George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Major General William Heath, 26 October 1778

From Major General William Heath

Head Quarters Boston 26th Octr 1778

Dear General

The inclosed is Copy of a Letter which I have just received from Major General Riedesel and Brigadeir General Hamilton with whom I have for some time transacted the public Business of the Troops of Convention, having found it impossible to do business with propriety with Major General Phillips.1

Your Excellency will observe, what they advance, and that they seem rather to hold up an Idea that provisions may be coming; to this I can only say that its coming has not been mentioned in any letter lately from New York or Rhode Island that I have heard of—Mr Comy Clarke lately went to New York with the Accounts of Supplies furnished the Troops of Convention; whether he is to negotiate the forwarding provisions for the Troops I cannot say[,] as the Resolve of Congress and your Excellencys instructions direct their immediate removal[,] I shall without loss of time be making every preparation.2 If your Excellency shall think proper to give any further Orders respecting their removal perhaps they will arrive by the time they are ready to march. I have the honor to be with the greatest respect Your Excellency’s Obedient Servant

W. Heath

LS, DLC:GW; ADfS, MHi: Heath Papers. On 3 Nov. GW replied to this letter and Heath’s letters to him of 23 and 28 Oct. (MHi: Heath Papers).

1In this letter of this date, which was written from Cambridge, Mass., in reply to Heath’s letter to James Hamilton of the previous day, Friedrich von Riedesel and Hamilton said: “It becomes necessary for us to make only one observation upon your Letter, & to do it properly it is necessary to transcribe what you have quoted from General Washington’s Letter to you [of 22 Oct.]: He is, as you write, pleased to observe ‘The first request we know has never been granted and I imagine as Steps have been taken to Supply the Troops from New York or elsewhere: if there have, agreable to the Letter & Spirit of the resolution, they are to remain where they now are, if not, they are to be Sent forward in the manner pointed out in mine of Yesterday.’ Upon this passage of General Washingtons Letter you are pleased to make the following remark ‘As nothing of the lat[t]er has been done of any consequence, the orders by the first Express must be complied with.’ We profess, Sir not clearly to understand your remark, and as the consequences upon it are of a very serious nature, we wish you would be so good to reconsider General Washington’s Letter—What you mention of not having been done ‘of any consequence’ we apprehend may have reference to the provisions brought here in the Summer, and Surely Sir, cannot be consider’d as belonging in any part to the late resolutions of the American Congress of Sepr & October—It may therefore be presumed that provisions are ordered from Newyork to Boston for the use of the Troops of Convention, but that there has not been sufficient time for the arrival there of the Victualler Ships. While therefore there remains any doubt upon this matter, and that General Washingtons orders are conditional & may have a reference to what Sr Hy Clinton may do on this Subject, we Submit to you whether it might be not reasonable that an explicit Answer should be had from Sir Henry Clinton before the Troops of Convention are possitively put upon a march for So many hundred miles in the Severe Season of Winter, and in the unlucky situation you well know they are in respecting their want of Cloathing.

“But, Sir, if this march is to take place we have not the least doubt of your conducting it with every possible attention to the comfort & conveniency of the Troops of Convention—that you will render each days march as moderate a distance as the nature of the Country will admit that you will allow the Troops to halt as often as may be convenient—that they may be march’d in Such divisions as to be furnishd with Quarters in Barns or otherwise as may be necessary for them—that Provisions may be So order’d to be issued upon the march that there may be no apprehension of want, a care, which humanity So Strongly dictates that we are sure you will give the most exact instruction’s upon this Article.

“We will hope also, that you will be So good to allow the Flag of Truce Ship lately arrived to be unloaded, and the Stores, which consist of Blankets, Cloth for Breeches & Leggins, Shoes & Stockings to be deliver’d to the Troops, particularly at Rutland, prior to the order of march, And we desire you to believe, that in this our mutual request there is not any desire of delay, for you must be sure Sir that upon So extensive a movement, the Sooner it is undertaken, the better, but there are Some attentions necessary towards the Soldiers, without which they will not be able to prosecute the march for Six days.

“Under this description & for these reasons only, we will request that you permit the Troops to be furnish’d with the necessarys before mention’d previous to their march.

“In the event of our moving we certainly Shall prefer the Canada Vessells going to Virginia, & we desire You will permit an officer going to Rhode Island for the purpose of detaining the Vessells, & in forwarding Mr [David] Geddes to Cambridge, without whose assistance you are sensible Sir we can do nothing.

“We wish to propose [Capt.-]Lt [Edward] Collier for this business, his Baggage is all on board those Vessells, wch will render his going through the Country very convenient to him, & he must be from his Short residence amongst us, the least exceptionable officer to Send—but to prevent any delay we beg you will be So good to forward by Express the Enclosed Letter to Major Genl Prescott at Rhode Island.

“In a matter of such moment such Serious consequence to the Troops of Convention, and wherein both General Washington & Sr Henry Clinton are blended, We are sure you will be of opinion that an officer should be sent with the utmost dispatch to newyork and we most earnestly request that you will grant a passport for this purpose for Capn Marsten’s going by land with a report to Sir Henry Clinton of this matter.

“Under a description of So particular a nature, we will not doubt of your complying with our request as no other way of communication can at this Season be certain And the necessity as well as propriety of immediate informing Sir Henry Clinton of the march of the Troops will We are sure appear to you So evident, as to render our mentioning any thing further upon the Subject unnecessary” (DLC:GW).

2For Congress’s resolution of 16 Oct. directing the removal of the Convention Army to Charlottesville, Va., see Henry Laurens’s letter to GW of that date; see also 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 , 12:1016. For GW’s instructions on this subject, see his second letter to Heath of 21 Oct., and his letter to Heath of 22 October. The punctuation is supplied from the draft (see also “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 4:277).

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