George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Major General William Heath, 20 February 1778

From Major General William Heath

Head Quarters Boston Feby 20. 1778

Dear General

I have been honored by the receipt of yours of the 22d Ulto. Having received the Resolve of Congress for delaying the embarkation of General Burgoyne & his Army ’till the Convention is ratified by the Court of Great Britain. I am carefully observing the conduct of these Troops; have inculcated vigilence & alertness on the Guards & Sentinels, and have augmented their numbers; have been removeing the Arms &c. from this Town, and am happy to find that the measures which I have been pursuing are such as your Excellency is pleased to direct.

Yesterday we had information from Governor Cooke that on Sunday last, the 15th Instant, Three Frigates, and upwards of Twenty Sail of Transports, sailed from New port, and were last seen standing to the North East, but whether bound here, to the West Indias, or to Europe, time must discover.1

I do myself the honor to send your Excellency a small matter of Sealing wax, all I could obtain this morning, as it is not to be procured in this Town; but being informed that it may possibly be obtained in Salem, I have desired Colo. Chase to send there.

Inclosed is an application from an Ensign Winship who desires to resign his Commission in the Army if agreeable to your Excellency.2

Your Excellency will undoubtedly observe in our public papers & perhaps with surprise, a publication of the Resolutions of Congress of the 8th of January, which, Congress I apprehend meant not to publish here until they are certified that I had delivered it to General Burgoyne. I had refused him the liberty of sending a Copy to Lord Howe at Rhode Island untill I had taken that step. But Congress having sent one of the Resolves to the Council here, a Printer, some how, availed himself of it & very imprudently published it in his paper from which the others have taken it.3

I have taken the liberty to enclose a letter directed to General Howe, which, if your Excellency will please when an opportunity offers, to permit it to be sent in, will oblige the officer who sent it4—I have the honor to be With great respect Your Excellencys Obedient Hble Servt

W. Heath

LS, DLC:GW; ADf, MHi: Heath Papers. The draft is dated 19 February.

1Capt. Henry Duncan of the Royal Navy, who was stationed at Rhode Island, recorded in his journal on 15 Feb.: “Sailed hence for England the Chatham, Buffalo, Tortoise, and three merchant ships.” On the following day he wrote that “The Juno and Cerberus, with a convoy of transports, sailed for Cape Cod Harbour, to carry home General Burgoyne’s army” (Journals of Henry Duncan description begins John Knox Laughton, ed. “Journals of Henry Duncan, Captain, Royal Navy, 1776–1782.” The Naval Miscellany 1 (London, 1902): 105–219. In Publications of the Navy Records Society, vol. 20. description ends , 157). Lord Richard Howe wrote Philip Stephens on 16 Mar. that the convoy attended by the Cerberus and Juno left Rhode Island on 15, not 16 February. He added that upon receipt of news that Congress had suspended the embarkation of Burgoyne’s army, he had ordered part of the convoy to return to Rhode Island while the rest proceeded to England (Davies, Documents of the American Revolution description begins K. G. Davies, ed. Documents of the American Revolution, 1770–1783; (Colonial Office Series). 21 vols. Shannon and Dublin, 1972–81. description ends , 15:71).

2John Winship (1754–1822) of Lexington, Mass., served as a sergeant in Col. Samuel Gerrish’s Massachusetts Regiment in 1775 and as a sergeant in the 26th Continental Infantry in 1776. In January 1777 he was appointed an ensign in the 9th Massachusetts Regiment, and he resigned in April 1778. His letter of application for resignation has not been identified.

3The Boston-Gazette, and Country Journal printed the congressional resolve of 8 Jan. suspending the embarkation of Burgoyne’s army, along with the committee report on which the resolve was based, on 16 February. Henry Laurens had sent a copy of the resolve to the Massachusetts council on 14 Jan. (DNA:PCC, item 13; see also 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 , 8:593, and 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 , 10:29–35).

4For an identification of the enclosed letter, see GW’s reply of 5 Mar. and note 1 of that document.

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