George Washington Papers
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To George Washington from Major General William Heath, 24 August 1776

From Major General William Heath

Kingsbridge Augst 24th 1776

Dear General

In Order to Ease Head Quarters as much as Possible, And on Account of our Distance from thence, General or Garrison Court Martials have been Appointed at this Post for the Tryal of Offenders, Brigadier General Mifflen has Sent me the Inclosed this Day, But I pause Untill I Know your Excellency’s Pleasure (which I Desire you would be pleased to Signify as Soon as Convenient) whether the before mentioned Offender and all Others Except in very Extraordina[r]y Cases in deed, Are to be Tryed by Court Martials appointed here or refered to those appointed from Head Quarters.1

A very Considerable Quantity of Sails & Rigging Striped off the Vessels lately Sunk near Mount Washington at present Remains there, I Submit to your Excellency’s Determination if it would not be well to Send them further up the River where they might be Safely Stored, as it Cannot be Done here, the Stores being wanted for Other uses.

On the 21st Instant the Body of a man was Taken up at Burditts Ferry, The Commanding Officer there not being able to find any Civil Authority Appointed a Court of Enquiry to Consider the Cause of his Death, who reported the Enclosed. The Body was afterwards Buried, And the money & Effects are in the Hands of Colo. Ward[.] It Since appears that Hardenbrook (for that was his Name) was by Occupation a Carpenter belonging to the City of New York, who has been heretofore Employed by Dunmore and Tryon and for whom he retained an Affection, That upon the Day of the Ships falling Down the River he Attempted to get on Board of them But found a Watery Grave, the reward of Such Unrighteousness, I am told that he has a Brother in the City who is a Staunch friend to American Liberty, and who I suppose is as yet Unacquainted with the Fate of his Brother.2

The Detachment from the Two Brigades, amounting to Ten or Eleven Hundred men, with Surprising Alertness Almost Instantly turned out on yesterday and Marched Some Miles towards the City, And this Day upon the Flood Tide formed upon their Parades, The Officers and men appeared greatly Disapointed on Yesterday when they were told that the Enemy were not moving and that they might return to their Quarters, The men grow more Sickly as your Excellency will See by the Returns.3 I have the Honor to be with great respect your Excellencys most Humble Servt

W. Heath

ALS, DLC:GW; ADfS, MHi: Heath Papers.

1In the enclosed letter of this date, Thomas Mifflin requests Heath “to appoint a General Court Martial as soon as possible for Tryal of Lieutenant [John] Priestly of Col. Magaws Battalion Cap. [John] Beat[t]y’s Company, who is chargd by his Captain with making Use of indecent abusive & traiterous Expressions against his Brother Officers & his Country” (DLC:GW). Heath replied to Mifflin on this date that because Priestly was “charged not only of makeing Use of Indecent and Abusive, but also of traiterous Expressions against his Country,” the request for a court-martial had been referred to GW (MHi: Heath Papers). With GW’s approval Priestly was subsequently tried by a court-martial at Fort Washington (see GW to Heath, 26 Aug., and Heath to Mifflin, 27 Aug., MHi: Heath Papers). The court-martial apparently acquitted Priestly, for on 12 Oct. 1776 he was promoted to captain in Magaw’s 5th Pennsylvania Regiment, and on 16 Nov. 1776 he was taken prisoner with the regiment at Fort Washington. After his exchange in August 1778, Priestly returned to civilian life.

2The enclosed report of the court of inquiry has not been identified. Theophilus Hardenbrook (Hardenbrock) was a house carpenter in New York City in 1769 (see New York Burghers and Freemen description begins The Burghers of New Amsterdam and the Freemen of New York. 1675–1866. New York, 1886. In Collections of the New-York Historical Society, vol. 18. description ends , 539–40). Ambrose Serle says in his journal that on 18 Aug., the day that the Phoenix and Rose returned down the Hudson River past the American batteries at Fort Washington and Burdett’s Ferry, “a young Man came off from the Shore in a Canoe, and got on board the Ships. . . . A Captain Hornneck, an Engineer, who came off with him, was drowned by the Canoes striking against the Rose. They tried to save the poor Gentleman, but in vain, as they could not stay for him, being in the midst of the Rebels’ Fire. This was regretted as a capital Loss” (Tatum, Serle’s Journal description begins Edward H. Tatum, Jr., ed. The American Journal of Ambrose Serle: Secretary to Lord Howe, 1776–1778. San Marino, Calif., 1940. description ends , 68). Maj. Carl Leopold Baurmeister, adjutant of the Hessian forces, says that the engineer was named Freudenberg and that he drowned while trying to swim to Staten Island at Decker’s Ferry (Baurmeister to Baron von Jungkenn, 2 Sept. 1776, in Baurmeister, Revolution in America description begins Carl Leopold Baurmeister. Revolution in America: Confidential Letters and Journals, 1776–1784, of Adjutant General Major Baurmeister of the Hessian Forces. Translated and annotated by Bernhard A. Uhlendorf. New Brunswick, N.J., 1957. description ends , 31–42).

3These returns have not been identified. Mifflin says in his letter to Heath of this date: “I have orderd the two Battalions to parade at Eleven OClock, the Time of Low Water: that We may be ready to march if necessary. Cap. [Jotham] Horton gave the Alarm Yesterday through Misinformation—If we discover any Movement of the Enemy you will hear 3 Cannon. A heavy Firing was seen & heard from our post last Night supposd to have happend at long Island—50 Cannon beside small Arms were heard” (DLC:GW).

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