From Major General William Heath
Peeks kill [N.Y.] Novr 26th 1776
I have to acknowledge the Honor of the receipt of yours of the 24th Instant[.] I do not recollect to have Sent any Letters by the Fridays Post who lost his Mail in an Infamous manner.1
I have Also received from Colo. Harrison, the Resolves of the Honble Continental Congress of the 19th Instant, with a Signification of your Excellencys Pleasure that they should be Published in orders, which Shall be Done Tomorrow.2
I have for Several Days been exerting my Utmost Endeavours to Secure the Stores on the west Side of the River, and have the pleasure to acquaint your Excellency that through the vigilance of Colo. Tupper and his Party, The Provisions, warlike and naval Stores, near the River at Tapan, Slots Landing &c. have been Safely brought off altho the Ships Fired a number of Cannon shot at the Boats.3
Major Clark who was Posted at Tapan Informed me yesterday by Letter, that there was at that Place a Considerable Quantity of Flour, and that He was ordered to Joyn his Regiment, I Immediately Sent orders to Colo. Tylers Regiment to march Down to Tapan, to Empress all the Teams Between Colo. Huntingtons Post and that Place and to bring off the Flour, Part to the Entrance of the mountains, and Part near to Kings ferry.4
In the afternoon I received a Letter from Colo. Hay, acquainting of me, that many of the Disaffected in that vicinity had gone to the Enemy, some of whom had hinted that they would Conduct the Enemy up and Cut off our Troops, Upon which having Consulted my Brigadiers, I ordered General Scotts Brigade over the River, to Cover the Provisions, to support Colo. Huntington in Case of need or Posses the mountain on the Back of Fort montgomery,5 I have also Stationed the Lady Washington Galley at the Ferry to Prevent Insults from the Enemys Boats or Tenders, General Mifflins Goods have been brought over to this Place.6
A Survey of the River and Soundings has lately been taken and is now before the Convention of the State of New York—General Clinton is Confident that obstructions may be effectually made by the Sinking of Blocks, I have wrote the Convention that if they should think it practicable and should make the Attempt I will assist them all in my Power,7 The Place proposed is Some miles above Fort Constitution.
Our numbers in a few Days will be much Diminished, General Scott has wrote to the Convention to Encourage his Brigade to Continue a Short time longer in the Service; and thinks he shall be able to persuade many of them to Tarry, But Sad Experiance has taught me to Expect but little from Soldiers after the Expiration of the Time of their Engagements8—I think the recruiting of a new army will be Successfull if the men can by & by some how or another a few at a time be Indulged to goe Home which Seems to be a Darling object with them. I have the Honor to be with great respect your Excellencys most Humble Servt
ALS, DLC:GW; ADfS, MHi: Heath Papers.
2. Robert Hanson Harrison’s brief letter of 24 Nov. covering an extract of these resolutions is in the Heath Papers at the Massachusetts Historical Society. The extract, which has not been identified, apparently was taken from the copy of Congress’s resolutions of 19 and 21 Nov. that was enclosed in Hancock’s letter to GW of 21 Nov. (see nn.1–3 to that document). A similar abstract probably was enclosed in GW’s second letter to Charles Lee of 24 Nov. (see note 3 to that document).
3. The village of Piermont, N.Y., which is located on the west bank of the Hudson River near the south end of the Tappan Zee, was known at this time as Tappan Slote or Tappan Landing (see Adams, The Hudson description begins Arthur G. Adams. The Hudson: A Guidebook to the River. Albany, 1981. description ends , 119). Heath says in his memoirs that Lt. Col. Benjamin Tupper, who commanded the row galley Lady Washington, arrived at King’s Ferry from Tappan Landing on 22 Nov., bringing “two 12 pounders which were at Dobb’s Ferry, and a quantity of provisions” (Wilson, Heath’s Memoirs description begins Rufus Rockwell Wilson, ed. Heath’s Memoirs of the American War. 1798. Reprint. New York, 1904. description ends , 104).
4. John Clark, Jr., wrote Heath on 24 Nov. from his post at Tappan Town, which was about three miles inland from Tappan Landing, that there were almost five hundred barrels of flour at that place and another three hundred barrels of stores “within two Miles of the River nearly opposite the Enemies Shipping.” His eightyman detachment, Clark says, had orders to join the main army at Acquacknack, N.J., and it was too fatigued from constantly watching the movements of the British ships to remove the stores to safety before marching from Tappan, but he would delay his departure until Heath could send a relief force. “If your honor shou’d think proper to send a Regt,” Clark writes Heath, “pray Order them to press all the Waggons on the Road as they come down—those near this place being already engaged in the service—The Tories are so numerous here that less than a Regt will not be sufficient to keep them in awe. . . . The Tories are assisting the Enemy with every thing in their power & want ’em to get these Stores.” Clark adds in a postscript that he had “just sent of 300 Barrells up the River” (MHi: Heath Papers; see also Clark to GW, 29 November). Col. John Tyler’s 10th Continental Regiment had been stationed with Col. Jedediah Huntington’s 17th Continental Regiment at Sydnam’s Bridge on the Ramapo River before Tyler received Heath’s orders on 25 Nov. to march to Tappan (see Wilson, Heath’s Memoirs description begins Rufus Rockwell Wilson, ed. Heath’s Memoirs of the American War. 1798. Reprint. New York, 1904. description ends , 104).
