George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Major General William Heath, 13 August 1780

From Major General William Heath

NewPort August 13th 1780

Dear General

When I addressed you yesterday I expressed my determination to join your Excellency in a few days. I expected General Count Rochambeau would object to my leaving him but I apprehended I should be able to obviate those objections. I have this day mentiond my wishes and intentions to repair to our Army, he will not hear a word of it—says your Excellency has intimated to him, that if he finds my services necessary to detain me,1 that you have informed him no considerable movements will for the present take place;2 that while our army remain quiet, if I am with it, there will be but little for me to do there, & at the same time my services are very essential to him here; that as soon as he learns from your Excellency that the American Army will be in motion, he will consent to my departure so that I find I must either leave this place directly against his will, or without your interposition be detained I know not how long. I therefore request that you would be pleased to signify to the Count, that it is necessary I should repair to the Army, without this I shall not be able to get away.3 I take the liberty to inclose the procedeings of a general Court Martial lately held by my order;4 as the sentences are capital I request your Excellencys opinion and direction as soon as may be agreeable, the Culprits are old Countrymen, are of the six months Levies belonging to this State (Rhode Island) and deserted soon after they had received their bounties and joined their Regt. This Evening the Hon: Mr Cushing & Paine arrived from Boston, they are a Committee from the Council of the State of Massachusetts sent to represent to the French General & Admiral, that the Contractors for the French Fleet & Army, purchaseing Cattle and provissions with hard money, will soon totally prevent the American Commissarys purchaseing supplies for our army with paper money. what the result will be I cannot say—Before this reaches you, your Excellency will probably have heard, that the greater part of a Fleet, of Victuallers and Merchant Ships from Europe for Quebec, have been taken by our Eastern Cruizers; Sixteen of which have arrived at different Ports.5 The inclosed papers I received this morning from Colo. Allan6—Inclosed also your Excellency will find a return of three Regiments of three months militia from Massachusetts, who are employed in fortyfying Butts Hill.7 There is another Regiment employed on Tommony Hill.8 I have not received the return of them. Their number is about 200. Some Recruits joind the other three Regiments yesterday. The British Fleet remain as when I wrote last.9 I have the honor to be with the greatest Respect your Excellencys Most Obedient Servant

W. Heath

LS, DLC:GW; ADfS, MHi: Heath Papers. GW replied to Heath on 17 August.

1For Lieutenant General Rochambeau’s request to retain Heath, see his letter to GW of 8 August. GW did not acknowledge receipt of that letter until 16 Aug., and he did not concur in the retention of Heath until writing to Rochambeau the next day.

3At this point on the draft, Heath marked out text that included: “but if I am to be Continued here for any Considerable time, permit me to observe that not only my wishes lead me but my rank in the Army also entitle[s] me to a more honorary Command.”

4GW returned the court-martial proceedings with his reply of 17 August. The proceedings, dated this date, are in MHi: Heath Papers.

5The Independent Ledger, and the American Advertiser (Boston) for Monday, 7 Aug., reported: “Saturday arrived at Salem from a cruize, the ship Brutus, during which in company with the America & Saucy Jack privateers, has captured 10 rich vessels laden with dry goods, provisions, &c. being part of a fleet of upwards of 40 sail from London, bound to Quebec, under convoy of two frigates. The Brutus carried in with her one ship, another arrived yesterday, the rest are hourly expected.” The Independent Chronicle and the Universal Advertiser (Boston) for 10 Aug. provided additional details: “We sincerely congratulate our readers on the capture of so great a part of the Quebec fleet, the most important blow given to the British trade since the commencement of the war—This fleet consisted of 38 sail, under convoy of two British frigates, richly laden with provisions, ordnance and military stores, valuable merchandize, and all kinds of supplies for the province of Canada, the British army there, and the Indian trade. It contained, indeed, most, if not all, the supplies for that quarter for the present year. … a number of American privateers fortunately met with this prey, and, we have already a certain account, captured 19. Our cruizers … were left in pursuit of the remainder of the fleet … The value of each prize is computed, on an average, at 20,000l. sterling. They have an assortment exactly adapted to the wants and occasions of the United States.”

6In the enclosed “Instructions to Mr John Fulton,” dated (from the docket) 26 June, John Allan directed Fulton to obtain detailed intelligence on the harbor, fortifications, and military and naval forces at Halifax, Nova Scotia, as well as information on the population and trade of Nova Scotia (DLC:GW). In the enclosed reply from Fulton to Allan, dated 26 July, Fulton provided only intelligence on the size of the fort’s garrison and gave some general information on Nova Scotia, but promised more intelligence soon from his agents (DLC:GW).

7The enclosed “Weekly Return of the Brigade Commanded by Col. John Jacobs Comdt, Stationd at Butts Hill,” dated 12 Aug., gave a total of 932 rank and file in three regiments, besides officers and non-commissioned officers (DLC:GW).

8Miantonomi (Tonomy) Hill was located about a mile and a half north of Newport.

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