George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Major General William Heath, 10 July 1779

From Major General William Heath

Highlands Mandavilles [Dutchess County, N.Y.]
July 10th 1779

Dear General

I do myself the Honor to enclose the Sentiments of the Officers of the three Brigades on this Side the river with respect to the regulateing the prices of the necessaries of Life in Camp as expressed by their Committee appointed by the respective Brigades—for that purpose.1

From my present particular Situation I wish to Obtain the earliest notice of the movements of the Enemy on the River both as it respects my self and the Public cause, to facilitate this I would request that Two of the four Guards Boats, at present employed, and which are manned by Crews from the Division I have the honor to Command, may be kept on this Side the River and under my direction. This was proposed yesterday by Capt. Buchannan of his own motion, Major General McDougall replied that it was your Excellencys orders that the Boats should be kept at the Point If you should not think proper to have Two of the four Boats row from and make their reports of discoveries here I presume your Excellency will not disapprove of my endeavouring to obtain other Boats for this purpose and ordering over the Boatmen of my own Division to man them when the Sole Object is that of obtaining the earliest & best Intelligence.2

There are a number of Prisoners in the provost at Fish Kill whose Situation is very disagreable Some of them are Considered as Spies, will your Excellency please to order them tryed by a General Court Martial of the Line, or of the Division—or delivered over to the authority of the State I beleive the Crimes are in the Hands of John Strang Esqr. Dy Judge advocate3 I am informed that Two of them vizt Joseph Nickerson and James Halsted are notorious villains;4 and that the public are very desireous to have them Speedily brought to tryal. I have the honor to be with the greatest respect your Excellencys most Obedient Servt

W. Heath

ADfS, MHi: Heath Papers.

Also on this date, 4:00 P.M., Heath wrote GW: “I herewith Send Charles Smith a Deserter from the 33rd Regt British who Deserted from Verplanks Point yesterday morning, he sold his arms and accoutarments to the Militia who Commonly purchase all the arms that fall in their way” (ADfS, MHi: Heath Papers).

GW’s aide-de-camp Alexander Hamilton replied to Heath on the same date: “His Excellency orders me to acknowlege the receipt of your two letters $ bearer—The intended march of your division tomorrow morning prevents a particular reply to the points mentioned in one of them” (MHi: Heath Papers).

1The enclosure apparently was the original of a document signed by a total of nine officers in the brigades of brigadier generals John Nixon, Samuel Holden Parsons, and Jedediah Huntington, for which there is a copy, docketed 6 July. That copy reads: “Agreable to a General Order of the left wing of the Army, a committee of Officers from the several Brigades met on the 6 Instant, to consider a report of a committee of the right wing for the purpose of fixing the prices of articles of Provisions, Vegetables Spirits Sugar &c. having maturely considered said report, feel disposed to acquiesce in the recommendations of the right wing, fixing the prices of Provisions & provided these prices are in proportion to those recommended by the associated Citizens of Philadelphia or other associations for the purpose of appreciating the Currency, and also provided the commander in chief approves the regulations so made and agreed to, & that by proper Authority the same may be made obligatory upon the Inhabitants near, & within certain limitations of Camp. Also that we should View ourselves happy in complying and inviolably adhering to reasonable and as we apprehend Necessary regulations of this kind made by the people or Citizens at large” (MHi: Heath Papers; see also GW to Heath, 3 July, and n.3 to that document; General Orders, 3 July, source note; and GW to Stirling, 4 July).

2Heath had complained about boat access in a letter of 8 July to John Buchanan, superintendent of boats at West Point, that reads: “Several applications have been made for a Whale Boat to be kept on this Side the River to be at hand for the Conveyance of Dispatches, deserters Prisoners &c. to Head Quarters, for which there are almost Constant demands, we have been put off with being told that there is not a Boat or that this or the Other Officer has them, and Consequently have been Obliged to Send Some times to one place and Some times to another to request the favor of a Boat to forward Dispatches. this to be Sure is a very extraordinary way of doing Business If the Boats are Under your direction I am directed to inform you that the Public Service absolutely requires that an Express Boat be Constantly kept as near as possible to the Genls Quarters, and that you will please to order one for that purpose. It is hard to beleive that there are no Boats when three or four Boats Crews from the Troops on this Side the river are kept Some where in what are Called express Boats when they are more wanted here than at any other place whatever—there are now no Boats. You will please to inform me that the men belonging to the Regts on the East Side of the River may be ordered to Joyn their respective Corps and measures taken to Obtain Boats from Some other Quarter” (MHi: Heath Papers). Buchanan replied to Heath from West Point on 13 July that “after So long time I have sent your honour a boat” (MHi: Heath Papers).

3John Strang (1751–1829) was the son of Joseph Strang, a staunch Patriot from Crompond, N.Y., who had served as major in the Westchester County militia. The younger Strang studied law under John Jay and served as his law clerk in 1775, earning plaudits from another attorney for his “Care and Regularity” (Robert Troup to Jay, 30 Oct. 1775, in Morris, John Jay: The Making of a Revolutionary, description begins Richard B. Morris et al., eds. John Jay: The Making of a Revolutionary. Unpublished Papers, 1745–1780. New York, 1975. description ends 177–78). Maj. Gen. Alexander McDougall appointed Strang deputy judge advocate after he apparently failed to secure the position of surrogate in Westchester County despite a recommendation from Robert R. Livingston, who called Strang “a deserving lad.” (Livingston to George Clinton, 2 May 1778, in Hastings and Holden, Clinton Papers, description begins Hugh Hastings and J. A. Holden, eds. Public Papers of George Clinton, First Governor of New York, 1777–1795, 1801–1804. 10 vols. 1899–1914. Reprint. New York, 1973. description ends 3:254; 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 18:1037, 1044). Strang practiced law in Westchester County from 1779 to 1797.

4Heath apparently is referring to “A Report of the provost Guard att FishKill,” dated 3 July, showing sixteen prisoners, including Joseph Nickerson, confined since 28 April, and “James Haulsted,” confined since 11 April (MHi: Heath Papers).

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