George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Major General William Heath, 10 September 1776

From Major General William Heath

Kingsbridge Sept. 10th 1776
half past 6 O’Clock P.M.

Dear General

I have just returned from Frog’s Point, Hunt’s point & Morrisania—I find the Enemy have been all this Day landing Troops on Montrosure’s Island where there appears to be a very large Number of them & Senteries posted all round the Island.1

In Addition to 150 Men sent down this morning near to Hunt’s point—I have this Evening ordered 200 as a Piquet to rendezvouz, at the Widow Morrises,2 & have ordered General Clinton’s Brigade to lie on their Arms, the Inclosed I received a few minutes ago, from Genl Clinton3—I think the Enemy mean to land soon, & that in Two or Three places—I think the Troops beyond this place vastly insufficient for the post as yet, but having once & again mentioned it, think that I have done my Duty, and am determined to make the best Defence in my power, if it should be with only One Thousand Men.4 I have the honor to be With great Respect Your Excellency’s Most humbl. Servt

Wm Heath

ADfS, MHi: Heath Papers.

1In a letter of this date addressed “to General Heath or General Miflin,” Gen. Alexander McDougall reports: “Early this morning about 1000 of the Enemy landed on montresours Island; and its probable many more will be landed there for the Conveniency of landing on the main, or to raise a Battery to facilitate their Landing at morisenia” (MHi: Heath Papers). British officer Frederick Mackenzie says in his diary entry for this date that “at daybreak the 1st and 2nd Battalions of Light Infantry embarked in flatboats . . . and landed on Montresor’s and Buchannan’s Islands, nearly opposite Haerlem. . . . There were not more than 20 Rebels on the Islands, who retired and made their escape as soon as they saw our people landed. The possession of these Islands facilitates the landing of the Army on York Island, and will protect the boats which may have occasion to pass through Hellgate, or come down from Flushing or Whitestone” (Mackenzie, Diary description begins Diary of Frederick Mackenzie Giving a Daily Narrative of His Military Service as an Officer of the Regiment of Royal Welch Fusiliers during the Years 1775–1781 in Massachusetts, Rhode Island and New York. 2 vols. Cambridge, Mass., 1930. description ends , 1:43).

2Sarah Gouverneur Morris (c.1714–1786), widow of Lewis Morris, Jr., was the wealthy Loyalist owner of Morrisania and mother of Gouverneur Morris.

3George Clinton wrote Heath from New Rochelle on this date, informing him that he had canceled a small expedition to Long Island the previous night because a British brig and three tenders “lay in a Line directly opposite to the Place we must have Landed. . . . The Brigg has now besides the Tenders four Sloops & as nearly as I can guess about twenty Boats, all which have been collected since ten o’clock this Morning; from the Number of Men seen on Board it is apprehended they intend to make an Expedition ag’t this Shore this Evening.” In a postscript Clinton adds: “This Moment the Brigg & other Vessells came under way with Boats in Tow & are standing up towards Troggs Point; their Number dont exceed 20” (Hastings, Clinton Papers description begins Hugh Hastings and J. A. Holden, eds. Public Papers of George Clinton, First Governor of New York, 1777–1795, 1801–1804. 10 vols. 1899–1914. Reprint. New York, 1973. description ends , 1:343–45).

4Robert Hanson Harrison replied to Heath on 11 Sept. that GW was “fully sensible that you are deficient in Men which is not only the case of your post but of every Other, and which he well knew would inevitably be the consequence, when It was determined that our defence should be divided and extended to so many Objects—This having been determined on, and the point of Attack uncertain, our attention must be had to every part where It is likely to fall—That you may be reinforced, his Excelly has Issued Orders for Colo. [Andrew] Wards Regiment at Burdets Ferry immediately to cross and be under your direction—he also desires that you would send out & get Informn, If you can of the Connectt Militia & Light Horse & give them orders to advance as fast as possible & take such Stations as you shall think most proper” (MHi: Heath Papers).

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