George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Major General William Heath, 4 January 1781

From Major General William Heath

Garrison West Point Jany 4th 1781

Dear General

I am honored with yours of the 3d—have ordered a Detachment to proceed up the river, in pursuit of Flour immediately agreeable to your directions.1 I cannot but lament, that we have new experiments to make almost daily. I think some of the strong Pettiaugurs2 at Fish Kill Landing, or one or two of the Sloops, might perform this service, with as much safety as the Batteaux, as the Season now is, and with much greater advantage, as to the safe conveyance of the Flour, and ease of transportation. The Flour designed for the Troops on the east side of the river, might be sent immediately down in waggons, or on horses, if the Q.M. General can command them. I was last night informed that a very considerable quantity of Flour is at Ringwood. If the Q.M. General cannot command Teams otherwise, would it not be best at this critical moment, even to impres Teams to bring it forward—Our Troops yesterday received but half a pound of flour. I do not know that they have any to day.3

I am informed there are a few Watch Coats and Mittens in the Continental Store, the proportion for the Massachusetts Line. Will your Excellency be pleased to give an order for the delivery of them to the State Clothier. who presents this. I have the honor to be With the greatest respect Your Excellencys Most Obedient Servant

W. Heath

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

1Writing from West Point on this date, Heath ordered Lt. Samuel Buffington to “embarke the detachment under your Command on Board the Gun Boat, and a good Flat Boat … and immediately proceed up the River to Murderers Creek where, you will launch Three of the largest and best Boats laid up at that place … you will then with the five Boats proceed with the greatest expedition to Poughkeepsie, to Colo. Hay who will give you directions where you are to take in Flour with which you will load the Boats as deep as may be Safe and return with the utmost dispatch to this place” (MHi: Heath Papers).

2A piragua, sometimes called a pettiauger, is “An open flat-bottomed schooner-rigged vessel; a sort of two-masted sailing barge, used in America and the W. Indies” (OED description begins James A. H. Murray et al., eds. The Oxford English Dictionary: Being a Corrected Re-Issue with an Introduction, Supplement, and Bibliography of A New English Dictionary on Historical Principles. 12 vols. 1933. Reprint. Oxford, England, 1970. description ends ).

3On 5 Jan., GW’s aide-de-camp Tench Tilghman wrote Q.M. Gen. Timothy Pickering from headquarters at New Windsor: “The speedy removal of the Flour from Ringwood, independant of the want of it at West point, is become the more necessary, as the Jersey troops have marched from Pompton to Morris town and thereby left the Magazine at Ringwood much exposed. Under these circumstances, His Excellency desires you to apply to the Magistrates for an additional impress of Waggons, and to make every exertion to bring forward that flour which seems our principal dependance at present. The Garrison yesterday were upon half allowance of Flour, whether they have any to day, or whether any will come down the River I cannot say. some Gentlemen who came from Ringwood a day or two ago say there were 1000 Barrels of Flour there, but as the Commy only returns between four and five hundred, I imagine they were mistaken … Be pleased to forward the letter to Colo. Hay” (DNA: RG 93, manuscript file no. 26005).

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