George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Major General William Heath, 18 August 1776

From Major General William Heath

Kings-Bridge Aug: 18th 1776

Dear General

Early this morning the Phoenix Man of War, Rose Frigate & the Two Tenders, came to Sail & stood down the River, keeping close under the East Shore, in order to avoid the Fire of our Cannon; but notwithstanding this Precaution, the Phoenix was thrice Hull’d by our Shot from Mount Washington, & one of the Tenders once—The Rose was Hull’d once by a Shot from Burdit Ferry—They kept their men close, otherwise some of them wou’d have been pickd down by a Party of Rifle-men who were posted on the bank—They fired Grape Shot as they passed, but did no damage save to one Tent—We hope to hear that your Batteries have done the work for some of them1—We shall recover some Swivel Guns, Gun Barrels, Shot &c. out of the Wreck of the Tender which was burnt the other night, the Particulars of which shall be transmitted to your Excellency as soon as I can obtain them2—Genl Clinton has about 1400 Men already come in, but their Quarters are so scatter’d, that it will be almost impossible to collect them suddently, if Occasion shou’d require it—If there are any Spare Tents I earnestly beg for them, if it were but for one Regiment—Genl Clinton has Orders from the Convention of the State of N. York to purchase 10000 feet of Boards, for erecting Sheds &c., but it is uncertain when we shall have them3—I shall tomorrow send for 6 or 700 of Tools, being able to employ that number more than we have at present—The more I view this post the more I am convinc’d of its’ Importance.

The Ships have now tryed the Practicability of passing our Works—they have explored every part of the Shore as far as they have gone up the River, and sounded the river in almost every place—Shou’d the Ships rejoin the Fleet without receiving much Damage, I think Howe, will be embolden’d to attempt an Attack some where above this place, thinking that there may be a greater probability of succeeding here, than in the face of so many & strong Works, as have been erected in and around the City—However shou’d his Inclination lead him this Way, Nature has done much for us, and we shall as fast as possible add the Strength of Art—Our Men are in good Health & Spirits, & I dare say will give them a warm reception—I should be glad to have the Carriages for the Four pounders sent forward the moment they are done, as we have not as yet a single Cannon mounted beyond Mount Washington—I have just now received your Excellency’s Commands to enquire into the Cause of the Inactivity of some of the Row Gallies, in the late Attack on the enemy’s Ships, but as the Gallies have all left this Post and fallen down to the City, I must beg your Excellency to excuse me from that Service. I have the honor to be with the greatest respect Your Excellency’s most humble Servt

W. Heath

LS, DLC:GW; ADfS, MHi: Heath Papers.

1The entry for this date in the Phoenix’s journal reads: “At 5 AM Weigh’d and came to Sail in Co his Majestys Ship Rose, Tryal Schooner and the Shuldham, at 20 Minutes past 5 the Rebels Fir’d at us from a Battery on the Eastern Side of the River which we return’d. at ½ past [5] passed through the Channell on the East side of the Vessels &ca Sunk by the Rebels to block up the Channell between Geffery’s Hook and Berdetts Mountain; several Shot was Fir’d [at] us from a Battery upon the Top of the Mountain, after we got through the Channell; At ½ past 6 Fir’d several Broad sides at some Gallies laying close into the Western Shore at ¾ past 6 Commenced Firing at the Batteries upon York Island &ca at ½ past 7 Anchor’d off Staten Island” (Clark and Morgan, Naval Documents description begins William Bell Clark et al., eds. Naval Documents of the American Revolution. 11 vols. to date. Washington, D.C., 1964—. description ends , 6:225–26; see also the journal of H.M.S. Rose, this date, ibid., 225). William Smith says in his Memoirs that “a Deserter who had assisted in sinking the Vessels was their Pilot thro’ the Gut left unfinished” (Sabine, William Smith’s Memoirs description begins William H. W. Sabine, ed. Historical Memoirs . . . of William Smith, Historian of the Province of New York. 2 vols. New York, 1956–58. description ends , 2:3).

2For this report, see Heath to GW, 20 August. The burned tender was the Charlotta (see GW to Hancock, 17 Aug.).

3For this resolution of 10 Aug., see the N.Y. Prov. Congress Journals description begins Journals of the Provincial Congress, Provincial Convention, Committee of Safety, and Council of Safety of the State of New-York, 1775–1776–1777. 2 vols. Albany, 1842. (Microfilm Collection of Early State Records). description ends , 1:567.

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