George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Major General William Heath, 13 January 1781

From Major General William Heath

Garrison West Point Jany 13th 1781

Dear General

The enclosed, I received from General Parsons yesterday afternoon; its complexion is very favorable.1

The order for drawing & coocking four days provission here yesterday, turned the whole conversation of the Troops on the subject of the Detachment, & conjecture of its design.2 such as have been reported to me, I shall relate to Your Excellency.

A woman in Colonel Greatons Regiment, was sent among the men to hear their conversation; returned & related, that their sentiments were different—Some said the Detachment was going to quell the Pensylvanians, & conduct them to this place—that they would have no hand in it, as they were contending for a redress of greviances, under which all are labouring, & equally concerned; Others observed, that their conduct was detestible, & that they ought be humbled; and that they were willing to aid in doing it.

About 6 oClock P.M. Colonel Putnam & Lt Colonel Newhall, came in & informed me, that six Companies of his regiment, upon being called upon to turn out, and fetch up their four days provision, refused to do it, asserting, they had not received their pay—that they were destitute of Cloaths, & could not go on Command, & would not draw their provissions, or march from the Point, untill they received their pay & Cloathing. Lt Colonel Newhall to whom the Sergeant made the report, directed him (the Sergeant) to return, & tell the men, they must draw & coock their provissions—that it was the orders of their General, & that his & their honor, as well as their duty & the public service required it; upon which they drew their provissions—Colonel Putnam told me he would this morning pass thro the Barracks & address the men on their being called on Command at this time.3

My Steward who went early this morning to the Store, upon his return, came into my Chamber & informed me, that the men, many of whom were at the Store, in conversation declared, that they would not march from the Point, unless they were first paid & Cloathed, that they had served a year without pay, & that they might be considered as Freemen; for that they were not obliged to serve for nothing.

Colonel Putnam has this minute come in—He informs me that he has passed thro the Quarters of his regiment, where the men were generally coocking they appeared to be in good temper; at length he came to a Soldier, remarkable for his fidelity & steadiness; is inlisted for the war, & has lately returned from Captivity—He addressed the Colonel—Sir, where is this Detachment going? the Colonel replied he could not certainly say, that the Commander in Chief, had ordered it to be held in readiness, from which it must be concluded to be necessary—The Soldier replied, (& he was one detailed for the Command) order me where you will, & to fight whom you please, and I will cheerfully obey, except it be my Brother Soldier, I cannot fight him—The sincerity (& heartfelt emotion[)] with which he spake this, so overcame the Colonel, that he was obliged immediately to quit the room.4

I have repeated the order for every thing to be in the most perfect readiness, for an immediate march, & apprehend the Detachment are ready, whenever Your Excellency shall think proper to order it to move; but by the great number of discharges of the Levies, whose times are out; I am doubtfull whether we shall be able to march the whole number proposed, unless the Post is left very naked.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.

1For the likely enclosure, see Samuel Holden Parsons to GW, 12 January.

2For the detachment, see Heath to GW, 11 January.

3Heath gave GW a more positive report on this incident in his first letter of 15 Jan.; see also Robert Howe to GW, 16 January.

4In his reply to Heath of 14 Jan., GW advised greater caution in the efforts to determine the sentiments of the soldiers on suppressing the mutiny.

5Heath had proposed 1,050 troops (see his letter to GW, 11 Jan., and the source note to that document).

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