George Washington Papers

From George Washington to Colonel Theodorick Bland, 27 July 1779

To Colonel Theodorick Bland

West point July 27: 1779

Dr Sir

I received Your favor of the 10th by Yesterday’s post.1 I cannot at this time permit any of the Officers of the Convention Army to go to Canada by Land.2 But, if there is a necessity for it, Two of them may proceed in the first instance to New York and from thence to Quebec by Water. For this purpose I will furnish a passport upon request for their and the safe conduct of the Vessel in which they may embark, provided she goes in ballast and for their & her safe return directly to Virginia, with any quantity of Cloathing or other necessaries for the Convention Troops, that may be enumerated; and for her safe return afterwards to New York. If these terms, the only ones that can be granted, are agreable—You will permit the Officers to set out as soon as circumstances will admit, after taking their paroles for the strict observance of them—and not to communicate any intelligence &c.3

With respect to the Deserters from the Convention Army, I must entreat that you will use every possible means to have them recovered— and to prevent any farther desertions. There is not the smallest confidence to be placed in the professions of the Soldiery and let them be as solemn as they will—and even sanctified by an Oath—they will seize the first opportunity to escape to the Enemy. They must be well guarded and pretty much restricted—or the whole of the Army by degrees will slip through our fingers. The Men who deserted should suffer a close confinement, at least for a good while, both to convince them of their error, and as an example to Others.4 You will see in the public papers an Account of our success against the Garrison at Stoney point. I am Dr Sir with great regard Yr Most Obedt servant

Go: Washington

Df, in Robert Hanson Harrison’s writing, DLC:GW; copy (extract), DNA:PCC, item 152; copy (extract), DNA:PCC, item 169; Varick transcript, DLC:GW. Harrison wrote “Theodore Bland at Petersburg” at the end of the draft manuscript.

1Bland’s letter to GW of 10 July has not been found. Maj. Gen. William Philips initially had appealed for the two Convention Army officers (see Phillips to GW, 7 July, and n.2 to that document).

2Fear of compromising Maj. Gen. John Sullivan’s expedition against the Six Nations undoubtedly caused GW’s unwillingness to authorize the travel of prisoners to Canada by land. For the departure of Sullivan’s expedition from Wyoming, Pa., on 31 July, see Sullivan to GW, 30 July.

3Congress refused to authorize the travel of Convention Army officers to Canada, which required GW to countermand his conditional approval (see GW to Bland, 31 Aug. [NN: Myers Collection]; John Jay to GW, 24 Aug. [DLC:GW]; GW to Jay, 31 Aug.–1 Sept. [DNA:PCC, item 152]; and 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 14:933–34, 985–86).

4See Thomas Jefferson to GW, 17 July, and n.5 to that document.

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