George Washington Papers

From George Washington to Major General William Heath, 20 January 1781

To Major General William Heath

New Windsor Jany 20th 1781


I did not expect that the Postscript to my letter of the 14th (written in much haste) requesting only a Suspencion of your order of the 13th untill the hurry of the business I was then engaged in should be a little over, would have drawn from you such a letter as yours of the 16th, which did not come to my hands till the evening of the 18th.1

I neither questioned your right to issue orders for the government of the Post at Fishkill; nor the propriety of the order in question; but as it had a tendency from the representation of the Q.M. General to unhinge his department in this State;2 and as I knew that we had—God knows—embarrassments enough without further Aids, I only wanted a little time to enquire Myself into the ground of the dissatisfaction, that I might judge better of the expediency of enforcing the Order or of temporizing; the last of which, from the peculiarity of our Circumstances, we have been too frequently obliged to adopt, or hazard the Machine.

The hour for this enquiry is not yet arrived—and without deciding upon the question contained in your letter, I shall observe—That, the mode you took to discover, & correct abuses in the issues of provision’s differed from the one I had in contemplation, and which I had actually entered upon, but was delayed in the prosecution of, by a variety of occurrences which pressed upon me at the time—That, the only3 view I had in posting Troops at Fish-kill, was to cover the Workmen, Stores Barracks, &ca—And that, I had no idea of Colo. Hazens having any thing to do with the General Staff at that place, further than became every good Officer & Citizen; who had oppertunity to look into, & represent abuses to his superior, or the power that could rectify them.

I again repeat, that the intention of these observations is not to convey an opinion upon the merits of the question—I am perfectly disposed to support my own authority, and yours through it, in every matter consistent with Military rule, and for the benefit of the Service. And the moment I have got some important dispatches off my hands, I shall take up this business.4

In the meantime, though I require no argument to convince me of the subordinate character of the Q.M. Genl, it will remain a doubt with the Gentle’n at the head of that department, how far a Colonel has a right to meddle in the business of his general staff at Fish-kill; which was not fixed there in consequence of Colonel Hazens going there, for the conveniences of a particular Post, but for general purposes of the Army. I am, with esteem & regard, Sir Yr Most Obedt Servt

Go: Washingto⟨n⟩

ALS, MHi: Heath Papers; ADfS, DLC:GW; Varick transcript, DLC:GW. GW signed the cover of the ALS.

1See GW to Heath, 14 Jan. (final paragraph before the postscript), and Heath to GW, 16 January.

3GW underlined this word on the ADfS.

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