George Washington Papers

Lieutenant Colonel Robert Hanson Harrison to John Hancock, 14–17 October 1776

Lieutenant Colonel Robert Hanson Harrison to John Hancock

Head Qrs Harlem Heights Octor 14[-17]th 1776


His Excellency having gone this Morning to visit our posts beyond Kings bridge and the Several passes leading from Frog’s point and the Necks adjacent,1 I have the honor to inform you by his command, that no interesting event has taken place since his Letter by Yesterdays post.

Every days intelligence from the Convention of this State, holds forth discoveries of New plots, and of new conspiracies. Some of the Members seem to apprehend, that insurrections are upon the Eve of breaking out, and have suggested the necessity of seizing and securing the passes thro the Highlands, lest the disaffected should do it.2 their preservation being a matter of the greatest importance, his Excellency notwithstanding the situation we are in with respect to Troops, has detached Colo. Tash with his Regiment lately from New Hampshire, in addition to the Militia mentioned in his last,3 with directions to receive Orders from the Convention as to the Station & posts he is to occupy.

There are now in our possession, Several persons, Inhabitants of this State who had engaged to join the Enemy, and who were intercepted in going to them; there are also two, who confess they have been with them and that they had actually engaged in their service; but finding the Terms, (the bounty, pay &c.) not so advantageous as they expected from the information they had received, they were induced to return. As the Affairs of this Government are in a precarious situation, and such as the Convention themselves, seem to think, forbid their interposition, farther than taking measures to apprehend them, His Excellency would wish to obtain the sentiments of Congress and their direction, upon a Subject so extremely critical and delicate, and which in the consideration of it, involves many important consequences.

Your favor of the 9th with its several Inclosures, his Excellency received Yesterday morning by the Express, who proceeded immediately on his Journey.

Octob. 17th. I am directed by his Excellency to acquaint you, that we are again obliged to change our disposition to counteract the Operations of the Enemy declining an Attack upon our Front, they have drawn the main body of their Army to Frogs point with a design of Hemming us in, and drawing a line in our Rear. to prevent the consequences which would but too probably follow the execution of their Scheme, the General Officers determined Yesterday, that our forces must be taken from hence, and extended towards East & West Chester so as to out flank them.4 Genl Lee who arrived on Monday, has strongly urged the absolute necessity of the measure.5 It is proposed to leave a Garrison at Fort Washington, and to maintain it if possible, in order to preserve the Communication with the Jerseys. They are landing their Artillery & Waggons upon the point, and there are now several boats passing up the Sound full of Men. I have the Honor to be with the greatest respect Sir Yr Most Obedt Servt

Rob. H. Harrison

P.S. The post having not come in since Sunday till today, has been the occasion of not writing you since that time. he was expected as usual which prevented an Express being sent.

ALS, DNA:PCC, item 152; LB, DLC:GW; copy, DNA:PCC, item 169; Varick transcript, DLC:GW. Congress read this letter and referred it to the Board of War on 21 Oct. (JCC description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds. Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774-1789. 34 vols. Washington, D.C., 1904–37. description ends , 6:889).

1Heath says in his memoirs that on 14 Oct. he “with the Generals under his command, reconnoitred the enemy at Throg’s Neck; afterwards, the General Officers of the army reconnoitred the various grounds. The same day, Maj. Gen. Lee was ordered to the command of the troops above Kingsbridge, now become the largest part of the American army. But Gen. Washington had desired him not to exercise the command for a day or two, until he could make himself acquainted with the post, its circumstances, and arrangements of duty. A great number of sloops, boats, &c. were passing the Sound eastward, just at dusk—probably conveying ammunition, provisions, &c. to the troop at Throg’s Point” (Wilson, Heath’s Memoirs description begins Rufus Rockwell Wilson, ed. Heath’s Memoirs of the American War. 1798. Reprint. New York, 1904. description ends , 81). For some of Heath’s dispositions on 14 Oct., see his letter to John Nixon of that date in MHi: Heath Papers.

Tench Tilghman wrote Duer on 15 Oct. that he had returned to headquarters the previous evening from Eastchester and Westchester and “there was no Alteration in the Situation of the Enemy except that they had thrown up small Works upon Frogs Point opposite our Works at the two Passes. . . . From the Number of Vessels that have been continually passing up the Sound we conclude that they are transporting Cannon and Stores necessary to enable them to penetrate the Country and set down in our Rear. To hinder them from effecting this, Genl Lee, who arrived yesterday, has taken the Command in that Quarter. He will be posted in such a Situation, with a very considerable Number of Light Troops, that let the Enemy advance by what Road they will, they cannot elude him; if they march in one great Body he can easily draw his Divisions together, if they divide and take different Routs, they will fall in with the different Parties. He will have the Flower of the Army with him, as our Lines in Front are so strong that we can trust them to Troops who would not stand in the Field” (NHi: Duer Papers).

5“Genl Lee just now arrived,” Robert Hanson Harrison wrote William Duer on 14 Oct., “& is gone after His Excelly” (NN: Emmet Collection).

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