George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Major General William Phillips, 21 August 1778

From Major General William Phillips

Cambridge [Mass.] August 21st 1778


The situation of the Troops of the Convention of Saratoga being such as calls upon my earnest attention, will, I hope, plead for me in apology for giving you, Sir, the trouble of this Letter.

By an Article of the Treaty made at Saratoga with Major General Gates it was to be allow’d that an Officer might be sent to Canada for the Cloathing for the Troops of the Convention1—By application thereupon to Major General Heath he consented that an Officer might go by way of Halifax but did not allow any one to go by Land and the Lakes; I was obliged to accept this only alternative of procuring the cloathing; and Captain Willoe went with proper passports to Halifax and sailed from thence in April for Quebec; but he has not since been heard of, nor have I received any accounts what ever from Canada: under this description of the matter, and being in much anxiety for the welfare of the Troops I wrote a request to Major General Heath in the last month, which I repeated a few days since for permission to send an Officer by Land to Canada—Copies of my Letters and the Answers of Major General Heath I enclose to you, Sir, as fully explanatory on the Subject and will serve to offer as a reason for this direct application to you which Brigadier General Wilkinson going to your Army Affords me.2

I will take the liberty to most seriously request you will, Sir, have the goodness to allow of my sending an Officer by the Lakes to Canada, with permission that he may return the same way with accounts of the Cloathing for the Troops which is at present much wanted but in a short time will prove of the utmost consequence to men who are Almost naked.

I will not intrude longer on your time but leave my request to the decision of your good Sense and humanity.

I have a Pay Master and a Secretary in Canada to whom I writ by way of Halifax to Come here, the one to settle some public Accounts, the other to remain Some time with me in his way to Europe—May I offer my desire that should those two Officers be Still in Canada they may have leave to join me by way of Lake Champlain.

I do protest, Sir, that if it did not appear to me that an Officer going by Land to Canada would be attended with no consequences either political or military I would not give you the trouble of my request, and my Parole however strict, shall be subscribed to.

Should the Letters to New York contain no thing improper I will hope you may allow of their passing to that place.3 I am Sir, with great personal respect your most Obedient most humble Servant

W. Phillips


1Article 12 of the 17 Oct. 1777 Convention of Saratoga provided that the British army should be able to send for their clothing and baggage “in the most convenient manner and the necessary passports granted for that purpose” (DNA:PCC, item 57).

2The enclosed copies of Phillips’s letters to William Heath of 29 July and 17 Aug. and Heath’s replies of 1 (an extract) and 20 Aug. are in DLC:GW. On 1 Aug., Heath had promised, “I will write His Excellency General Washington by the first opportunity, and request to be informed whether he has any objection to your Sending to Canada by the way of the Lakes.” To Phillips’s renewed application, he responded that he had not yet received GW’s reply, and “As His Excellency is now within the limits of the Northern Department it would be very improper for me to permit an Officer to pass that way without his knowledge and Consent.”

3An undated note from Phillips to GW may have accompanied this letter. It reads: “Major General Phillips requests of Genl Washington if he is so good to permit these letters to go into New York that he will be pleased to Seal them first—That enclos’d in the Cover directed to Thos Forsyth particularly” (PPRF). Phillips probably enclosed his letter to Henry Clinton of this date (P.R.O., 30/55, Carleton Papers).

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