George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Major General William Heath, 25 July 1778

From Major General William Heath

Head Quarters Boston 25 July 1778

Dear General

I have been honored with yours of the 18th Instant. The greatest expectations are formed of the most singular and important advantages to the American Cause from the seasonable arrival of the French Squadron, it is to be hoped that the most sanguine will not be disappointed.

I immediately communicated that part of your Excellency’s Letter to the Navy Board which respected the rendezvousing the Frigates near the East end of the Sound, and proffered them any aid that might be in my power. the Warren has sailed—the Rawleigh & Dean are not yet manned; every exertion is in exercise to effect it.1

Since my last mentioning the forwarding of the 1000 Barrels of wet provisions, I have had the most pressing applications from Major General Sullivan for provisions &c. I have ordered on (which is now forwarding) 800 Barrels of Flour, 500 Barrels of Beef & pork, 150 Tierces of Rice, 5 Tons of hard Bread, 500 Quintals of Salt Fish & 100 Barrels of Salmon, Mackrel &c.—shall continue to afford every assistance that our Magazines will admit of.2

I do myself the honor to enclose a request of Major Lithgow’s, for leave to resign his Commission in the Army.3 He is a Gentleman that would do honor to the Service, but his wound and the injury his Constitution has received make him apprehensive that he shall not be able to endure the fatigues of the Camp.

While I wish your Excellency the Laurels of Victory & every falicity, I cannot but lament that my situation will not allow me to participate of those active Scenes which are my ardent wish. I have the honor to be with the greatest respect Your Excellency’s Most Obedt Servant

W. Heath

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

1The Warren, Raleigh, and Deane were Continental frigates. The Warren, built at Providence in 1776, had remained penned at that port until March 1778. She had put in at Boston on 23 March. The Warren apparently sailed on 20 July, but whether she succeeded in leaving the harbor is unclear—she had failed in several attempts by 23 July (see James Warren to William Vernon, 20 and 23 July, “Vernon Papers,” description begins “Papers of William Vernon and the Navy Board, 1776–1794.” Publications of the Rhode Island Historical Society, 8 (Jan. 1901): 197–277. description ends 251–54). The ship was burned at Penobscot Bay in August 1779. The Raleigh, built at Portsmouth, N.H., in 1776, had undergone refitting in France in late 1777 and arrived back in the United States in early April 1778. She sailed from Boston in September and was captured by British ships off Penobscot Bay shortly thereafter. The Deane was built at Nantes, France, in late 1777 as the Lion (Lyon) and renamed. She arrived at Boston in May 1778 and did not leave the port until January 1779. The Deane was decommissioned in 1783.

2See Heath to GW, 17 July. By this time Heath had received Maj. Gen. John Sullivan’s two letters of 24 July, requesting flat-bottomed boats, artillery, and flints, and the first of Sullivan’s two letters of 25 July, which requested provisions (see Sullivan’s letters and Heath’s two replies of 25 July, in Hammond, Sullivan Papers description begins Otis G. Hammond, ed. Letters and Papers of Major-General John Sullivan, Continental Army. 3 vols. Concord, 1930-39. In Collections of the New Hampshire Historical Society, vols. 13–15. description ends , 2:105–6, 115–19).

3William Lithgow, Jr. (1750–1796), served in 1776 as a lieutenant and captain of various Massachusetts militia detachments stationed at Falmouth in the District of Maine. Chosen in November 1776 to be major of a regiment raised in Maine, he became major of the 11th Massachusetts Regiment in January 1777. In the enclosure, a letter to Heath of 24 July, Lithgow asked to resign because “a Musket Shot in my right arm, which penetrated and very much fractured the joint of the Elbow,” had left him with “a very partial and imperfect use of” his hand; “this unhappy Circumstance co-opperating with an inveterate dysentery, which originated in the hardships to which (from the peculiar circumstances of that part of the army that retreated from Ticonderoga) I was necessarily exposed during the Campaign … deeply impresses me with a sense of my inability to endure the fatigues of a Camp, or to discharge the important and active duties of my station” (DLC:GW). Lithgow’s discharge, authorized by GW’s letter to Heath of 14 Aug., was dated 5 November. In 1789 GW appointed Lithgow U.S. attorney for the District of Maine.

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