George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Major General William Heath, 1 March 1781

From Major General William Heath

West point, March 1. 1781.

Dear General,

I have this moment received a letter from Mr Commissary Stevens, in which he expresses himself as follows:

“Mr Forsyth’s clerk informs me that one hundred barrels of flour and twelve barrels of beef were left at Pecks kill, which were sent there for the detachment that marched last week, and that they were without guard. I wish, if you think proper, you would give directions for them to be returned to the Continental Village, otherwise that you would send a guard to secure them until you or his Excellency think proper to have them removed. there is also a hogshead of rum.”1

Immediately on the receipt of the foregoing, I ordered a small guard for the protection of the stores—as they certainly must have been exposed. But as I know not how so large a quantity of provisions came there, by whose order, or for what purpose they may be designed, I wish to know your Excellency’s pleasure respecting them.2

The Massachusetts Sub-Clothier has a quantity of blankets, shirts, hose & shoes, which are much wanted by the troops—Has your Excellency any objection to their being issued?3 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 letter from Nathaniel Stevens, deputy commissary general of issues at Fishkill, N.Y., is in MHi: Heath Papers (filed under 27 March 1781).

James Forsyth was deputy commissary of issues at Continental Village, N.Y., in March 1779. He was serving as commissary at West Point by the end of the war.

2Heath wrote Forsyth from West Point on 3 March: “I am informed that there is a large quantity of Flour, Beef, and Some Rum, at Peekeskill, I wish to be informed if you know by whose order it was Sent there, and for what purpose whether it is designed for any other Post &c. it most certainly is not in an eligible Situation at peekes kill and ought to be removed to a place of more Safety, as Soon as I hear from you a true State of the Case I will give such directions as may be necessary—please let me hear from you tomorrow” (MHi: Heath Papers).

Stevens wrote Heath from Fishkill on the same date that he had “directions from his Excellency to reserve a barrel [of spirits] for his use.” He then explained: “I sent the provisions to Peeks kill by the direction of Col. Blain[e], which he informed me was his Excellencies orders, The quantity of flour did not equal his request by thirty barrells, the beef and rum was exact, that was sent” (MHi: Heath Papers). For GW’s orders, see his second letter to Lafayette of 20 Feb., n.3; see also GW’s second letter to Heath of 12 January.

3No reply from GW to Heath has been found.

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