George Washington Papers

General Orders, 30 September 1776

General Orders

Head Quarters, Harlem Heights, Sept. 30th 1776

Parole: Norfolk.Countersign: York.

The movements of the Enemy indicating a speedy Attack, the officers of the several Regiments, of all Ranks, are to be very attentive to the state of the Arms and Ammunition of their respective regiments, and to be particularly alert in Case of Alarm.1

The Order of yesterday, with respect to the Troops marching to their Alarm Posts, and making themselves acquainted with the Guard, is to be carried into execution immediately.

Ammunition Boxes in each regiment, not having Ammunition in them, are to be collected that they may be filled—Commanding Officers of Regiments will send them to their respective Brigadier’s Quarters immediately.

All the Troops are every Morning to be under Arms a little before break of day—and continue ’till sun-rise, when they may be dismissed—As the preservation of our Country may depend very much on a strict obedience to this Order, it is hoped that commanding Officers of Brigades & Regiments will pay a special attention to it.

A working party of 1200 Men, exclusive of those at Mount Washington, to parade at the usual place, at seven OClock in the morning, properly officered, for the Engineer’s department—Fellows’s and Wadsworth’s Brigades to take their tools at Quarter Master Stone’s quarters, nigh to Genl Spencer’s quarters. Major Clift and Capt: Parsons will attend them. Col. Weedon’s Regt will take their Orders from Lt Col. Marshall.2 The Overseers of the works will attend at the Engineer’s Office, every morning, to receive their Orders and parties. The number of fatigue men not to be lessened till further orders. The Engineer must have a list of the several Brigades and the number of men they furnish for the works, or he never can proportion the men to the works in a proper manner.

Varick transcript, DLC:GW; Df, DNA: RG 93. , Orderly Books, vol. 15. The draft is in Joseph Reed’s writing except for the two passwords and the last paragraph of the general orders.

1Sgt. James McMichael of Col. Samuel Miles’s Pennsylvania rifle regiment writes in his diary for this date that “we received intelligence at midnight, that the enemy were advancing. We all paraded immediately and man’d the lines. The alarm proved false and at daybreak we returned to our encampment” (“McMichael’s Diary,” description begins William P. McMichael. “Diary of Lieutenant James McMichael, of the Pennsylvania Line, 1776–1778.” Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography 16 (1892): 129–59. description ends 16:136).

2Waterman Clift (1741–1828), who had been a captain in the 6th Connecticut Regiment during 1775, served as a major of Col. Samuel Selden’s regiment of Connecticut militia levies from 2 July to 25 Dec. 1776. Hezekiah Parsons, Sr. (1728–1813), of Hartford County, served as a captain in the 4th Connecticut Regiment during 1775 and in Col. Comfort Sage’s Connecticut state regiment from 20 June to 25 Dec. 1776. Thomas Marshall (1730–1802) of Oak Hill in Fauquier County, the father of Chief Justice John Marshall, was commissioned major of the 3d Virginia Regiment by the Virginia convention on 12 Jan. 1776, and on 13 Aug. the Continental Congress promoted him to lieutenant colonel of the regiment. A former member of the House of Burgesses and the first three Virginia conventions, Marshall had dined at Mount Vernon in February 1775 when he offered GW command of the Fauquier County Independent Company (see Diaries description begins Donald Jackson and Dorothy Twohig, eds. The Diaries of George Washington. 6 vols. Charlottesville, Va., 1976–79. description ends , 3:309). In February 1777 Marshall became colonel of the 3d Virginia Regiment. He resigned his commission on 4 Dec. 1777 to take command of the 1st Virginia Artillery Regiment, and in November 1780 the state’s house of delegates sent him to Kentucky to arrange the surveying of bounty lands for Virginia soldiers.

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