George Washington Papers

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

From Major General William Heath

Head Quarters Boston Sepr 10th 1778

Dear Genl

Enclosed I do myself the honor to transmit the Commission of Capt. R. Allen late of Colo. Aldens Regiment who had your Excellency permission to Resign.1

Colo. Lee some time since received leave from Congress to resign his commission in the army2—The time when the resignation was to take place I have settled with him but have not taken his Commission as his accounts are not settled—He informs me that he is ready for a settlement and desires to be directed with whom and where it is to be done.

The night before last an unhappy affray happened here between a number of American and French sailors—some French Officers who were near the place attempting to quell the disturbance were much wounded one I fear mortally—The guards instantly turn’d out to suppress the riot but the Rioters dispersed before the guard arrived at the place Every step has been taken to discover and apprehend the persons concerned and to satisfy the French Gentlemen who appeared much alarmed on the occassion and in particular that their Officers should be insulted & wounded—The conduct of the Council has been very spirited3 The guards patroled the streets the last night to prevent further disturbance—The Count D’Estaing has assured me this Day he is fully satisfyed the Inhabitants had no hand in the affray4—The enemies fleet who landed a number of their troops at Bedford on saturday night5 is still hovering on that coast and doubtless have intentions of further mischief—Measures are taken to call in the Militia should an attempt be made this way and sentinels constantly kept at the several Beacons to give timely notice—If the situation of the army is such as will admit two or three of the Continental Battallions to come this way it would be of infinite service greatly spirit the Militia and be a basis for them to build upon Your Excellency is fully sensible should such an event happen how necessary it would be and how much advantage might be expected from it. I have the honor to be with the greatest respect your Excellencys most Obedt Servant

W. Heath

LS, DLC:GW; AdfS, MHi: Heath Papers. Tench Tilghman docketed the cover of the LS, in part, “Ansd 22d.”

1The enclosed commission of Capt. Robert Allen has not been identified. For his permission to resign, see GW to Heath, 8 April, and note 3 to that document.

2For Congress’s resolution of 24 June accepting the resignation of Col. William Raymond Lee, see 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 , 11:640.

3On 9 Sept. the Massachusetts council issued a proclamation calling for all justices of the peace, sheriffs and deputies, and other civil officers “to use their utmost Endeavours for discovering, apprehending and bringing to Justice” persons involved in the “high handed Affray or Riot happening in this Town on the last Evening, wherein several Persons have been badly wounded, and one or more, it is feared, mortally so” (Continental Journal, and Weekly Advertiser [Boston], 10 Sept.; see also Boston-Gazette, and Country Journal, 14 Sept.). An account of the riot printed in the Independent Ledger, and the American Advertiser (Boston), 14 Sept., claimed that it was begun “by seamen captur’d in British vessels, and some of Burgoyne’s army, who had inlisted in privateers just ready to sail. A body of these fellows, demanded, we are told, bread of the French bakers, who were employed for the supplying the Count D’Estaing’s fleet; being refused, they fell upon the bakers with clubs, and beat them in a most outrageous manner. Two officers of the Count’s being apprized of the tumult, and attempting to compose the fray, were greatly wounded; one of them is a person of distinguished family and rank.” Vice Admiral d’Estaing’s report of 5 Nov. to the French marine secretary confirms that the dispute began at the bakery and that Lieutenant de Vaisseau Grégoire Le Henault de Saint-Sauveur was killed and Lieutenant de Vaisseau Georges-René Pléville Le Pelley wounded when they tried to intervene (Doniol, Histoire de la participation de la France description begins Henri Doniol. Histoire de la Participation de la France à l’établissement des États-Unis d’Amérique: Correspondance Diplomatique et Documents. 5 vols. Paris, 1886–92. description ends , 3:460; see also comte de Breugnon to [Sartine], 10 Aug., in Stevens, Facsimiles description begins Benjamin Franklin Stevens, ed. B. F. Stevens’s Facsimiles of Manuscripts in European Archives Relating to America, 1773–1783, With Descriptions, Editorial Notes, Collations, References and Translations. 25 vols. London, 1889–98. description ends , vol. 23, no. 1974).

4For d’Estaing’s letter to Heath of 10 Sept. (MHi: Heath Papers), see “Heath Papers,” description begins “The Heath Papers.” Parts 1–3. Collections of the Massachusetts Historical Society, 5th ser., 4:1–285; 7th ser., vols. 4–5. Boston, 1878–1905. description ends 4:269–71.

5For discussion of the British landing at New Bedford, Mass., on the evening of 5 Sept., see Vice Admiral d’Estaing to GW, 8 Sept., and note 3 to that document.

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