George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Major General William Heath, 3 October 1776

From Major General William Heath

Kingsbridge Octr 3d 1776

Dear General

I have just received by a Letter from Col. Grayson, the Signification of your Excellency’s Pleasure, that the Officers of my Division should get thoroughly acquainted, with the Grounds between this post & Morrissania1—This I have been daily inculcating already, & shall now press, in consequence of your Excellency’s Direction.

In my Orders on Yesterday I endeavoured to rouse the Officers & Soldiers to compleat the Works, especially the Former (at this critical moment to exert themselves) and that I was determined to work myself I have the Pleasure to acquaint your Excellency, that it has had a most desirable Effect I have not seen the Officers or Men, so disposed to work as I find them this morning—and several new works are executing—Two Regiments of Genl Saltonstall’s Militia have marched on to the Island; Two will this day take post opposite to Head Quarters Two are near Col. Chester; Two are still on the Sea Coast—I had ordered one of them forward but find them, so small that it cannot be done, unless 4 or 5 Miles of Sea Coast should be left unguarded, & in dangerous places also—I have therefore tho’t it my duty to let them remain, until Your Excellency was informed of the Situation that matters would be in, if both Regiments were removed, & hope that my Conduct in this particular will meet with your Excellency’s Approbation.

I have now all the Commanders of Brigades in my Division (except General Clinton) together, in order to form a proper plan of defence in case we should be attacked.2

Capt. Dewit who had the Charge of McCormick, was arrested on Yesterday, & will be brought to Tryall to morrow.3

One Justice Palmer of Frog’s Neck—Read an Attorney at Law, living near this place, & one Underhill, have just been brought here, charged with being unfriendly to our Cause & dangerous Persons, As I know Your Excellency is crowded with Business, I shall send them to the Convention of this State.4 I have the honor to be With great respect Your Excellency’s Most humble Servt

W. Heath

ADfS, MHi: Heath Papers.

1William Grayson wrote Heath twice on this date informing him of GW’s desire to have the officers of his division reconnoiter the terrain between their several posts and all possible British landing places such as Morrisania (both letters are in MHi: Heath Papers).

2Grayson wrote in his second letter to Heath of this date that “it is the opinion of the Genl [GW] that you should form and digest proper dispositions for your troops to take effect eventually on their [the British] landing at this or that place, as the case may happen to be; he imagines it will be too late, after the Enemy have actually landed to consider of and digest, a proper disposition, for your forces” (MHi: Heath Papers). For Heath’s plan of defense, see his letter to GW of 7 October.

3For James McCormick’s court-martial and death sentence, see Heath to GW, 29 Sept., and note 1. The arrested officer, who was accused of releasing McCormick from the main guard at King’s Bridge on 1 Oct., belonged to Col. Cornelius Humphrey’s regiment of New York levies. He was probably John (Jan) L. De Witt (1731–1803), a captain in the Ulster County militia, who was reported in August to be stationed at New York with Brig. Gen. John Morin Scott’s brigade of New York levies (see Johannes Snyder to George Clinton, 9 Aug. 1776, in 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 , 1:299–300). For De Witt’s court martial on 8 Oct., see Heath’s first letter to GW of 10 October.

4Philip Palmer, Israel Underhill, and Joseph Read, all of Westchester County, were escorted to the New York convention at Fishkill by a detachment under the command of Capt. William Stewart, and on 7 Oct. the convention referred them to its committee for detecting and defeating conspiracies (see N.Y. Prov. Congress Journals description begins Journals of the Provincial Congress, Provincial Convention, Committee of Safety, and Council of Safety of the State of New-York, 1775–1776–1777. 2 vols. Albany, 1842. (Microfilm Collection of Early State Records). description ends , 1:665, and Heath to Stewart, 4 Oct., MHi: Heath Papers).

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