5. Col. Ann Hawkes Hay wrote Heath on 25 Nov. from the western terminus of King’s Ferry: “I have just now received Intelligence that the Enimy land[ed] last Night from their Ships a parcell of their Men at the place called Nyack abt Ten Miles from this Place—I must therefore request that you will be so good as to send us over proper Guards or we who have been faithfull Freinds to our Country must fall a Sacrifice to a cruel & unrelenting Enimy. . . . A Number of the Tories from Ramapaugh have gone over to the Enimy, & have told Persons that they meet on the Road that they intended to conduct them up to Col: Huntington & surround him & his Party” (MHi: Heath Papers). Heath, George Clinton, and John Morin Scott comprised the council of war that met at Peekskill on 25 Nov. and decided to send Scott’s brigade across the Hudson “to Haverstraw to Cover the Stores at that Place and to prevent the advances of the Enemy into the Passes of the Highlands should they attempt it” (proceedings of that council of war, MHi: Heath Papers; see also Scott to GW, 30 Nov.; Heath to Scott, 25 Nov. MHi: Heath Papers; and Wilson, Heath’s Memoirs description begins Rufus Rockwell Wilson, ed. Heath’s Memoirs of the American War. 1798. Reprint. New York, 1904. description ends , 104).
6. In a postscript to Harrison’s letter to Heath of 24 Nov., Harrison writes: “His Excellency [GW] begs your exertions to get the Stor⟨es⟩ which are at King ferry, removed to pecks k⟨ill⟩ of some Other secure place” (MHi: Heath Papers). Heath ordered the Lady Washington “to take station at King’s Ferry” on 22 Nov. (ibid.).
7. See Heath’s second letter to Pierre Van Cortlandt of this date in the Heath Papers at the Massachusetts Historical Society. The New York committee of safety on 23 Nov. read a letter from George Clinton enclosing a draft of the Hudson River and referred it to a committee appointed to obstruct the Hudson. The committee of safety during this morning directed the committee on obstructing the Hudson “to report some form of a plan for perfecting the same, with all convenient speed” and this afternoon it ordered Robert R. Livingston to go to Peekskill and North Castle to confer with Charles Lee, Heath, and George Clinton “on the situation of the enemy in this State; the passess necessary to be secured on both sides of the Highlands, and the means proper for that purpose; and also for obstructing the Hudson’s river near Pollepel’s island, agreeable to the plan recommended by General [James] Clinton” (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 , 1:715, 718–19; see also Robert R. Livingston to GW, 29 November).
8. For General Scott’s letter to the president of the New York convention of this date, see Scott to GW, 30 Nov., n. 5. Heath on this date wrote the vice-president of the New York committee of safety, Pierre Van Cortlandt: “The time to which the several Regiments of General Scott’s Bridgade stand engaged expires on Saturday next [30 Nov.], as does that of Part of the Garrisons at the Forts Montgomery & Constitution—& Colonel Tashes Regiment of Militia from the State of New Hampshire, which is now at this Post—I also expect that part of the other Troops now here, will be ordered to march Southward; should this be the Case, a Pass of vast Importance (and now inhanced by the Loss of Fort Lee, & the Enemy’s having the intire Possession of the River up to the Forts) will I think be much exposed—I think it my Duty therefore to give you this hint, that if his Excellency General Washington has not wrote to the Honorable Convention on the Subject, such Measures may be adopted, as the Honourable Convention may think proper—I think that if the several Regiments whose time is near expired could be prevailed upon, to continue a little longer it would greatly promote the Service; but of this I despair having been too often convinced that it is hard to persuade them” (Heath’s first letter to Van Cortlandt, this date, MHi: Heath Papers; see also 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 , 1:719).
In his second letter to Van Cortlandt of this date, Heath says: “Since I wrote you in the morning I have Received Letters from His Excellency General Washington and as they do not Contain the least Intimation that any Part of the Corps Under my Command are to move from this Post, I shall Assiduously pursue the Plan of Securing the Passes through the Highland” (MHi: Heath Papers).