relating to this and other subjects are in DNA:PCC, item 57; see also William Howe’s letter to GW of 5 February.

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