George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Major General William Heath, 12 September 1778

From Major General William Heath

Head Quarters Boston Sepr 1[2]th1 1778

Dear General

I have received the honor of yours of the 6th instant;2 and have given orders for the Artificers at Springfield to be cloath’d, agreeable to your direction.

This moment3 the Continental sloop of war, commanded by Capn John Rathburn arrived in this Port from a cruise, and gives the inclosed intelligence4—Whether this fleet was from Europe, and what is calld the Glasgow fleet5—or whether they were from Cannada—of which I think there may be at least some probability is uncertain—I thought it my duty to give your Exellency the earliest notice of it.

I would request that the Letter addressed to the Hon. the President of Congress may be sent by your first Express to Philadelphia and ask your Excellency’s pardon for giveing you the trouble.6 I have the honor to be with the greatest Respect your Excellencys most Obedt Servt

W. Heath

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

1Heath wrote “11th” on the LS, but the draft and both enclosures are dated 12 September.

2Heath received GW’s letter of 6 Sept. on 10 Sept. (see Heath’s second letter to Maj. Gen. William Phillips of that date, P.R.O., 30/55, Carleton Papers).

3On the draft, Heath wrote “morning.”

4According to newspaper reports, the Providence returned to Boston on 11 Sept. (Boston-Gazette. And Country Journal, 14 Sept.). The enclosed intelligence, dated 12 Sept., reported: “That on the 7th Ulto about Ten Leagues from Louisbourg, He fell in with 30 Sail of Transports Standing to the Westward, One of Which He engaged from Sun sit till 12 oClock at night when he quited her—Supposes there were 200 Men Highlanders on Board—The Transports were all armed Apprehends they mounted from Ten to Fourteen Guns each and were under Convoy of the Aurora Frigate—About the 30th of Augt Capt. Rathburn put into Port Roswell [Roseway] about 25 Leagues West of Halifax to repair his Mast. He was informed by the People there that five thousand Troops had arrived at Hallifax” (DLC:GW). Capt. John Peck Rathbun (1746–1782) was appointed to command the sloop Providence in April 1777 and remained in command of that vessel until 1779, when he assumed command of the Continental frigate Queen of France. Captured at Charleston in May 1780, Rathbun had been exchanged by February 1781, and he assumed command of the letter-of-marque brigantine Wexford in August 1781. That vessel was taken by the British frigate Recovery in September 1781, and Rathbun was eventually confined in a British prison, where he took ill and died.

5The Continental Journal, and Weekly Advertiser (Boston) of 10 Sept. printed a report from London, 2 July, that “Upwards of 8000 men have embarked from Glasgow within the last two months.”

6Heath’s letter to Henry Laurens of 12 Sept conveyed Rathbun’s intelligence (DNA:PCC, item 157).

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