George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Major General William Heath, 1 November 1780

From Major General William Heath

West point November 1. 1780

Dear General,

I am just honored with yours of the 29th ultimo. the severity of the Storm has been such that Smith has not been able to cross the River. When he comes he shall be proceeded with agreable to your directions.1

The Letter to Governor Clinton &c. Shall be forwarded with dispatch.2

I had the honor of addressing your Excellency on the 26th Ultimo respecting the several culprits who are under sentence of death. I Wish your Answer as soon as may be convenient.3 I have the honor to be With the greatest respect Your Excellency’s Most obedient Servant

W. Heath

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

1GW’s letter to Heath dated 29 Oct. gave directions regarding Joshua Hett Smith following his acquittal for complicity in Benedict Arnold’s treachery (see Document XV with The Smith Family and Major General Benedict Arnold’s Treachery, 26 Sept.–30 Oct., editorial note).

Heath wrote in his memoirs for this date: “A severe storm of snow and rain. The brave soldiers who were but illy clad, and destitute of blankets were in a shivering condition” (Wilson, Heath’s Memoirs description begins Rufus Rockwell Wilson, ed. Heath’s Memoirs of the American War. 1798. Reprint. New York, 1904. description ends , 275; see also General Orders, this date, source note, and Henry Knox to GW, 3 Nov., source note).

2GW had written New York governor George Clinton or New York lieutenant governor Pierre Van Cortlandt on 29 Oct. to transmit Smith’s court-martial proceedings and ask whether state officials wanted to take him into custody (see Document XVI with The Smith Family and Major General Benedict Arnold’s Treachery, 26 Sept.–30 Oct., editorial note).

3See GW to Heath, 31 Oct., and n.1 to that document.

Heath’s draft continues at this point with struck-out material: “I also beg leave to Submit to your Excellencys Consideration whether the public Service would not be promoted if Criminals who are at any time pardoned Should be turned over to the Continental Frigates, they Generally live a very unhappy life in the Regts to which they belong. indeed the Soldiers generally refuse to do duty with them or have them in the Same Corps—of this I have now an Instance, a man of Colo. Lambs Regt who has been Sentenced to be whiped and Sit on the Gallows has received his Punishment. The Regt refuse to do Duty with him or have him in the Regt conceiving [it] to be a disgrace to the Regt. this is a laudable pride that I am unwilling to damp, but the Consequence must be a Discharge of the Soldier.”

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