George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Major General William Heath, 19 January 1778

From Major General William Heath

Head Quarters Boston Jany 19th 1778

Dear General

Since writing on yesterday, Genl Burgoyne has sent his packet of Letters for examination. I observe he has enclosed several Copies of Letters which have passed between us. All these Copies, and others I have some time since transmitted to Congress. It would not do for me to object to General Burgoyne’s sending them to General Howe, for obvious reasons, and I am assured your Excellency’s determination respecting both them and the other Letters will be most proper.1

Your Excellency will observe that he is laying great stress upon the payment of his Accounts in Solid Coin, and views it as an infraction on the Convention. If the Transports should arrive which I think will be soon, he has pointed to Sir William Howe his present intention. I am so happy as to be specially instructed by Congress in regard to my Conduct; and shall most invariably pursue it.2 The Commissary has charged the provisions at the same price at which our own Troops are supplied. General Burgoyne supposes his Solid Coin to be worth Three times so much as our own Currency, But what an opinion must he have of the Authority of These States to suppose that his money would be received at any higher rate than our own, in publick payment, such payment would at once be depreciating our Currency with a witness—I have frequently informed them that it is trifling to mention what some sordid Individuals would give in the exchange of money, since they do it with great secrecy at their peril, and if detected would be severely punished.

I have taken the liberty of enclosing two or three Copies of Letters which have passed between Genl Burgoyne & myself, which are not among his Copies3—I have the Honor to be very respectfully Your Excellency’s Most Obedient Humble Servant

W. Heath

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

1For the contents of Burgoyne’s packet, see Heath to GW, 18 Jan., n.1. Heath wrote Henry Laurens on 8 Jan. enclosing copies of three letters between him and Burgoyne; Congress read the letters on 22 January (DNA:PCC, item 57; 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 , 10:82).

2Henry Laurens wrote Heath on 23 and 27 Dec. 1777 providing instructions for Heath’s conduct and enclosing congressional resolutions pertinent to the management of the Convention Army (see 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 , 8:462, 483–87).

3Heath enclosed three letters. In the first one, Burgoyne, writing to Heath from Cambridge, Mass. on 9 Jan., accuses Col. David Henly of “behavior heinously criminal as an Officer and unbecoming a man—of the most indecent, violent, vindictive Severity against unarmed men, & of intentional murder. I demand prompt & satisfactory Justice, & will not doubt your readiness to give it—Whenever you will inform me that a proper Tribunal is appointed, I will take care that undeniable evidence shall be produced to support these Charges” (DLC:GW).

Heath replied on 10 Jan. from Boston rejecting Burgoyne’s charges and making accusations of his own, but he agreed to place Henley under arrest: “To convince you that it is my fixed determination to enquire into all abuses, whether committed by my own Troops, or those of the Convention whilst they remain within my department, I have ordered Colo. Henley under Arrest, and appointed a Court of enquirey, whereof Brigadier General Glover is president, to examine into the grounds of your Complaint, on Wednesday next at 10 O’Clock A.M. at Cambridge. And if any Complaints have heretofore passed unredressed, it is because they have not been laid before me” (DLC:GW). For Col. David Henley’s version of the events described by Burgoyne, see his letter to Heath of 8 Jan. in MHi. Henley’s trial lasted for more than a month, with Burgoyne acting as prosecutor, but he was finally acquitted on 27 Feb. (Wilson, Heath’s Memoirs description begins Rufus Rockwell Wilson, ed. Heath’s Memoirs of the American War. 1798. Reprint. New York, 1904. description ends , 165–67).

The third enclosure is Heath’s letter to Burgoyne of 19 Jan. 1778 from Boston, in which he writes in part: “Your packet of Letters, papers &c. were handed to me the last evening per Colo. [Israel] Keith. I think that the second paragraph of your Letter to Sr Wm Howe does not stand quite fairly expressed, you are pleased to state it that you are to pay the Accounts in Gold & Silver, or yourself & Troops be detained, I think it would be but just to have inserted—or replace the provisions and necessaries with which your Troops have been supplied—which is the mode in which I informed you your accounts were to be settled, and I must desire you to make that addition in your letter” (DLC:GW).

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