George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Major General William Heath, 18 December 1780

From Major General William Heath

Garrison West Point Decr 18th 1780

Dear General

I am this evening honored with yours of the 16th.1 I will direct that Major Reid be brought to tryal on thursday, and if the necessary Evidence for compleating the tryal cannot then be produced, and the Court should think proper to postpone the tryal; I will further direct that more rigid Confinement, than is common shall not be excercised.2

I shall observe your directions respecting Joshua Ferris.

I hope if there are any boards to spare the Qr [M]aster will order them down immediately, the slaughtering the Cattle being suspended entirely on the compleating of the Store—It was intended to have made use of another Store, untill the new one could be finished, but it is found to be so infested with rats, as will expose the beef to almost certain damage & loss.

If any Deserters should come out from the Enemy, they shall be sent up to Head Quarters without delay—We are again short of flour—The Troops received three Quarters of a pound only to day; tomorrow, must be reduced to half a pound, and next day none, unless some should arrive—A quantity is expected down the river & from Ringwood if we are not disappointed.

It is still reported, that a large embarkation is about to take place at New York; but their destination is unknown.3 Colonel Delancey is also said to be collecting his Corps—I have cautioned the Officer on the Lines to great vigilance, and ordered the New Hampshire & Rhode Island regiments, to be in readiness to advance to Crum Pond if necessary.4

Count Noialles & Count Damma from Philadelphia are just arrived, & lodge here this night—they are on their way to Albany—Count Chatleaux passes up on the West side of the river the former on the East side.5 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 20 December.

2Heath wrote Col. Moses Hazen from West Point on Tuesday, 19 Dec.: “His Excellency the Commander in Chief has again expressed his Opinion that there can be no propriety in arresting an Officer in ordinary cases a long time before he can be brought to trial, that if upon his being brought before a Court, they should think proper to postpone the proceedings till further evidence is obtained they are the proper Judges, of this I am perfectly in Sentiment with His Excellency and have directed that Major Reid be brought to trial on Thursday Next Nine oClock before the General Court-Martial which will be Siting at this place of which all concerned are Notified in the orders of this Day to take notice and attend” (MHi: Heath Papers; see also James Randolph Reid to GW, 7 Dec., and GW to Heath, 10 Dec.). Heath again wrote Hazen from West Point on 22 Dec.: “As it probably will be Some considerable time before the trial of Major Reid is over, his confinement is not to be more rigid than is commonly practiced in Cases of arrest in our Army” (MHi: Heath Papers).

Hazen responded to Heath from Fishkill, N.Y., on 24 Dec. to explain that “Military Lessons” guided his confinement of Reid and that he knew “not of any established Rule in this or any other Army in the Universe that treat a Prisoner, charged with Misdemeanors, in a milder Manner than that of indulging him with his House, his Quarters, or his Tent, for his Prison.” Hazen admitted that leniency toward Reid after his “having caused” Hazen’s arrest and trial “on five capital Charges, all which have vanished in the Air … will hurt my Pride and Vanity greatly” by improperly putting “me in the wrong.” Moreover, Reid’s recent conduct tended toward “exciting a Mutiny amongst the Soldiers” and argued against “the enlargement of his Confinement at this Place, and for ought I know may be the Cause of the Court’s not indulging him in his Request” (MHi: Heath Papers; see also Hazen to GW, 12 Nov.).

4Maj. Hugh Maxwell had informed Heath from Crom Pond, N.Y., on 17 Dec. “that there is Considerable preparation making at Morisiana, by Collo. Delancy for a Tour to Some place to me Unceartain. I have taken Every method I Could Sujest to gain the Certanty, of both his preparation, and his Intended Rout, and also to Defend my lines” (MHi: Heath Papers).

Heath advised Maxwell in his reply from West Point on the same date to “Act with great precaution. …

“for Some nights to Come enjoyn uncommon vigilance on your Detachment Guards and Sentinels, and all your parties above the Bridge at Night, If the Enemy Come out in Such force as renders it proper for you to act on the defensive untill you are reinforced retreat towards Robinsons mills, and the moment you hear of their Advance Send one of your Expresses to Colo. Olney who Commands the Rhode Island Regts near the mills who is to afford you Support if necessary If Colo. Delancy comes out probably his men will be mounted, Give me every information you can collect” (MHi: Heath Papers).

Heath began a letter to Brig. Gen. John Stark, who commanded the New Hampshire brigade, on the same date: “I am Just informed that Colonel Delancey is makeing Considerable preparations for a movement Some where perhaps against our troops on the Lines I wish your Brigade may be in the most perfect readiness to turn out to Support them if necessary” (MHi: Heath Papers; see also Heath to GW, 21 Dec., and n.2 to that document).

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