George Washington Papers

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

From Major General William Heath

Peeks-kill [N.Y.] Nov: 18th 1776

Dear General

On the 12th Inst. I called a Council to consider & determine upon the Posts most important & proper to be occupied by our Troops—There were present Brigadier Generals James & George Clinton, & Scott, (General Morris, Col. Dewer, & Col. Putnam, whom I invited to sit with us)—After Deliberation it was thought best to make the following Disposition of the Troops at this post for the present viz.—Two Regiments to take post on the West Side of Hudson’s River, at the Entrance of the Highlands, near Sidnum’s Bridge at Ramapaugh River—One Brigade on the Heights above Peeks Kill Landing, and the Remainder at the Gorge of the Mountains, beyond Robinson’s Bridge—I have sent Col. Huntington’s & Tyler’s Regiments to Sidnum’s Bridge, General George Clinton’s Brigade on the Heights above the Landing, and the remaining Three Regiments of General Parsons’s viz. Col. Prescott’s Ward’s & Wyllys’s and General Scott’s Brigade to the Gorge of the Mountains by Robinson’s Bridge—Barracks & Works are erecting at each of those Places.1

Yesterday the President of the Convention of the State of New York directed to me Col. De Roussi with his Canadian Detachment, who left Albany a few days since, in a number of Battaus—a Return of the Detachment is with the Returns sent to the Adjutant General—I have ordered the Detachment to Kings Ferry, to do Duty at that place (as they are well acquainted with Boats) until I know your Excellency’s pleasure as to their Destination.2

Three Cols. Three Lt Cols. Three Majors and about Twenty Captains, appointed by the Committee of the State of Connecticut to serve in the new Army have declined the Service; the Vacancies are to be filled up on Wednesday next3—General Parsons has importuned me for Leave to attend the Governor & Council, which I have granted, & hope for your Excellency’s Approbation.

I have just received by the Express from your Excellency, the disagreable News of the Loss of Fort Washington,4 the Rumor of which had just before spread here—I much regret the Loss of so many brave & good Officers, as there were in the Battalions at that Post.

I have been using my utmost Endeavours to get a Return of the Killed, taken & Missing, in the several Regiments of my Division, but cannot find it compleated, as Col. Lasher of General Scott’s Brigade is as yet unable to ascertain those of his Regiment—such as I have received I have sent; the others shall be transmitted to your Excellency as soon as I can obtain them.5

I have taken the Liberty to enclose an Abstract for Three months pay, & ask the favor that your Excellency would be pleased to sign the Warrant.6

The Colonels & Paymasters of the Regiments here are complaining of the Great Distance, which they are obliged to go, to obtain Warrants for the Payment of their Abstracts, I have promised them that I would lay the matter before your Excellency & Sollicit some easier Expedient, if consistent, with your Excellency’s Pleasure.

The Chain which has been extended across the River above this place has broke twice—I must confess that from my first hearing of the Intention, I expected no real Advantage from it—General Clinton with some Gentlemen from the Convention of the State of New York, are to explore & sound the River to morrow.7 I have the honor to be with great Respect Your Excellency’s most humble Servt

W. Heath


Robert Hanson Harrison replied to this letter on 20 November. GW, Harrison writes Heath, “doubts not but the disposition you have determined to make of the Troops, has been maturely weighed, and will be well adapted to the important purposes you have in view, and the Genl security. I would submit it to you Whether the pass through the Highlands on this side the River should not be instantly secured. you will readily suggest the reason on reading the conclusion of my Letter. Your own discretio⟨n⟩ must direct the mode of employing Colo. De Roussi & his Detachmt, till you receive further Orders on the Subject. As Genl Parsons is [a] very judicious & Good Officer & his presence may have a happy influence in the appointment of Good Officer[s], I can almost assure you the liberty you have granted him will be approved by his Excellency.

“You will receive the Warrants. The Complaint of the Officers about their Abstracts, cannot be helped. none but One person can with any propriety draw Warrants in the same Army. nor would the trouble be great, if several were lodged with the paymaster & sent down to be signed at One time. If that mode is not pursued—It can only take a Trusty Agent two days to complete the Business. we cannot have things as we wish. we must take em as they are found. circumstances must Govern” (DLC:GW).

1The council of war that made these decisions met at Peekskill on 13 November. A copy of its proceedings is in the Heath Papers at the Massachusetts Historical Society. The additional persons invited to participate in the council were Lewis Morris, Sr., William Duer, and Rufus Putnam. Col. Jedediah Huntington’s 17th Continental Regiment and Col. John Tyler’s 10th Continental Regiment were part of Gen. Samuel Holden Parsons’s brigade. Sydnam’s (Sydman’s, Sidnam’s, Sidman’s) Bridge was on the Ramapo River at the south end of Smith’s Clove, a strategically important pass through the Ramapo Mountains connecting northern New Jersey and the Hudson highlands.

