George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Major General William Heath, 20 December 1780

From Major General William Heath

Garrison West Point Decr 20th 1780

Dear General

The last evening I was honored with yours of yesterday, shall attend to its injunctions.1

Enclosed is Major Darbys opinion of the model of a flat bottom’d boat of the best construction for the convenience of men, and transportation of the boats on Carriages.2

Capt. Welles who has the charge of the Guards Boats informs me, that the number of boats is insufficient, and that additional ones of a proper size are not to be obtained; that some of those, that were on the Carriages, are much lighter & more suitable, than the common Flat boats, or any other he can obtain at present. Capt. Welles has but two Light Guard boats—If your Excellency should think proper, to permit him to have two of the lightest of those sent up to Murderers Creek, I will give him notice when your pleasure is known.3 I have the honor to be With the greatest respect Your Excellencys Most Obedient Servant

W. Heath

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

2The enclosure was a note from Maj. Samuel Darby to Heath written at West Point on this date: “I am of oppinion that the following dimentions are best for the construction of a flat bottomed Boat. boath for the conveniency of Men, and transportation of the Boats on Carriges.” Darby gave the dimensions in tabular form: “Length upon the floor” (25 feet); “width amidship upon the floor” (5 feet, 6 inches); “Width from Gunwail to gunwail” (6 feet, 4 inches); “depth of Sides in board” (1 foot, 10 inches). He added: “head and Stearn Sharpe boath alike” (NjP: De Coppet Collection). GW wrote and signed an undated postscript to Darby’s note: “N.B. The bottom plank being in one length, adds much to the strength of the Boat, & makes them less liable to injury by land transportation—Flooring (or cieling) the bottom contributes also to the strength & qualifies them for the transportation of Horses.” GW also drew an oval outline of a boat with pointed ends and wrote inside his drawing: “Floor of the Boat.” GW enclosed this document when he wrote Virginia governor Thomas Jefferson on 27 Dec., found at his letter to Jefferson, 9 Dec., n.9.

3GW’s aide-de-camp David Humphreys wrote Heath from headquarters at New Windsor on 21 Dec.: “In the absence of His Excellency, who is gone to Fish Kill Landing in company with Genl Chattelus, I have recd Your Letter to him of Yesterday.

“I know it to be perfectly agreeable to the General that Capt. Welles should be furnished with the Boats proposed, as he had previously directed me to write to the Quarter Mastr Genl to that purpose” (MHi: Heath Papers; see also GW’s second letter to James Clinton, 19 Dec., n.1). For the operation involving Capt. Roger Welles, see GW to Welles, 13 Dec., especially n.10, and to David Humphreys, 23 Dec., and the source note to that document; see also Heath’s first letter to GW, 18 Dec., and n.1 to that document.

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