George Washington Papers

From George Washington to Major General William Heath, 17 October 1778

To Major General William Heath

[Fredericksburg, 17 October 1778]1

Dear sir

Captains Gawen Brown and John Langdon and Lieut. William Davis of Colo. Henry Jackson’s Regiment have requested to resign their Commissions and have lodged Certificates, that they are not indebted to the public.2 You will be pleased to call for their Commissions and to give discharges upon them. And as there are frequent applications by the Officers, employed at the Eastward, of the same nature and considerable time is spent, in writing to and from Head Quarters upon the subject, you will upon future occasions, give discharges yourself upon the Commissions—and transmit me an account of the same from time to time that they may be properly registered and forwarded to the Board of War.

The Enemy, who were in Jersey for several days past, have returned to Newyork again; and by advices received yesterday, I believe it is certain, that a considerable detachment, consisting of Ten full Regiments at least, is embarking. Their destination is not certainly known; but the current reports of Deserters and other intelligence from York say—they are going to the West Indies. There are some accounts too, that say Charles Town is their Object. However, as it is possible that they may meditate a stroke against Boston—notwithstanding all reasoning seems against it—I mean to put a Detachment from the Army in motion, which will advance3 Eastward, as far as Connecticut River, till we are ascertained of their views.4 I am Dr sir with great regard Your Most Obedt servt

Go: Washington

p.s. The Enclosed Letter for the Marquiss Devienne you will be pleased to deliver him as soon as you can.5 The Officers of Jackson’s Regiment mentioned above, are probably at Boston.

LS, in Robert Hanson Harrison’s writing, MHi: Heath Papers; Df, DLC:GW; Varick transcript, DLC:GW. The postscript appears only on the LS.

1The LS is not dated (see Heath to GW, 21 Oct.). The draft does not include a dateline, but Harrison docketed it: “To Genl Heath Octor 17: 1778,” and the Varick transcript is so dated.

2These commissions and certificates have not been identified. Gowen (Gawen) Brown (d. 1788 or 1789) had been appointed a captain in Col. Henry Jackson’s Additional Continental Regiment in April 1777, and John Langdon (1747–1793), who had served as a captain in the Massachusetts militia 1775–76, had become a captain in Jackson’s regiment in February 1777. William Davis had obtained his appointment as a lieutenant in the regiment in February 1777 also. All three officers were from Massachusetts. Brown subsequently became a merchant in Boston. He died at Petersburg, Va., in late 1788 or early 1789.

3At this place on the draft manuscript, Harrison first wrote and then struck out the word “slowly.”

4For GW’s ordering of Gates’s and McDougall’s divisions to march as far as Hartford in order to be able to support the French fleet at Boston sooner in case of need, see GW to d’Estaing, 16 Oct., and note 2 to that document; GW to Gates, 18, 20 Oct.; General Orders, 19 and 22 Oct.; and GW to McDougall, 23 October.

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