George Washington Papers

To George Washington from William Heath, 18 April 1782

Highlands April 18. 1782.

Dear General,

I am honored with yours of the 16th covering copy of a letter from major-general McDougall.

Lest your Excellency might think I have been unreasonable, I beg leave to observe—necessity and duty compelled me to arrest major-general McDougall, and to exhibit charges against him—these I endeavoured to make as specific as is usually practised in our army—When he demanded the charges being made more particular, I informed the deputy judge-advocate, that if the charges were not as particular as was usually practised in the martial courts, they should be made so; if they were, I declined making a precedent; as it might open a door to unnecessary trouble in the army: but if, when the court convened, they thought a further specification necessary, it should be made; as in such case the precedent would be theirs, and not mine.

As major-general McDougall has a right, so I have no objection to his making such representations to your Excellency, respecting the execution of my command, as he may think proper—I have only to lament that after a long winter’s almost incessant application to a variety of business, some of which has been of an intricate nature, and in which I needed the aid and assistance of every officer I have had the honor to command, to render my task tolerable—beside the trouble and vexation which has attended me, my health has been impaired for the want of exercise and relaxation—and some private concerns peculiarly interesting to my family have loudly called for a moments attention; but I have not entertained an idea of absence until the court on general McDougall was over if it could be accomplished in a reasonable time—I have sacrificed much for my country—I am willing to sacrifice more; and it will be my misfortune, if I am called to do it under any particular disadvantages, or with loss of health.

The arrangement of the captains of the Massachusetts line has been made under your Excellency’s authority, and upon the principles prescribed by you to the former board. More than a year ago, you were pleased to order a board for the purpose; their report, although given in, had not been published—On the 30th of December last I represented to your Excellency the uneasiness of the captains, and requested the arrangement might be published, if it had received your approbation. In your letter to me of the 8th of January you were pleased to observe, that you had no papers of a late date with you, and pointed me to colonel Varick for the arrangement—and further observed, "If it appears complete and such an one as gives satisfaction, I have no objection to its being acted upon"—Upon my receiving it, I found it was incomplete; as several officers had been promoted, others had resigned, and some had died. This I represented to your Excellency in a letter of the 23d of February; and that I had desired the former board, vizt general, and field officers commanding regiments in the line of the state, to complete the arrangement by putting the whole forward as they stood, closing the intervals occasioned by the different casualties; and being so completed, it has been presented to your Excellency. I have the honor to be, With the highest respect, Your Excellency’s Most obedient servant,

W. Heath

DLC: Papers of George Washington.

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