George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Major General William Heath, 31 August 1776

From Major General William Heath

Kingsbridge, Augst 31th 1776

Dear General

Ever Since my arrival at New york I have considered this Post to be the Key of the Island, and Consequently of great Importance[.] Its Importance at this Time is apparently Enhanced, And much more is necessary to be Done than we Can Possibly Do with our few Scattered Troops, General Clintons five Regiments Consist of near 1400 Rank and file fit for Duty Two Hundred of that number are on Command with General Mifflen 300 are at mount Washington and Colo. Grahams Regiment Remains near Hunts Point, to Prevent the Enemys Landing near That Place (And Indeed I think there is a greater Probability that a Body of the Enemy may be Thrown Over from Flushing to Hunts Point than at any other Place, and the Disaffected on Long Island Can in a few Hours Collect a Sufficient number of Boats with those belonging to the Ships to Set over a Considerable Body of Troops in a short Time). After Deducting these Several Detachments the Remainder is short of 800 & these in Scattered Quarters at present—which Puts it out of Our Power to Throw up So many works as I could Wish to See, But our greatest want is that of artificers and Tools, for the Building of Several Stores for Provisions[,] Magazines, Sheds for the Troops, Bake House &c. which are much wanted and if the artificers are not now wanted at the City some of them might be well Employd here, We are also in Great want of an Artillery officer or Two, Colo. Knox has lately Sent to this Post Lieut. Preston upon whose arrival I ordered fifty active young men to be Draughted for the artillery Service[.] the Lieut. has been Sick ever Since, The Detachment Can do nothing being destitue of an Instructor and wholly unacquainted with Cannon[.] Capt. Horton at mount Washington having Sent a Detachment with General Mifflen has it not in his Power to Aid us.1

If the Quarter Master General has any Planks at the City, proper for Platforms they are much wanted here as it Does not appear that Mr Cranch Can Obtain any this way Short of Albany—which Cannot be got here under Several days and are Immediately wanted.2

I think the Evacuating of Long Island was a wise and Prudent Manoeuvre, and that it is now much more in Our Power to Defeat the Enemy than before, I regret nothing Save their acquisition of So much fresh Provisions, and our Loss of So much Labour, your Excellency will permit me again to repeat, that I think there is great Probability that the Enemy will Throw over a Body of Troops from Flushing or Some where near that Place as it Can be Done with the greatest Ease—But shou’d your Excellency think otherwise I will immediately upon Signification thereof order Col. Graham’s Regiment up here. I have the Honor to be with the greatest respect your Excellency’s most Humble Servt.

ADf, MHi: Heath Papers.

1David Preston of Massachusetts was a second lieutenant in Knox’s artillery regiment from December 1775 to November 1776. Jotham Horton (d. 1795) served as a first lieutenant in Col. Richard Gridley’s Massachusetts artillery regiment from May to December 1775 and became a captain-lieutenant in Knox’s regiment on 1 Jan. 1776. Horton was taken prisoner when Fort Washington fell to the British on 16 Nov. (see Horton to Knox, 3 Jan. 1777, NNGL: Knox Papers). He subsequently served as a captain in the 3d Continental Artillery Regiment until September 1778, when he resigned his commission.

2GW’s aide-de-camp Richard Cary wrote Heath the next day that GW had “desired Colo. Moylan to place an Assistant Qr Mastr up at Kingsbridge to supply such Articles as are necessary which would thereby save much trouble to all parties, & particularly to the General, as a considerable part of his time is taken up in reading Letters from different Quarters upon such subjects, which at this time is far from being agreeable to him. Should such an Assistant Qr Mr be placed at Kingsbridge it is presumed care will be taken that no applications be made to him for any articles but only such as cannot be dispensed with” (MHi: Heath Papers).

Nathaniel Cranch (c.1780) of Boston, a nephew of John Adams’s brother-in-law Richard Cranch, was a clerk in the quartermaster general’s department from 1775 to the spring of 1780, when he returned to Boston and died in a fall during a storm (see Richard Cranch to John Adams, 22 July 1776 and 26 April 1780, in Butterfield, Adams Family Correspondence description begins Lyman H. Butterfield et al., eds. Adams Family Correspondence. 9 vols. to date. Cambridge, Mass., 1963—. description ends , 2:57–58, 3:325–29, and note 5).

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