George Washington Papers

General Orders, 16 September 1776

General Orders

Head Quarters, Harlem-Heights, sept: 16th 1776.

Parole: BellCountersign: Maryland.

The Arrangement for this night.

Genl Clinton to form next to the North River, and extend to the left—Genl Scott’s Brigade next to Genl Clinton’s—Lt Col. Sayer of Col. Griffith’s Regt with the three Companies intended for a reinforcement to day, to form upon the left of Scott’s Brigade1—Genl Nixon’s—Col. Serjeant’s division, Col. Weedon’s and Major Price’s Regts2 are to retire to their quarters and refresh themselves, but to hold themselves in readiness to turn out [at] a minute’s warning3—Genl McDougall to establish proper guards against his Brigade upon the height, and every Regiment posted upon the Heights, from Morris’s house to Genl McDougall’s Camp, to furnish proper Guards to prevent a Surprize; Not less than twenty men from each regiment—Genl Putnam commands upon the right-flank to night—Genl Spencer from McDougall’s Brigade up to Morris’s house—Should the Enemy attempt to force the pass to night, Genl Putnam is to apply to Genl Spencer for a reinforcement.4

Varick transcript, DLC:GW; Df, DNA: RG 93, Orderly Books, vol. 15.

GW had moved his headquarters the previous day to Roger Morris’s house on Harlem Heights, the high rocky terrain at the northern end of Manhattan Island lying west and north of the village of Harlem and the Harlem Plains. Morris’s handsome Georgian mansion, which stands on a bluff overlooking the Harlem River at present-day 160th Street and Edgecomb Avenue, was on the post road three and a half miles south of King’s Bridge and about a mile and a half north of the “Hollow Way,” a narrow valley at the southern end of the defensive lines that the Americans established on Harlem Heights after retreating there on 15 September. For an account of that retreat, see GW to Hancock, this date. For an account of the Battle of Harlem Heights which occurred on this date, see GW to Hancock, 18 September. GW’s headquarters remained at Morris’s house until 21 October.

This day’s general orders concern GW’s reorganization of his forces on Harlem Heights in anticipation of an attack by General Howe’s army which had landed on Manhattan Island the previous day and had established its advanced posts about two miles south of the “Hollow Way” (see GW to Hancock, this date). GW had deployed three divisions on the heights during the evening of 15 September. The southernmost positions overlooking the “Hollow Way” were manned initially by General Greene’s division, which included Nixon’s, Sargent’s, and Beall’s brigades, Col. George Weedon’s as yet unbrigaded regiment and the recently arrived detachment of Maryland Continentals commanded by Maj. Thomas Price (see John Chilton to an unknown correspondent, 17 Sept., in “Old Virginia Line,” description begins Lyon G. Tyler. “The Old Virginia Line in the Middle States during the American Revolution.” Tyler’s Quarterly Historical and Genealogical Magazine 12 (1930–31): 1–43, 90–141, 198–203, 283–89. description ends 92–94). Between Greene’s division and Morris’s house GW had placed General Putnam’s division consisting of George Clinton’s, Scott’s, Heard’s, Douglas’s, and McDougall’s brigades, and General Spencer’s division consisting of Fellows’s, Silliman’s, Wadsworth’s, and Mifflin’s brigades (see Johnston, Harlem Heights description begins Henry P. Johnston. The Battle of Harlem Heights, September 16, 1776: With a Review of the Events of the Campaign. 1897. Reprint. New York, 1970. description ends , 49–50, 64–65, 143).

1These companies of the 1st Maryland Regiment of flying camp troops apparently were commanded by Lt. Col. Henry Shyrock (c.1736–1814), a Washington County saddler and tavern keeper, whom the Maryland convention had appointed major of the regiment on 27 June 1776 and its lieutenant colonel on 7 August. Shyrock was named lieutenant colonel of the 6th Maryland Regiment in December and resigned his commission on 17 April 1777. He became assistant deputy quartermaster general for Washington County in June 1778, a purchasing agent there in 1779, and county commissary for horses in 1781. Charles Greenberry Griffith (1744–1792), a planter from Frederick County, was appointed lieutenant colonel of the 1st Maryland flying camp on 27 June and became its colonel on 30 July. Griffith left the army in January 1777 and subsequently held various local offices in Frederick County. He was a member of the lower house of the Maryland assembly from 1781 to 1783 and from 1787 to 1788.

2Thomas Price of Frederick, Md., who had commanded a rifle company at Cambridge from August to November 1775, was appointed major of Col. William Smallwood’s Maryland regiment in January 1776.

3The word “at” appears in the draft.

4This pass may be the place about three fourths of a mile south of Morris’s house where the post road between New York City and King’s Bridge ascended Harlem Heights.

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