George Washington Papers

From George Washington to Major General William Heath, 14 January 1781

To Major General William Heath

Head Quarters New Windsor Janry 14th 1781

Dear Sir

Your favor of the 10th was received the Morning I was last at West Point—a variety of avocations have prevented my acknowledging it untill this time.1

With respect to the Soldiers who have been Prisoners, I have to observe, that I think it reasonable, the indulgence of Furloughs should be granted to those whose circumstances require it, and for whose return their Officers can become in a great measure responsible—I do not know particularly what Cloathing there is remaining in the Store, but such as there is, may be issued, so far as will make them comfortable.

I have no objection to the Experiments Major Bauman proposes, but would have them delayed, untill the present disturbances have subsided.2

When the arrangement of the Massachusetts Brigades was made, it was upon the supposition that the Regiments would derive their rank from the Commanding Officers—but I would not even now wish to make any alteration without having your opinion on the expediency of it.3 I should therefore be glad you would consult (not in a formal way, for I have no idea of there being a military propriety in doing this, tho I never want inclination to accomodate Matters to the wishes of every Officer, as far as the General Good will allow)4 with such Officers as you think proper, and give me the best information you are able to obtain on the subject.5

I have received your two Letters of the 12th also that of the 13th—I have advised the Commissary General of the alarming state of our supplies—have directed him to write in the most pressing Manner, and send Expresses to the New England States, and to use every possible exertion to have the Beef Cattle forwarded without delay.6

The subject of Yours of Yesterday, is of so delicate a nature, that I am almost afraid it will be productive of ill consequences to have it handled, even by the most prudent Officers, in the most cautious manner. To seem to draw into question, the fidelity and firmness of the Soldiers, or even to express a doubt of their obedience, may occasion such a relaxation of Discipline, as would not otherwise exist—I could wish to have these Matters treated with the greatest prudence by the Officers, and not conversed upon, before their Domestics, as I am apprehensive has sometimes incautiously been practiced.

Since writing the foregoing, I have recd a Letter from the Quarter Master General expressing the uneasiness of the Officers of his Department, who were to draw their Provisions, by Your Order of the 13th thro the Medium of Col. Hazen—And enclosing a Resolution of Congress authorising the Deputies & Assistants to the Quarter Master General to draw Provisions on their Own Orders7—As all I had in view, was to prevent impositions on the Public, (and I am conscious you was actuated by the same principle alone) possibly it may be sufficient to make the Head of the Department at the Post responsible for the whole—I think however that may be, it will be best to suspend the execution of the Order respecting that Department, untill the hurry of business is over, so that I may converse with you on the subject. I am Dear Sir Your Most Obed. Hble Servt

Go: Washington

P.S. Altho it is not probable the Detachment will March, yet I would have it kept in readiness8—In the mean time, the opening the new Road is of so great importance, that it ought not to be neglected, and will not I believe under the present circumstances interfere too much with the design of the Detachment9—Since Genl Wayne informs me the Spies were given up and the affair was likely to be settled.10

LS, in David Humphreys’s writing, MHi: Heath Papers; Df, DLC:GW; Varick transcript, DLC:GW.

1See Heath’s first letter to GW of 10 January. GW was at West Point on 11 Jan. (see his letter to Heath, 10 Jan., and the source note to that document).

2GW refers to the mutiny of the Pennsylvania line (see Anthony Wayne to GW, 2 Jan., and the source note to that document).

3The newly established rank of the Massachusetts regiments differed from the rank of the colonels (see Heath to GW, 1 Jan., n.2, and General Orders, 8 Jan.).

4On the draft, which Humphreys also penned, the previous forty-one words are in GW’s writing.

5No letter from Heath to GW with a report on this subject has been found.

6GW’s directions to Ephraim Blaine, commissary general of purchases, were likely verbal.

8This detachment was to be used, if necessary, to suppress the mutiny in the Pennsylvania line (see Heath to GW, 11 Jan.).

9For the order to assign a fatigue party to begin work on this new road on the west side of the Hudson River, see GW to Heath, 23 Dec. 1780.

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