George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Major General William Heath, 7 February 1781

From Major General William Heath

West point, Feb. 7. 1781.

Dear General,

The enclosed was handed me by Lt Col. Com’dt Sprout. From what I can learn the case is briefly this: Capt. Smart was a Captain and Paymaster in the 13. Massachusetts regiment—was in a bad state of health, and desired on that account to quit the service. He is so good an Officer that the regiment were loth to lose him, and advised him to get leave to retire for the recovery of his health; which he did—but has not been so fortunate as to recover it, and is determined to resign his Commission: he is not able to come on to settle his accounts; and by reason of his not doing it, and getting a discharge, the promotion of a Captain is prevented; which gives uneasiness to those whose right it is to receive promotion. To avoid this inconvenience, and to prevent the continuation or increase of uneasiness, Lt Colonel Sprout and Major Porter will give bonds for the settlement of Captain Smart’s accounts; if, on that condition, it should be thought admissible to discharge him previous to the settlement of his accounts, which is submitted for your Excellency’s determination.1

Enclosed is also a petition from Serjeant James Larvey of Colonel Putnam’s regiment,2 who has for two or three years past been Coxswain of the Commanding Officer’s barge at this Post, & was compelled by Arnold to convey him on board the Vulture sloop of War at the time that perfidious officer went to the Enemy. The conduct of Larvey at that time is fully known to your Excellency.3 He informs me that in the month of November last, he presented a petition to you, and had incouragement from one of your Aids de Camp that something should be done for him, either an indulgence to serve in the Horse for a certain term, or some other consideration.4 He now wishes that he may be allowed to procure a man to take his place: or, as the procurement of a man would require all the earnings of his almost six years service, would serve chearfully for the term of one year longer, if at the expiration of that time, you would please to grant him a discharge. As he is a man of strict integrity, the most unshaken bravery and warm attachment to his country, I am compelled to lay his petition before your Excellency for such decision as you may think proper.

There are many vacancies for Ensigns in the Massachusetts line; Are they to be filled? And in such case, What mode is to be observed in doing it?

There are a considerable number of Prisoners in the Provost at Fishkill. If we are to judge from past experience, it is not a place of the greatest security; and from the nature of the adjacent country, and nearness of the Enemy’s Posts, Prisoners who at any time escape, are rarely retaken. It therefore seems expedient, if any advantage is to be derived from the prisoners taken, if sent to that place, that they be either soon exchanged, removed farther, or a better place provided. I have frequently given orders for the repair of the Provost, and for the better securing it; but have been repeatedly informed that the construction of it forbids its being rendered properly secure.5 I have the honor to be With the greatest respect Your Excellency’s Most obedient Servant.

W. Heath

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

1The enclosed letter from Lt. Col. Ebenezer Sproat and Maj. John Porter to Heath, dated at West Point on 5 Feb., supporting the discharge of Capt. Thomas Smart and relating the information conveyed by Heath, is in DLC:GW.

2The enclosed petition from Sgt. James Lurvey to Heath, dated 6 Jan. at West Point, reads: “The Petition of James Lurvey Humbly Sheweth.

“That, your Honor’s petitioner has spent almost Six Years of the Bloom of his life in the service of his Country and now stands engaged for the War in Colonel Putnam’s Regiment.

“That your petitioner when he was prisoner with the Enemy thro the perfidious Conduct of the late General Arnold was flattered (by that fell Officer) to stay in the Enemies Service by the promise of a Commission, and other Offers, advantageous enough perhaps to have staggerd some Resolutions; but which your petitioner thro a sense of the Integrity he owed his Country rejected with the highest Disdain.

“That your petitioner has always endeavoured faithfully to fulfil the duties of his Station; but as his Circumstances and Connections are such that it will be highly detrimental for him to stay any longer in service.

“He therefore would humbly solicit your honor to permit a Good able bodied American Born Man (whom he will procure at his own Expence) to be accepted in his Room, and grant your petitioner a Discharge from the Service, as he doubts not he could be very serviceable to his Country in a Domestic Life” (DLC:GW).

James Lurvey (Lervey, Lurvy, Larvey; born c.1755), of Gloucester, Mass., enlisted for the war as a corporal in the 5th Massachusetts Regiment in March 1777. He became a sergeant in October 1780. He continued to serve in Heath’s barge through April 1781, but he evidently left the army after that month.

4Lurvey’s petition to GW has not been found.

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