George Washington Papers

From George Washington to Major General William Heath, 16 December 1776

To Major General William Heath

Head Quarters near Corriels ferry [Pa.]
December 16th 1776.


I reciev’d your favor of the Eleventh instant, advising me of the march of Parsons Brigade from Pekeskill to join us; I am now to acquaint you that from information reciev’d of the Enemy’s movements, it appears to me that they intend leaving this part of the Country, & to retire towards Brunswick & the towns contiguous to it, perhaps for the purpose of going into Winter quarters, unless indeed the whole, should be intended as a feint; There does not therefore appear the same necessity for your advancing,1 as was conjectured at the time my orders for your marching were determined on;2 for this reason (as well as on account of the danger which the State of New York would be exposed to, and which the Convention has represented to me by their letter) I should concieve it to be expedient for you to return with Parson’s Brigade, to your former Station; These troops you are to post in the most advantageous manner to answer the purposes of defending the Country from the incursions of the Enemy, & of curbing the insolence of the disaffected.3 However previous to your departure from the Jerseys, I entirely agree with you in sentiment, that the troops cannot be better employed than in surprising any of the Enemy’s posts, either at Hackensac, or the parts adjacent that are so situated, as to admit of a strong probability of success; an enterprise of this sort, will encourage our friends, and advance the recruiting service, which is a matter of infinite importance;4 As to Col. Vose, with Greaton’s, Bond’s & Porter’s regiments, I would chuse they should move forwards to join Genl Gates.5

With respect to the families of Mr Inglis and Mr Moor who are desirous of going to New York, I cannot percieve any political objection; as I should suppose, they are capable of doing less mischief there, than by remaining in the Country & giving intelligence to the Enemy; they ought however to be inform’d; that they will on no account6 be permitted to return. I am Dr Sir Yr Most Obedt Servt

Go: Washington

N.B. I beg you will encourage & advance the recruiting service,7 by every means in your power; I shall in a short time send you money for the different recruiting officers.8

LS, in William Grayson’s writing, MHi: Heath Papers; copy, in Tench Tilghman’s writing, MHi: Heath Papers; Df, in Grayson’s writing, DLC:GW; Varick transcript, DLC:GW.

A note at the end of the draft reads: “A duplicate of the above sent.” Tilghman’s copy was sent to Heath on 17 Dec. with a brief covering letter from Richard Cary to Heath of that date that reads: “The foregoing is copy of the Letter sent you yesterday, which lest it should by some means miscarry, I am commanded by his Excellency [GW] to send you this duplicate” (MHi: Heath Papers). Tilghman’s copy is not an exact duplicate of the LS. Tilghman signed GW’s signature on the copy, and the wording of the copy, which is nearly the same as the draft, differs significantly from the wording of the LS in several places (see nn.1, 3–7).

1Tilghman’s copy reads: “perhaps for the purpose of going into Winter Quarters, (if the whole is not designed as a feint,) therefore, there does not appear the same necessity for your advancing.”

3Tilghman’s copy reads: “for this reason I should conceive it expedient that you return with Parsons’s Brigade to your former Station; indeed the conduct of the Forces (as mentioned in your Letter, and the danger the Convention of New York have represented to me which that State will be exposed to) has rendered this Step the more necessary. You are to post these troops in the most advantageous manner, to answer the purposes of defending the Country from the incursions of the Enemy, and of curbing the insolence of the disaffected.” For the New York convention’s fears about the safety of the Hudson highlands, see Matthew Cantine to GW, 11 December.

4Tilghman’s copy reads: “a circumstance of infinite importance.”

5Tilghman’s copy reads: “should move forwards with all possible expedition to join General Gates.”

6Tilghman’s copy reads: “on no account whatever.”

7Tilghman’s copy reads: “P.S. I beg you will encourage the recruiting Service.”

8Robert Hanson Harrison wrote Paymaster Gen. William Palfrey on 17 Dec.: “I am commanded by his Excellency [GW] to inform you that as there may be several demands for Money at Pecks Kills for recruiting & other purposes that he thinks you had better send by Mr Sheldon such a Sum as will be sufficient for every purpose, to be paid on Genl Heaths Warrants. The Opportunity by the Major will be the best that may happen for some considerable time as his Excellency has consented to the return of the Connect. Light Horse who will take it in charge with One of your Clerks, or convey it to such person as you may appoint to receive it there. You had better advise Genl Heath of it by a scribere” (DLC:GW).

Palfrey wrote Heath later on 17 Dec. from Newtown, Pa.: “Agreeable to orders I have received from Genl Washington, I have Sent in the care of Colo. Shelden One hundred and thirty four Thousand dollars for paying the Troops[,] recruiting and other purposes, also twenty two Thousand Seven hundred and Fifty more for paying General Wadsworths Brigade to be paid by your warrants—He has ordered me to appoint a deputy in your department, I Should chuse Mr [Ebenezer] Hazard if he is at Peeks kill, if he is absent Mr Nat Glover, who was my clerk & left Sick at the house opposite to where Colo. Putnam liv’d—if neither of them are at hand, appoint any person most agreeable to you, and I will send them proper authority, youll be so kind as to Send me a receipt from the person in whose hands the money is deposit⟨d⟩—They are to make returns to me as often as possible of what money they pay, and the demands they may have” (MHi: Heath Papers).

On 18 Dec. Harrison wrote Heath: “By Colo. Sheldon you will receive One hundred & fifty Six Thousand Seven hundred & fifty Dollars, which I am directed by his Excellency to inform you, is for the payment of the Troops left at pecks Kills and the Neighbourhood of it (including Genl Wadsworth’s Brigade) and for recruiting and other necessary services. The demands of the Commissary or Qr Master are not to be drawn from this Sum. If Colo. Sheldon, who is appointed to raise a Regiment of Cavalry, should stand in need of a further supply of money than he now has for that purpose, you will furnish him with such sums as he may apply for and the circumstances of your Chest will allow you to grant” (MHi: Heath Papers).

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