From Brigadier General Thomas Mifflin
Mount Washington [N.Y.] August 6. 1776
My dear General
Agreeable to your Order, by Col. Reeds Letter, I have directed Col. Holden to march with his 3 Companies this Evening to Kings Bridge.1
I shall in Consequence of that Order be under the Necessity of totally neglecting the point Battery untill Men are sent up to work on it—Our two Battalions being employed in raising part of our parapet, covering the large Magazine, cutting & forming the Abbatis, diging Wells &ca. That Magazine will be prepared to receve the Powder this Evening. The Magazine within the Fort will be compleated in Two days.
We have so many sick & on Guard that I have been obliged to give up the Outworks for the present.
As I had no Orders respecting the Naveax de frize and as the Artists appeard willing to take their own Way I did not presume to interfere2—In future I will watch & direct their Movements But as Col. putnam is absent with the Soundings & as the Vessels are sent up without persons who are acqua[i]nted with the Depth of Water for which they were calculated I shall be at a Loss to sink them—The Sloops which came up this Morning being small must in my Opinion be sunk to the Westward of the Brigs. If Col. putnum had another Destination for them I beg to be favord wi[t]h Directions where to place them.
In future it will be best to send up single Vessels it being the most abstruse problem in Hydraulics to determine of what Size the sevral ports or Holes should be in Vessels of different Tonnage & Construction in Order to their sinking at the same time—If one sinks before the other We risque as Yesterday.
I believe that Vessels above 90 Tons without Frize Work3 will answer Very well—No Ship will attempt to pass over them even if they were 18 Feet below the Surface. If 5 or 6 Vessels of 100 Tons each could be sent up I shall apprehend no danger of Ships of War passing them—It will be the most expeditious & the most frugal Scheme. The Colossus is now at Anchor a little to the Westward of her port4—The Buoy fix’d by Col. putnam appears to be too distant from the Shore: possibly it may have been carried ⟨there by⟩ the Wind & Current. She shall be ⟨removed⟩ this Night if possible.5 The Brigs this Afternoon.
The Enemy may probably attempt to weigh some of the Vessels: it will therefore be necessary to fix some Guns on the Battery—If I can obtain no heavy I will send down our 4 Twelve pounders, the Howitzer, & fight them en Berbette.6 I am with Zeal & Attact Yur Excelly Obb. St
Detachments do us no Service I cannot manage them—Those sent up formerly I was obliged to chace from Tree to Tree to prevent their ⟨lounging⟩.7
ALS, DLC:GW; copy, NHi: Reed Papers.
1. This letter from Joseph Reed to Mifflin has not been identified. On 10 Aug. Robert Hanson Harrison sent Mifflin further orders regarding King’s Bridge. “I have It in command from his Excelly,” Harrison writes, “to request in his name your particular attention to the Works erecting on the other side of Kings bridge—He conceives them to be of great consequence & therefore is desirous that they should be carried on with every degree of diligence that the situation of Affairs will admit of. As they are of such Importance & to make them more tenable against any Attempts that may be made by the Enemy to possess them, he desires that you will send four or Six Cannon from your Post as can best be Spared & have them mounted Immediately.
“Apprehensive that the Enemy If they go up the North River, may attempt to go down the [Spuyten Duyvil] Creek in their Boats and destroy Kings bridge, his Excellency Judges It necessary that you should direct Colo. Putnam & Monr Wiebert to mark out some Convenient Spot where a small Work proper for Its defence & Security must be thrown up as speedily as may be.
“His Excellency wishes you to sink as fast as possible the Vessels &c. for Obstructing the Channel & should you want more that you will certify Genl Putnam of the same” (DLC:GW).
Benjamin Holden (1729–1820) of Princeton, Mass., was lieutenant colonel of Col. Ephraim Doolittle’s Massachusetts regiment during 1775 and lieutenant colonel of Col. Israel Hutchinson’s 27th Continental Regiment during 1776. Holden was captured by the British sometime after 5 Oct. 1776 and was exchanged in April 1778 (see return of the 27th Continental Regiment, 5 Oct. 1776, in Force, American Archives description begins Peter Force, ed. American Archives. 9 vols. Washington, D.C., 1837–53. description ends , 5th ser., 2:901–2, and Elias Boudinot to GW, 22 April 1778, DNA:PCC, item 152).
2. The copy in the Reed Papers reads “Chevaux de frize.” An anonymous correspondent in New York wrote on 4 Aug.: “Last night four ships, chained and boomed, with a number of amazing large chevaux-de-frise, were sunk close by the fort, under the command of General Mifflin, which fort mounts thirty pieces of heavy cannon” (Force, American Archives description begins Peter Force, ed. American Archives. 9 vols. Washington, D.C., 1837–53. description ends , 5th ser., 1:752; see also GW to Hancock, 5 Aug., n.6).
3. The copy in the Reed Papers reads “Iron work.”
4. The copy in the Reed Papers reads “post.”
5. The mutilated words within angle brackets are taken from Force, American Archives description begins Peter Force, ed. American Archives. 9 vols. Washington, D.C., 1837–53. description ends , 5th ser., 1:790–91. The copy in the Reed Papers reads: “possibly it may have been caused solely by the wind & current, she shall be unmoored this night if possible.”
6. A barbette is a raised terrace or platform from which a gun can be fired over a parapet giving the gunner a wider range of fire than he has when firing through an embrasure.