George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Major General William Heath, 28 August 1780

From Major General William Heath

Newport August 28th 1780.

Dear General,

Yesterday morning I was informed by a Credible Coaster from Martha’s Vineyard that the British Fleet were the day before in the Vineyard Sound and to the Westward of the Island, to the number of twenty Sail & upwards. their object probably is to plunder the Stock &c.1 I think it is not unlikely that the Small embarkation of Troops lately mentioned to be taking place at New York are on this expedition.2 I some time Since gave a hint to the Inhabitants of Bedford to be in readiness to Secure their Stock if a Fleet appear’d off that Harbour, and desired them to communicate it to the Inhabitants of the Vineyard3—but the lat[t]er I apprehend will be Striped and Very probably the Elizabeth Islands.4

The day before Yesterday Colo. Silas Talbot in the privateer Ship Washington of 20 Carriage Guns owned by Mr John Brown of Providence ran out of this harbor bound on a Cruize—it is Supposed the Washington was chased by the British frigates, and a considerable firing was heard—but whether She was taken or escaped is not yet known.5 I have the honor to be, With the greatest respect Your Excellencys Most obedient Servant

W. Heath

P.S. We are Suffering here exceedingly for the want of Forage and Fuel for the few Troops at this post Notwithstanding there is plenty in the Country.

The public officers have neither money or Credit to procure them—this has been the Case ever Since I came here, and I do not See any prospect of a remedy. Our Horses are Scarcely fit for Service.6


LS, DLC:GW; ADfS, MHi: Heath Papers.

1For this fleet, see Heath to GW, 31 August.

2GW had warned Heath about a British raid with 2,000 troops sailing from New York (see GW to Heath, 17 Aug.). Vice Adm. Marriot Arbuthnot had wrecked British plans to embark a much larger force against Rhode Island (see Willcox, American Rebellion description begins William B. Willcox, ed. The American Rebellion: Sir Henry Clinton’s Narrative of His Campaigns, 1775–1782, with an Appendix of Original Documents. New Haven, 1954. description ends , 203–8).

3See Heath to Walter Spooner, 19 Aug. (MHi: Heath Papers); see also Rochambeau to GW, 20 Aug. and this date.

4Heath struck out an incomplete paragraph in his draft at this point: “Unfortunately for me for this five or Six Days I find Some Symptoms of a ret⟨urn⟩ of the Disorder with which I was visited the last fall, and which I never have been able fully to eradicate.” He identified his disorder as “Fever and ague” in a struck-out portion of the postscript on his draft.

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