George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Major General William Heath, 22 September 1776

From Major General William Heath

Kingsbridge Sept. 22nd 1776

Dear General

If your Excellency should be fully Satisfied with the Intelligence Brought by the Two Lads who Swam from the LaBrune, with respect to the number of the Enemy on Montrasures Island, I think they may be taken,1 I Desired General Clinton to lay this matter before your Excellency this Day, But having thought more of it Since he left me, and apprehending that He may not return Untill late this afternoon, I am Desireous to Know your Excellency’s Opinion as Soon as you Please to Signify it, and if an attempt should be thought Advisable this night, a Party well officered shall be ready, I should think that One Hundred & fifty or Two Hundred men would be Sufficient for the purpose, we have Both Officers and Soldiers who are Desirous to Distinguish themselves—Four or Five Flat Bottomed Boats will be necessary, and Two or three whale Boats, If this meets with your Excellency approbation every thing shall be got ready in Season.2 I have the Honor to be &[c.]

W. Heath

ADfS, MHi: Heath Papers.

1Heath here struck out the words “without much Difficulty.” For GW’s sending of these deserters to Heath earlier this day with instructions to have them escorted to New London, see Tench Tilghman to Heath, this date, MHi: Heath Papers. Heath says in his memoirs that the deserters told him “that the British had then but a few men on the [Montresor’s] island, stating the number; that the piece of cannon, which had been put on the island, was taken back again on board the La Brune; that there were a number of officers at the house in which there was a considerable quantity of baggage deposited, &c.” (Wilson, Heath’s Memoirs description begins Rufus Rockwell Wilson, ed. Heath’s Memoirs of the American War. 1798. Reprint. New York, 1904. description ends , 73).

2Robert Hanson Harrison replied to Heath later this day that GW “has no Objection to your making the Attempt you propose, If you are of opinion that the Intelligence given by the Two Lads is satisfactory & will Warrant It, and of which he says you are as good a Judge as he is. He requests that you will acquaint him in time of the Resolution you come to in this Affair, that he may know how to conduct himself with respect to our Guards—If It is undertaken, they certainly must be apprized of It to prevent an Alarm.” In a second letter of this date to Heath, Harrison conveys GW’s good wishes for the success of the raid and his request “that no Houses or private property may be destroyd by burning or Otherwise unless there shall be an absolute necessity” (MHi: Heath Papers). For an account of the raid that the Americans attempted to make on Montresor’s Island the next day, see General Orders, 24 September.

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