George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Major General William Heath, 28 September 1778

From Major General William Heath

Head Quarters Boston 28 Septr 1778.

Dear General

I have been honored with the receipt of yours of the 22d and 23d Instant. Am confident that your Excellency will make the best distribution of the Grand Army for the public defence in every quarter.

I have not yet seen Major Nichola1—when he arrives I shall afford him every assistance in my power.

I am happy to acquaint your Excellency that at present the utmost harmony subsists between the Americans & French, both Officers & Seamen.

The Orders given for calling in the Militia mentioned by Major General Greene,2 upon a change of appearances of the intentions of the Enemy were countermanded before they had marched; 1200 Men who were ordered by the Council of this State on the 7th instant to be detached to reinforce Genl Sullivan have since been ordered to the posts around this Harbour to repair, complete and Garrison the Works, about 200 have already come in, and others upon the march, perhaps about Two thirds of the number ordered will come in. If your Excellency is not of a different opinion, I think as the Guards before were extremely weak, these will be needfull for a time, as they are necessary to complete the works and convince the french Officers that we mean to defend the place in case of invasion.

Yesterday a William Colvill who says he was an Ensign in the Royal Scotch Emigrants at Halifax arrived here from that place. He says he left the Battalion on account of his dislike to the Officers in general who are all Scotchmen (he being an Irishman) and some difference with the Commanding Officer;3 I find he never received his Commission, he is very intelligent, has an Uncle, Colonel of Militia, in Canada, another, Captain of a 50 Gun Ship in America, and is nearly related to Sir George Colvill. I shall carefully observe his conduct. I have now sent him to the Council.

Governor Tryon’s collecting the Cattle on Long Island, and General Gray from Martha’s Vineyard; the return of Lord Howe’s Fleet to the Hook and the Troops under General Gray to long Island seem to coincide with Colvill’s declaration of their preparing for some Grand Expedition which I think it is probable will soon take place. I have thought it my duty to give your Excellency the earliest notice of this intelligence.4

I do myself the honor to enclose a letter from Mr Fletcher this moment received, by which your Excellency will find a considerable quantity of Cloathing has been sent on since the 19th Instant.5

There are here about One Hundred Invalids, part of whom are in extreme want of Cloathing—I apprehend it will be agreeable to your pleasure that Cloathing be stopped for them—I shall give orders accordingly. I have the honor to be with the greatest respect Your Excellency’s Most Obedient humble Servant

W. Heath

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

1Heath is referring to Maj. Samuel Nicholas.

3The Royal Highland Emigrants was a Loyalist corps consisting of two battalions, one headquartered at Quebec and the other at Halifax. Lt. Col. John Small commanded the latter battalion. The corps was taken into the British army as the 84th Regiment of Foot in January 1779.

4Heath enclosed William Colvill’s deposition of this date, in which Colvill says “That Genl Carlton & Colo. McLane [Allan Maclean] left Canada in the Month of august for England. That the Garrison of Quebec consists of about 300 Men. That both at Quebec & Halifax they are under great apprehensions of a Visit from the French. That Major Gl [Eyre] Massey with the Corps of Marines at Halifax consisting of about 600 embark’d before he left that place, destin’d for Engd to serve, as it was said, on board a Fleet intended for the French coast. Genl Massey embark’d on board the Greyhound who was to convoy the Fleet.

“The Rainbow & Diamond Frigates are at Halifax The former only to be Station’d there. The Diamond was to carry a packet to Rhode Island which was hourly expected from England.

“The beginning of Septr Admiral Byron in the Princess Royal of 90 Guns arrived at Halifax dismasted, as did the Culloden a 74 Gun Ship two days before in the like condition. All hands in the place were employed to refit them, which was effected in three days, as masts were ready made in the Dock Yards. Immediately after refitting the Princess Royal, Culloden, Several Frigates & Sloops of war sail’d for Rhode Island & from thence were to proceed for New York, where, it was reported a Fleet was ready wooded & water’d with Troops in readiness to embark & proceed on an expedition which was to take place as soon as the Packet arrived from England, which was hourly expected.

“Admiral Byron took all the hands from the Rainbow except 23, (officers included) which prevents her putting to Sea. She is dayly impressing hands and drafting american Prisoners to serve on board.

“About the later end of august the Scotch Troops arrived at Halifax under command of Colo. McLane [Francis McLean] who upon his arrival was made Brigadier General by General Massey, who at the review gave him the command of the place. The Scotch Troops consisted of three Regts vizt Argyles, McLane’s & Hamiltons. about 3000 in all & raw recruits. 1000 Men were expected with the Packet. Three days after the arrival of the Scotch Troops, the Royal Scotch Emigrants who have been doing duty at Halifax received orders to hold themselves in readiness to proceed to Quebec. This Battallion (the 3d) is about 300 strong, under the Command of Capt. Alexr McDonald. The New arrived Scotch Troops were to Garrison Halifax & it’s dependencies.

“Beef at Halifax 1/ per lb. Flour 8 Dollars per lb. The Common Talk was that when the Brittish Troops left America, they would endevor to burn the Sea ports Towns” (DLC:GW).

5Samuel Fletcher’s letter to Heath of this date, which was written at Boston, reads: “I have sent to Springfield since my last accot to yr Honor 40 Bales, 67 Teirces and 14 Hhds, Contents 5840 pr Stockings and 4000 suit Uniforms, I expect another Vessell this Evening & the remainder this Week all of which I can forward as soon as they Arrive.

“I expect the Army will be in want of Hatts as I have not had any in my Care, also shoes having only 7000 pr which I have sent forward” (DLC:GW).

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