George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Major General William Heath, 21 December 1780

From Major General William Heath

Garrison West Point Decr 21st 80

Dear General

I am just honored with yours of the 20th.1 A small supply of flour arrived yesterday.

I will endeavour to enquire into the issues of provisions; but as the weekly returns are now sent to the Adjutant General, and the scarcity of paper forbidding duplicate Returns, I shall not have so good an opportunity of compareing the regimental & provision Returns, as probably the Adjutant General will have—but as far as is in my power I will endeavour to do it.

The Troops on the East side of the river shall be held under orders to march on the shortest notice.2

Colonel Livingston & Colonel Spencers regiments shall have directions to apply for their proportion of Cloathing—The matter of Strouds shall also be mentioned to the respective Lines.3

A number of our Prisoners are come & comeing out of New York; some engaged for the war others for three years, & for nine months: they are almost naked: can any thing be done for them, whose times of service are expired? without some small assistance of Cloathing it will be almost impossible for them to get home without suffering.

Several Officers who have arrived here this evening from New York, can give some intelligence of the present situation of the Enemy, & late embarkation.4 As they will call at Head Quarters, it is unnecessary for me to particularise.5 I have the honor to be With the greatest respect Your Excellencys Most Obedient Servant.

W. Heath

P.S. A circumstance occurs to my mind, which may account in a principal manner for the Issues of provisions not decreaseing at first view so much as your Excellency expected. The discharged men being totally destitute of every means of support on their way home, as they are discharged draw three days provision at these Posts to subsist them—this of course, prevents for a few days the diminution of the Issues being visible on the weekly provision Returns.


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

2Heath had monitored the potential British threat east of the Hudson River. Maj. Hugh Maxwell had written Heath from Crom Pond, N.Y, on 19 Dec. to express “no doubt the enemy are in motion at Morrisennia, and that this Neighbourhood is their Object: I Expect them this Night or Early tomorow morning” (MHi: Heath Papers). Heath replied to Maxwell from West Point on the same date: “I have written to Genl Stark to order One Hundred or One Hundred and Fifty men to move down from the New Hampshire Line towards Crompond to be ready to Support you if necessary. … P.S. advise me frequently of What passes—If Delancy Should Come out and you repulse him be carefull not to be drawn in to ambuscade, this you may avoid by proper precautions and not loose any advantage that offers itself to you” (MHi: Heath Papers). In a letter to Brig. Gen. John Stark also written at West Point on 19 Dec., Heath directed “about One Hundred and Fifty or two Hundred men from the New Hampshire Line to move down towards Crompond Immediately, let them take One or two Days provisions with them perhaps Colo. Delancy may be cleverly handled” (MHi: Heath Papers).

3Heath struck out a subsequent paragraph on his draft: “As the Clothing which will be Issued is for the new year will it not be most eligible all things considered for the Paymasters of the new Established Regts to draw and Issue it” (see also General Orders, 1 Nov.).

Heath wrote Col. James Livingston from West Point on this date: “There is a distribution of Clothing to be made to the Troops, from the Continenta⟨l⟩ Store, please let your Regimental Clothier, and Colonels Spencers apply for their proportion, as Soon as may be, It will be necessary if they have not already done, to present exact returns of their respective Regiments of all articles of Clothing Good, Bad and wanting.

“please give me the earliest Intelligence of any movements of the Enemy below that may Come to your Knowledge” (MHi: Heath Papers; see also General Orders, 11 Dec.).

4Heath later wrote in his memoirs for this date, Thursday: “Intelligence was received that on the preceding Friday, the transports which had taken the troops on board at New York, fell down to the watering-place. They were to be conveyed by one 50 gun ship and two frigates” (Wilson, Heath’s Memoirs description begins Rufus Rockwell Wilson, ed. Heath’s Memoirs of the American War. 1798. Reprint. New York, 1904. description ends , 281; see also Heath’s second letter to GW, 18 Dec., and n.3 to that document).

5Heath struck out a subsequent paragraph on his draft: “I find some difficulty that in the case of Major Reed, he was this Day brought before the Court Martial, the Court is adjourned to Tuesday next [26 Dec.], I this afternoon observed to Colo. Hazen, that I desired the treatment of Major Reed might not be more rigorous than is commonly practised” (see also n.2 with the letter referenced at n.4 above).

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