2Pierre Regnier de Roussi (d. 1810) was commissioned a lieutenant colonel of militia by Gen. Richard Montgomery in Quebec in November 1775, and in January 1776 Arnold appointed him lieutenant colonel of the 1st Canadian Regiment. On 12 Nov. Schuyler ordered Regnier de Roussi to man all the bateaux at Albany with his Canadians and take the boats down the Hudson River to Fishkill, where he was to ask the president of the New York convention for further directions (see Schuyler to Regnier de Roussi, 12 Nov., in Force, American Archives description begins Peter Force, ed. American Archives. 9 vols. Washington, D.C., 1837–53. description ends , 5th ser., 3:658). Three days later Pierre Van Cortlandt, vice-president of the New York committee of safety, directed Regnier de Roussi to proceed with the fifteen bateaux under his command to Peekskill and deliver them to Heath (see MHi: Heath Papers). A copy of Heath’s orders of 17 Nov. sending Regnier de Roussi and his men to King’s Ferry to ferry troops and baggage across the Hudson is in the Heath Papers at the Massachusetts Historical Society. Left without a position in the new army after Schuyler disbanded the 1st Canadian Regiment on 20 Dec. 1776, Regnier de Roussi pleaded his case to Congress, which on 25 Feb. 1777 resolved that he was entitled to the rank and pay of a lieutenant colonel and referred him to GW for future employment (see Regnier de Roussi to Congress, 22 Feb. 1777, DNA:PCC, item 41, and 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 , 7:156). Regnier de Roussi became lieutenant colonel of the 4th New York Regiment on 26 Mar. 1777, and on 28 June 1779 he was transferred to the 2d New York Regiment. He was appointed a subinspector of a division on 1 Jan. 1780, and on 29 Mar. 1780 he resigned his commission, giving as his reasons poor health and “other Circumstances” (see Regnier de Roussi to GW, that date, DNA, RG 93; see also his letters to GW of 24 Mar. and 28 May 1778, DLC:GW, and Regnier de Roussi to Congress, 4 Mar. 1785, DNA:PCC, item 41).

3The following Wednesday was 20 November.

5On 17 Nov. the brigade majors of the three brigades composing Heath’s division each submitted a brigade return of officers and men killed, captured, and missing during the New York campaign. Signed copies of those returns are in DLC:GW. Nicholas Fish’s return for Gen. John Morin Scott’s brigade lists the names of twenty-seven officers and men taken prisoner and fifteen men who were missing. At the end of the document, Fish writes: “Colo. Lasher having made no Return, there are no Privates belonging to his Regt mentioned in the aforegoing catalogue.” The names of five of Col. John Lasher’s officers are included among the prisoners, however. Albert Pawling’s return for Gen. George Clinton’s brigade gives the names of one officer and four men who were killed and one man who was captured. Jedediah Hyde’s return for Gen. Samuel Holden Parsons’s brigade covers only Col. William Prescott’s 7th Continental Regiment, Col. Jonathan Ward’s 21st Continental Regiment, and Col. Samuel Wyllys’s 22d Continental Regiment. It names four enlisted men who were killed, one captain and three enlisted men who were captured, and forty-three enlisted men who were missing. Separate casualty returns were submitted for two other regiments in Parsons’s brigade. Col. Jedediah Huntington’s return for his 17th Continental Regiment, dated 17 Nov., lists the names of one sergeant who was killed, twenty-one officers who were captured, and 188 enlisted men who were missing. At the end of the document, Huntington says that one man who appears on the return as missing was found subsequently in the hospital (DLC:GW). Col. John Tyler’s undated return for his 10th Continental Regiment names one officer and six enlisted men as being killed, one officer as being a prisoner, and seven enlisted men as being missing (DLC:GW). For all of these returns, see also Force, American Archives description begins Peter Force, ed. American Archives. 9 vols. Washington, D.C., 1837–53. description ends , 5th ser., 3:715–24, 729–30.

6The copy of this pay abstract of 17 Nov. in the Heath Papers at the Massachusetts Historical Society shows that he was owed $33 for his service as a brigadier general from 1 to 8 Aug. and $462 for his service as a major general from 9 Aug. to 31 Oct. for a total of $495. GW granted a warrant to pay Heath that sum on 20 Nov. (see Warrant Book No. 2 in DLC:GW, ser. 5, vol. 18).

7Heath wrote Gen. James Clinton on this date informing him of the loss of Fort Washington. “The Enemy,” Heath writes, “will now have possession of the River below us, & it behoves us to exert every Power, to render the River impassable at the Highlands, I beg therefore that you would endeavour to compleat your Works, & the Obstructions in the River as fast as possible” (MHi: Heath Papers).

Index Entries