George Washington Papers

To George Washington from William Heath, 3 June 1782

Highlands, June 3d 1782.

Dear General.

The officers represent, that the men are very deficient in shirts—that a great proportion of the troops have not more than one apiece that is good, consequently cannot appear clean—nor will their linen wear so long as it would do had they a change.

There is a great want of oil for the arms—none can be obtained at present. In time past the feet of the cattle which were slaughtered were boiled, and the extracted oil made use of for the arms—the contractors now save the feet for their own use. Many arms will be rendered very uncertain in their fire if oil of some sort cannot be obtained.

It is needless to mention to your excellency, that the rations allowed to the officers from the contractors are small, upon the principle that they are to receive subsistence money, and that not only the whole of their subsistence money will be swallowed up in the course of the month, but more—It is also needless for me to observe, that the troops have received no pay in money, and that the notes given to the officers to clothe them, have been expended for that purpose—But I think it my duty to represent to your excellency, that I learn from every quarter, that the officers expect their monthly subsistence will be paid them with punctuality at the close of each month, to enable them to live and to cancel those debts they contract in the course of the month; without which, those who have credited them one month, will not do it another. I find this is so generally fixed in the minds of the officers, as being the only alternative of support on the reduction of their rations in kind, that any delay will produce great uneasiness. I do not know whether the paymaster has already the money on hand for the month of May, or not—if he has not, I beg leave to submit to your excellency both the expediency and necessity of urging its being sent on as soon as possible; for although the want of pay has been hardly dispensed with while the officers drew provisions to support them, it will not be possible for them to live without their subsistence money—the one or the other is the sole dependence of many of them—nor can they continue in service without it. I have the honor to be With the greatest respect, Your Excellency’s Most obedient servant,

W. Heath

P.S. The last evening captains Trevett and Arnold of Rhode Island, called here on their way from Philadelphia to the eastward—They are sea captains of veracity—Have some time been prisoners to the enemy in Europe, from whence they came in the frigate South Carolina, comodore Gillow who arrived in the Delaware the 27. ultimo—They were at the taking of the island of New Providence, which surrendered to the governor of Havannah and commodore Gillow the 11. of May—About 2500 spanish troops were employed on the expedition. The english garrison consisted of about 200 men—the spanish governor was for sending them to Charlestown, but commodore Gillow not consenting to it, they are to go to England. Two spanish fleets with between ten and twelve thousand troops on board, sailed from Havannah for the cape, before the South Carolina left that island. Captain Arnold who left Cadiz the 1. of March, says the combined fleet at that place, consisted of upwards of sixty sail of the line, well manned and completely ready for sea—that 20,000 troops were ready to embark, but their distination not known—that the english channel fleet was said to consist of twenty-four sail only. The news of an engagement between the french and english fleets in the West indies was received at the Havannah, but no accounts of its being decisive on either side. The anxiety of the captains to get to their friends, prevented my being able to prevail on them to stay to go up to head-quarters. I have the honor to be, as be[fore]

W. Heath

DLC: Papers of George Washington.

Index Entries