George Washington Papers

From George Washington to William Heath, 23 February 1781

Head Quarters New Windsor 23rd Feby 1781

Dear Sir

In a letter of the 18th I hinted to you that the detachment which was then forming might be five or six Weeks absent from this post—possibly it may be longer, and advance us into a season when the enemy, if they are in force and circumstances at New York, may endeavour to avail themselves of our weakness.

To provide against this, I have as you are already informed, wrote pressingly for the Recruits of Massachusetts Bay—Rhode Island &c.—to be hastened to the Army. I shall direct the commanding Officers of the Militia of Ulster—Orange and Dutchess to have their Men in readiness to repair to West point upon the first Alarm, and the firing of the Beacons. I would have you make the same request to those of West Chester.

Independent of this, I shall request Govr Livingston to have the Jersey Militia properly arranged and held in readiness to oppose any invasion of that State, by the way of Elizabeth Town &ca—And I earnestly request that your disposition for defending the several Works at and in the Vicinity of West point may be perfect, and so arranged, as that no confusion may take place, or delay happen, if we should be suddenly called on. Let every Work have water and provision in it, and the commanding Officer of each informed of his duty, and the part that is expected of him.

Besides these, let the Officer commanding the Water Guards be directed to use the utmost vigilance, and instructed to obtain the best intelligence he can of the movements at New York. The Officers commanding at Stony and Verplanks Points must be ordered to defend those posts to the last extrimity. The Beacons upon Butter-Hill and the Mountain opposite the Village of Fishkill, should be examined, and put in order to fire at a moments warning.

Providing for and giving security to the different Works you will consider as the great objects of your attention. Every other consideration is secondary and must yeild to them—for which reason I think you had best further reduce the command upon the lines to a patrol of 50 Men under an active Captain. I am Dear Sir Yr most obt Servt

Go: Washington

The application to the Militia of West Chester may be delayed awhile as perhaps it would indicate to the enemy too immediately & too strongly our apprehensions.

MHi: Heath Papers.

Index Entries