George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Major General William Heath, 10 October 1776

From Major General William Heath

Kingsbridge 10th Octr 1776

Dear General

Col. Sargent has just return’d from Dobbs’s Ferry—he informs that the Enemy’s Ships, took Two of our Gallies on Yesterday near that place which were run on shore—our men got out the small Arms & Baggage—That the Enemy sent Four Boats from their Ships, three to the Gallies & one on Shore, the men in the latter landed & broke open a Store, & plunder’d many Articles, & Stove the Remainder, & set fire to the Store, which was extinguish’d by our people—After this their Ships weighed Anchor, & with the Gallies which they had taken, stood up the River to Taupan Bay, where they all lie at Anchor—They also took a Schooner loaded with Rum Wine Brandy &c.1

Col. Sargent has left about 180 men at Tarrytown, & ordered a Chain of Sentries for a number of Miles, I hope these will soon be relieved by Genl Lincoln’s Militia.2

The Machine designed for the blowing up the Enemy’s Ships happened to be on board a Sloop which had the misfortune to be sunk by the Enemy3—A Contrast this to blowing of them up—One of the Ships, suppos’d to be the Roebuck was on Careen for several hours this morning—Suppos’d to be stopping her leaks—I have the pleasure to inform your Excellency that one of the Ships is got off & hope the other will be the next Tide—I have ordered 100 Men to assist in ballasting of the Hulks4—Capt. Horton remains with the Two Twelve pounders near the Ship which is still on Shore.5 I have the honor to be &c.

W. Heath

ADfS, MHi: Heath Papers.

1For the capture of these row galleys, see Jeremiah Putnam and Nathaniel Cleaves to GW, 9 October.

2GW’s aide-de-camp Richard Cary wrote Heath later on this date that GW “wishes you to be well informed on every occasion, & in the speediest manner of the movements of the Enemy up the North River, in order to frustrate any designs they may have in view—As Genl Clinton is supposed to be perfectly well acquainted with the Situation of the Ground, & the most advantageous Posts &c., adjacent to Dobbs’s Ferry, or where ever the Enemy may intend a Diversion, General Lincoln is therefore referred to him for Advice & direction, respecting the number, & in what manner to post his Men, so as to harrass the Enemy, & effectually prevent any communication between them & the inhabitants in the Country. . . . [P.S.] You will please to communicate to the General as early as possible, such Intelligence as you may from time to time receive relative to the motions of the Enemy” (MHi: Heath Papers).

3David Bushnell says in a document that he sent to Thomas Jefferson on 13 Oct. 1787 that his experiments with the submarine Turtle in the Hudson River during the New York campaign ended when “the Enemy went up the river, and pursued the boat, which had the submarine Vessel on board, and sunk it, with their shot. After I recovered the Vessel, I found it impossible, at that time to prosecute the design any farther” (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 , 6:1500–1507; see also Wilson, Heath’s Memoirs description begins Rufus Rockwell Wilson, ed. Heath’s Memoirs of the American War. 1798. Reprint. New York, 1904. description ends , 79).

4Joseph Reed had written Heath the previous day: “Besides the Men ordered on the Duty in bringing down the [two new] Ships—the General [GW] desires you would order 100 Men from the Regiments of your Division nearest Kingsbridge immediately to be employed in ballast[i]ng the 2 Hulks which lay at Spiking Devil—these Men are not to leave the Service till it is completed & Officers who can be depended on are to oversee them as the Work of the Army constantly suffers by this Means” (MHi: Heath Papers).

5Capt. Jotham Horton of Boston, who had been a first lieutenant in Col. Richard Gridley’s artillery regiment from April to November 1775, was commissioned a captain-lieutenant in Knox’s Continental artillery regiment on 1 Jan. 1776. Horton was captured at Fort Washington on 16 Nov., and because he subsequently broke his parole, he apparently was unable to assume the captaincy in the 3d Regiment of Continental Artillery that was reserved for him (see Horton to GW, 9 Mar. 1779, DLC:GW).

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