George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Major General William Heath, 18 February 1781

From Major General William Heath

Westpoint, Feb. 18. 1781.

Dear General,

The inclosed from Major Maxwell came to hand last evening.1 Colo. Delancy, a day or two since sent up a Flag to Major Maxwell with a verbal proposal for the exchange of some of the prisoners taken at Morrissania:2 as it almost immediately preceded their excursion; it was probably designed to discover our situation.

Inclosed is also a letter this day received from Major General Parsons. I have advised to the sending back such of the recruits mentioned as are manifestly unfit for service: but something further seems necessary to be done, effectually to prevent such impositions in future.3

I am this moment honored with your’s of this date, to which I shall pay due attention.4

I have not received any information or directions with respect to Major Reid. Your Excellency’s decision on the proceedings of the Court-martial, if passed, has not come to my knowledge. I have the honor to be With the greatest respect Your Excellency’s Most obedient servant

W. Heath

P.S. I have ordered the execution of Taylor on thursday next5 between the hours of eleven and twelve A.M. near the Connecticut huts.6 Will your Excellency give the Warrant for his Execution?7


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

1The enclosed letter from Maj. Hugh Maxwell to Heath, dated at Crom Pond, N.Y., on 16 Feb., reported a British incursion on the night of 15 Feb. into Westchester County, N.Y., that took eight civilian prisoners and burnt houses. The account from Capt. Thomas Pritchard described the British force as “about three hundred horse and foot; and that they Intended to have proceeded further, but were disapointed by hearing that Capt. prichard was in the Neighbourhood; also that they told the Inhabitants, that they were paying for Morisania. I think the method they take to pay their Debts is not much to their Honour in the Military way” (DLC:GW; see also n.2 below).

2For the successful raid on British forces at Morrisania, N.Y., see Heath to GW, 28 Jan., and n.1 to that document.

3The enclosed letter from Maj. Gen. Samuel Holden Parsons to Heath, written on the morning of this date, reads: “Seven Recruits for the War & three Years, arrivd from Connectt last Night not One of which are fit for Service.

“As the State have adopted their own Mode of mustering their Levies, I am at a Loss what to do with them, if some Measures are not taken to prevent this Evil, the Impositions will be so very numerous that little good will result from an Attempt to fill the Army. as these are the first Recruits which have arrivd & the Assembly is sitting this Week, I have Thoughts of sending them under the Care of an Officer to Hartford to the Assembly, with the Reasons of their Discharge and procure an Order to the Town to furnish other Men. I wish your Directions on the Subject” (DLC:GW). Parsons commented on these defective recruits when he wrote Connecticut governor Jonathan Trumbull, Sr., from Danbury, Conn., on 22 Feb.: “The recruiting orders his Excellency, the General, has directed forbid our receiving any person who is not an inhabitant of this State; all of whose attachment to the cause of the country there are any reasons to doubt; all under sixteen or over fifty years of age; all lame or infirm persons and all whose size and strength do not appear sufficient to discharge all the duties of a soldier. The recruits rejected and sent back will wait on your Excellency under the conduct of an officer” (Hall, Life and Letters of General Parsons description begins Charles S. Hall. Life and Letters of Samuel Holden Parsons: Major General in the Continental Army and Chief Judge of the Northwestern Territory, 1737-1789. Binghamton, N.Y., 1905. description ends , 337–38; see also General Orders, 5 Feb.).

4On this date, Heath ordered Capt. Roger Welles to rejoin his regiment at Peekskill, N.Y., and take with him the soldiers from his light infantry company (MHi: Heath Papers). For Heath’s actions on other instructions in GW’s letter, see his letter to GW of 20 February.

5The next Thursday was 22 February.

6For the court-martial and sentencing of Pvt. Joshua Taylor, see General Orders, 16 Feb.; see also GW to Heath, that date.

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