George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Major General William Heath, 25 August 1779

From Major General William Heath

Mandavilles [Dutchess County, N.Y.]
Augst 25th 1779

Dear General

Some Days Since A Mr Carman of Fishkill called at my Quarters and shew me paper Containing—a Permission from His Excellency Governor Clinton for Mrs Hannah Apple to go into New York to reside there,1 On the Same paper was a line inserted by Colo. Mead directing the Officer at the advance Post of the american army to grant a Flagg for the purpose for which Mr Carman applied to me, at the Same time requesting that He might first go to the Lines to know if Mrs Apple would be permitted to go in as a woman not long Since had been refused because leave for her admision had not been previously asked and had been Sent back, that Mrs Apple was 84 years old and very infirm and if she Should after arriveing at the Enemy Lines be turned back would Suffer much, I thereupon granted Mr Carman the Permission of a Flag of which the enclosed is Coppy.2 He proceeded to the Enemy Lines with the Several Papers accompanied by Capt. Heywood of the 6th Massachusetts Regt enclosed is Capt. Heywoods narative of the Treatment they met with.3 I have the Honor to be with the greatest respect your Excellencys most Obedient Servt

W. Heath

ADfS, MHi: Heath Papers; copy, probably enclosed in GW to Henry Clinton, this date, P.R.O.: 30/55, Carleton Papers.

The letter received by GW, which has not been found, may have included the text of a third letter to GW which Heath drafted on this day (see GW’s reply of 26 Aug.). The letter, written from “Mandevills” in Dutchess County, N.Y., reads: “I take the Liberty to enclose a Letter which I recived a few days Since from Brigadier General Huntington. As the means of redress are not in my power, I have thought it my duty to represent the matter to your Excellency” (ALS [retained copy], MHi: Heath Papers). The enclosed letter from Brig. Gen. Jedediah Huntington has not been identified, but the docket of this letter indicates that Huntington’s letter concerned “deficiencys Soap &c. to the Soldiers.”

1Joshua Carman, Jr. (d. 1785), of “Beekman’s precinct” in Dutchess County, owned a flour mill near Fishkill, N.Y., and had been adjutant of the Dutchess County militia in 1775.

2The passport, signed by Heath and dated 18 Aug. at “Camp Highlands,” reads: “Mrs Hannah Apple late an Inhabitant of the City of New York having Obtained leave from his Excellency George Clinton Esqr Governor of the State of New York, to remove from Fishkill where She now resides to New York to Continue there Mr Joshua Carman Junr has Permission to proceed to the Out Lines of the Enemy Above Kingsbridge with Such officer as General Nixon shall appoint with a flag to enquire if the Said Hannah Apple will be permitted to go in” (MHi: Heath Papers).

3GW forwarded a copy of this letter to British Gen. Henry Clinton on this date, also enclosing Lt. Benjamin Heywood’s statement. For Clinton’s response, in which he asserted that Col. Ludwig von Wurmb’s conduct had been “much misrepresented” and for Wurmb’s account of the incident, see Clinton to GW, 29 Sept., and n.2 to that document.

A copy of Heywood’s report, in the writing of GW’s aide Richard Kidder Meade and dated 25 Aug. at “Camp Highlands” (probably enclosed in GW to Henry Clinton, this date), reads: “In obedience to your directions of yesterday, by Major Cartwright, I now send you the particulars of the treatment I met with from Col. Wormb on Thursday evening and Friday morning last [19 and 20 Aug.] at the Enemy’s lines; which are as follows. Having arrived, with Mr Carman, at the Enemy’s advance Picket I was met by the Officer of the guard, to whom I made known my business; upon which a light horseman was dispached to the commanding Officer Col. Wormb who after a short time came upon the gallop, accompanied by his Brother, and inquired if I was the Officer of the flag. Being answered in the affirmative and having seen my papers, he fell into a violent rage and swore by God, that he could not receive any persons upon a pass from a rebel—for a rebel he despised; But if I had brought a letter from a commanding Officer directed to a Genl in their service, it would have been well—Upon which I answered that in the first place we had a permit from Governor Clinton with an order upon it from his E[x]cellency Genl Washington and a flag in consequence of the order from Genl Heath—Col. Wurmb then said, that Governor Clinton was a damned rebel and a rascal and no Governor, that his Excellency Genl Washington and Genl Heath were rebels, that he despised them and would not receive any persons upon a pass from them; that we should be treated as Spies, and then tore the flag to pieces and flung them, together with the permit from Governor Clinton, under his horses feet. Col. Wurmb then gave orders to the Officer of the guard to carry us off, as Spies, and put us under guard; but before we had gone many steps, he revoked the order and said we should go with him, we then set out with Col. Wurm as I supposed to his quarters. I told Col. Wurmb that I came there under a sanction which was deemed sacred by all civilized nations—his answer was, that we the americans must be first Civilized before we could have a right to the same treatment with other Nations in this respect—We had not got far on our way to his quarters, before something was said to Col. Wurmb, in the German Language, by his Brother; upon which the Col. ordered us to turn about and came back to a small house where we were first met by the Officer of the guard; he then gave directions that we should stay there all night, and seemed much more mollified in his temper than he had been before; accordingly two Sentries were placed at the door and the Col. left us—After about half an hour he returned and said that our business should be done notwithstanding we had come with improper credentials—He was very affable and good natured for about three quarters of an hour, part of which, on the side of the Col., was a scene of the most fulsom caresses that can be imagined—We were then left for the night; and upon the whole all Col. Wurmbs conduct seemed rather to be that of a man in a state of inebriation than otherwise. Early on Friday morning an Officer came, with Col. Wurmbs compliments, and directed us to return immediately—I inquired if the Col. had sent any thing in writing—he said not; but that we might return without—I then asked if Col. Wurmb had sent an answer, with regard to our business—He said no, but that the Col. would send a flag in a day or two, with an answer to our lines. This Sir is a narrative of particulars as near as I can recollect them which is submitted” (P.R.O.: 30/55, Carleton Papers).

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