George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Major General William Heath, 29 December 1780

From Major General William Heath

Garrison West Point Decr 29th 1780

Dear General

The enclosed from Colonel Wesson & Capn Bonnell of Colonel Spencers regiment, were handed to me yesterday. I wish to know Your Excellencys opinion concerning them.1

Our situation grows every day more alarming with respect to provissions, especially Flour; we had not the last evening, one days allowance of the latter; at the Post. A small quantity it is said has arrived at Fish Kill Landing, but the Boatmen decline comeing further down the river, lest their Vessells should get frozen in here—we were obliged yesterday morning, to break the ice from the shore; how it is this morning have not heard.

Colonel Hay in his last to me of the 21st instt observes—“Every exertion is makeing to collect flour, but the excessive badness of the roads is an almost insuperable bar to our getting any to the Army”2—If it could not be got to the river which was then free of ice, how are we to expect it brought here, a much greater distance. I beg leave to submit to your Excellency, the necessity of the Q.M. Generals immediately calling on his Assistants for uncommon exertions, in forwarding provissions from Ringwood, and every other Quarter, from whence they are to come; and that measures adequate to our necessities, and for the security of the Post, may be adopted for the transportation of any quantities of provissions that are collected, before the roads are rendered worse than they are at present; and not only the river in general, but even the Ferries become impassible.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.

1Heath enclosed letters from Capt. James Bonnel, written at Stony Point, N.Y., on 27 Dec., and from Col. James Wesson, written at West Point on 28 Dec. (both DLC:GW). The one from Bonnel to Heath—addressed as “Kind General”—reads: “In consequence of the new establishment of the Army Colo: Spencer’s Officers are all Dearrainged and are to retire from Service the first day of January Ensuing; There present Situation is truly deploreable Occationed by a number of unhapy Occurrencies which has ben Peculiarly misfortunate to the army since the Revolution Viz: the Depreciation of our Currency. the Scarsity and Exhorbitant price of the Necessaries of life, and the long time which has Elapsed since we have received any Pay.

“Several of us have more than Two Hundered Miles to travel to our respective Homes and not a single Farthing to bear our Expences, besides being consideralby Indebted to the good People of this place.

“If we could have an order to draw provision at this post for ourselves and waiters till pay arrives at the Office (which we are Assured will be in a short time) we can Discharge our Several Accounts and Travel home in credit.

“If we Cannot we must Disgrace Ourselves and Country by beging on the Road.

“I therfore at the request and in Behalf of the Officers of the Regiment beg the Indulgence for the Above mentioned purpose” (see also GW to Heath, 25 Dec.).

Wesson’s letter to Heath reads: “To disburden the Army of a Servant, who is rendered incapable of duty, by a Wound I have had the Misfortune to receive; and supposing that none would be content, that I should Command a regiment, and not perform my share of Millitary duty, I was induced to retire upon the present Arrangement—But as my Wound renders me unable to follow any Business in private Life, whereby I can support myself; I could heartily wish to continue in service, of some kind or other, which may entitle me to the full pay of my Commission—Half Pay I was undoubtedly entitled to before the present Arrangement, and if my past Services have any Merit, or, if by any thing further, I can do my Country good, I could wish to do it, and be continued upon full pay during the present War” (DLC:GW).

2Lt. Col. Udny Hay’s letter to Heath from Poughkeepsie, N.Y., written on 21 Dec., continued: “the uneasiness I have long been in with respect to the proper mode for salting the beef is in a great measure subsided, as we have no expectation of either more Cattle or more salt than we shall have properly taken care of by to morrow night.” Hay concluded with thoughts on seeking forage in Westchester County, N.Y., because he was “so fully convinced of the real scarcity there is of the article of Hay within the reach of the Army” and sought “every mode by which the least supply can be procured” (MHi: Heath Papers).

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