George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Major General William Heath, 3 September 1780

From Major General William Heath

Newport September 3d 1780

Dear General

His Excellency General Comte de Rochambeau has this morning consented to Colo. Green’s Regiment joining the Army; I shall therefore order them to march as Soon as possible; which I apprehend will be Some time the next Week.1 the Comte retains the three months militia from Massachusetts for the purpose of compleating the Works at Butts’s hill. this Militia consists of parts of five Regiments, as your Excellency will See by the returns which are made to the Adjutant General of the Army.2 the Comte thinks the Works ought to have been finished before this time, and that the militia do not work with spirit: this, I suppose in some degree is the Case altho’ every possible means have been taken to animate them. but, after all, the Works are very extensive, and the diging entirely in a rock—and the ditch cannot be Sunk faster than the Engineers and miners drill and blow the rocks. Under these Circumstances, and in a Work nearly as large as the Fort at West point your Excellency cannot be at a loss to conjecture what time will be necessary for it’s completion—for my own part I do not believe that it Will be finished and friezed in less than Six Weeks if So soon.3 The Comte intimated to me this morning that the time of Service of the Militia was now so Short that your Excellency would not probably Wish to have them go on from this place—this, your Excellency can best determine.

The Comte begins to think of Winter quarters, and has applied to the Legislature of the State on the Subject. they have appointed a Committee to Confer with him. Newport and Bristol are talked of for the purpose.4 I fear they will be Straitened for fuel and forage—especially the later—they have a prodigious number of Horses, and the Crops of Hay have been but light—and the feed, from the excessive dry Season, is very Short5—the Indian Corn is also much effected by it, and the Crops in general this way will be light.

The Brittish fleet are said to have left the Vineyard Sound on Wednesday or thursday last—but, where they are gone is yet unknown.6 Some deserters who made their escape from the Fleet while at the Vineyard report that they expected a reinforcement from Newfoundland (this however We know must be very trifling) and that they would make an attempt on the French at Newport—but as your Army was become very Strong it was doubted whether a Sufficient number of Troops could be spared from New york to give any prospect of Success to Such an enterprise.7 I have the honor to be, With the greatest respect, Your Excellency’s Most obedient Servant

W. Heath

ALS, DLC:GW; ADfS, MHi: Heath Papers. GW’s aide-de-camp Tench Tilghman docketed the ALS as “recd 7th at noon.”

2These returns have not been identified; see also GW to Heath, 28 Aug., n.2.

4See Tarlé to William Greene, 29 Aug., in Bartlett, R.I. Records description begins John Russell Bartlett, ed. Records of the Colony of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations, in New England. 10 vols. Providence, 1856–65. description ends , 9:305.

5For efforts to obtain forage for the French horses at Rhode Island, see Heath to Nicholas Easton, 7 Sept. (MHi: Heath Papers); see also Rochambeau to GW, 8 October.

6Heath had written Massachusetts Council president James Bowdoin from Newport on Saturday, 2 Sept.: “Arbuthnot Still Continues in the Vinyard Sound, Collecting Stock from the Islands” (MHi: Heath Papers). For this British fleet, see Heath to GW, 19 Sept., n.2.

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