George Washington Papers

To George Washington from William Heath, 21 April 1781

West point April 21. 1781.

Dear General,

I have been honored with your two favors of the 20th. I am informed that twelve or thirteen men have deserted from the light infantry—but few of them have come to their regiments. It is generally thought, that such as have not come in are lurking in the vicinity of the post to hear how those who have come in are treated.

The subaltern who was with Captain Pope and who had the immediate charge of the prisoners when several of them made their escape, shall be arrested this day and brought to tryal the beginning of next week.

Mr Hutton will be brought to tryal this morning. I do not know which of the two criminals who are under sentence, is the worst—Walker is exceedingly penitent. By the proceedings of the general court-martial which are inclosed, one John Williams is sentenced capitally. Williams and Walker belong to the same line. Perhaps your Excellency may think it unnecessary to execute them both. Walker is a foreigner, a british soldier, taken prisoner on the lakes. Williams, I believe, is an American—has inlisted three or four times—has been whipped twice one hundred lashes—has done very little duty—and may deserve death as much as Walker. Nathan Gale belongs to the Rhode Island line—I do not know his character—I think Colonel Greene, some time since, informed me that an example was necessary in their line.

In the year 1759, when General Amherst was at Crown point, a criminal was to be executed. The Provost marshal offered fifty guineas to a man to be executioner. The man refused. The Provost marshal waited on the General, begged he might be excused from being executioner, or that he might resign his appointment. General Amherst would not consent to either. The Provost marshal performed the execution.

I am exceedingly sorry so often to repeat to your Excellency our alarming situation on account of the scantiness of provision as I know every possible means in your power has, and will be exerted for our relief. Nearly half the Irish beef is already gone—& yesterday morning we had not half a ration of flour per man at the post. 120 barrels arrived in the afternoon. I have the honor to be With the greatest respect, Your Excellency’s Most obedient servant

W. Heath

P.S. Such of the proceedings of the court martial as do not amount to capital sentences, I will save your Excellency the trouble of deciding on, if they are returned.


DLC: Papers of George Washington.

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