George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Major General William Heath, 10 April 1778

From Major General William Heath

Head Quarters Boston April 10th 1778

Dear General

This will be presented to your Excellency by Lt Colo. Nevers, of the Province of Nova Scotia,1 He with a number of other Inhabitants have been Driven from their Habitations by the Iron Rod of Tyranny He is now going to Congress to Implore their advice aid & assistance2 being Desireous to Wait on your Excellency before He proceeds to Congress and having requested a line from me I have taken the Liberty to give him one well knowing that the distressed ever meet your attention and Sympathy and that advice which is most profitable. I have the Honor to be with great respect your Excellen[c]ys most Obt Servt.

ADf, MHi: Heath Papers.

1On 16 Sept. 1777 the Massachusetts legislature had named Lt. Lt. Col. Phineas Nevers as a commander of 300 men enlisted to serve until the end of the year for the defense of Machias, in present-day Maine (Mass. Resolves description begins Resolves of the General Assembly of the State of Massachusetts-Bay, Begun and held at Boston, in the County of Suffolk, on Wednesday the twenty-eighth Day of May, (being the last Wednesday in said Month) Anno Domini, 1777; and thence continued by Adjournments to Wednesday the seventh Day of January 1778, following, and then met at Boston aforesaid, being the fifth sitting of said Assembly. [Boston, 1778]. description ends , May 1777–April 1778 [10 Sept.–25 Oct. 1777], 2–3). Nevers was probably the Dr. Phineas Nevers (1726–1785) of Maugerville, Nova Scotia (now New Brunswick), who had represented Sunbury County in the legislature at Halifax in 1768 but moved to Bangor (now Maine) after refusing to take an oath of loyalty to King George in 1777. Nevers, whose rank is sometimes given as captain, also visited Congress in 1779 to support a proposal for a road to Nova Scotia (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 , 11:533).

2Nevers was one of the signers of a 3 Mar. memorial to Congress from “late Inhabitants of the Province of Nova Scotia,” which spoke of their previous services to the American cause and requested that Congress “would be pleased to grant us Authority to raise a Body of Troops on the Continental Establishment to enable us to take Possession of those Posts of the Province of Nova Scotia abovementioned, or at least of the River St John’s, by which we may have a Communication with those Places” (DNA:PCC, item 41). The memorial was read on 6 May, and on 14 May it was referred to committee of Richard Henry Lee, Francis Lightfoot Lee, and Gouverneur Morris. Congress on 21 May agreed to the committee’s report “That the wresting of Nova Scotia from the British power and uniting the same to these States is for many weighty reasons a very desirable object; but that the propriety of making this attempt at the present crisis seems doubtful; and upon the whole, it appears most wise to wait a while, until the event of a war taking place between France and Great Britain, and the consequences that [it] may have upon the British force on this continent, shall render an attempt upon Nova Scotia more likely to succeed. If however any concurrence of circumstances should sooner render success in this undertaking probable, it is the opinion of the committee, that the honourable council of Massachusetts bay should be empowered at continental expence to furnish the inhabitants of Nova Scotia with a force, not exceeding two regiments, to assist in accomplishing the purpose proposed in the said memorial” (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 , 11:498, 518).

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