George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Major General William Heath, 8 February 1781

From Major General William Heath

West point, Feb. 8. 1781.

Dear General,

I have been honored with your’s of the 6th1—have ordered Major Throop with his Detachment to join their respective Corps; have also desired Major Bauman to give notice to General Knox previous to his trying the proposed experiments in Gunnery.

Capt. Welles was some time since directed by your Excellency to take the command of the guard Boats with a company of light Infantry from the Connecticut line;2 the company was composed of detachments from the respective regiments of the line. If your Excellency should think proper to continue Capt. Welles on that command, and it should be thought most eligible to have the command composed of light Infantry, I will direct his own company to relieve those who are from different regiments; or if you would have a company of battalion men assigned to the boats, it shall be done: they shall, in such case, be placed under the command of Capt. Welles, or otherwise, as you may direct. Probably, Capt. Welles may wish not to be separated from the light Infantry.3

The returns of the men who have not had the small-pox will be delivered with this. The number is greater than I apprehended.4 I wish they had all safely passed through that disagreeable distemper. I do not know that they will be greatly exposed here; it may, however, be the case in the course of the movements of a Campaign—but the difficulty of obtaining a proper place at this time, and the almost total deficiency of suitable hospital Stores, are much against it’s being done with convenience and comfort to the Patients. If we could obtain a few boards, some of the Huts which were partly built by Colonel Hazen’s regiment near the north Redoubt, might be made tolerable:5 but this will not furnish the necessary Stores—I submit the whole to your Excellency.6

Some observations were made by you in a former letter, respecting an alteration in the present arrangement of the regiments in the Massachusetts brigades.7 From what I can gather from those with whom I have conversed, I think it will be proper, if consistent with your pleasure, to make a new arrangement when the troops quit their quarters to go into the field; for as the principle, upon which your Excellency formed the brigades, is changed by altering the numbers of the regiments, the arrangement is not now strictly military, and will be viewed as novel by strangers who observe it. If an alteration should take place at this time, I believe eight of the ten regiments would have to change their quarters, which would be attended with some inconvenience.8 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.

1See GW to Heath, 6 Feb., found at Heath to GW, 5 Feb., source note.

3For GW’s orders, see his letter to Heath of 18 February.

4The returns have not been identified, but a summary dated 9 Feb. indicates that 555 men in the Massachusetts and Connecticut brigades, Brig. Gen. John Starks’s brigade, and the Corps of Sappers and Miners had not had smallpox (MHi: Heath Papers). GW had ordered these men inoculated (see his letter to Heath of 2 Feb., and General Orders, 3 Feb.).

5For the location of the north redoubt, one of two outer defensive works of West Point on the east side of the Hudson River, see GW to Henry Knox, 20 Aug. 1779, n.1.

6For GW’s reply, see the postscript of his letter to Heath of 11 Feb. 1781.

7See GW to Heath, 31 Dec. 1780, found at Heath to GW, 1 Jan. 1781, n.1.

8On 1 Jan., the 11th, 12th, 13th, 14th, 15th, and 16th Massachusetts regiments had been disbanded. Several of the remaining ten regiments then changed commanding officers (see General Orders, 1 Nov. 1780, and n.5 to that document; see also General Orders, 8 Jan. 1781).

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