George Washington Papers

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

From Major General William Heath

Pecks-kill [N.Y.] Decr 10th 1776

Dear General

The last Evening about 8 O’Clock I received the honor of your’s of the 7th Instt, & immediately gave Orders for the Regiments of General Parsons’s Brigade which are on this Side of Hudson’s River, to pass over which they will do this day1—I shall also order Huntington’s & Tyler’s to join them, & pursue the effecting the purposes, which your Excellency has been pleased to point out.

This post will now be left in a very defenceless condition as to men; not a single Continental Regiment on this side of the River, & nearly all the Field Artillery gone over the River; the Enemy’s Fleet which sailed Eastward a few days since by the last Accounts lying off New London, Ninety one in Number—The Account in Gaine’s New-York paper of Decr 2nd is as follows.

“Thursday last several Transports full of Troops & Military Stores passed up the East River, into Connecticut Sound: at the same time Sr Peter Parker & Mr Hothan, with the Asia, Renown, & other Men or War, fell down to the Narrows, in order to join the above Transports, as ’tis suppos’d about the East End of Long-Island. Various conjectures are raised about their Destination.”2 I have the honor to be with great Respect Your Excellency’s most humble Servt

W. Heath

LS, DLC:GW; ADfS, MHi: Heath Papers.

1A copy of Heath’s orders to Brig. Gen. Samuel Holden Parsons of 9 Dec. on this subject is in the Heath Papers at the Massachusetts Historical Society. Heath says in his memoirs that on this date “a little after noon, Parsons’s brigade marched down to King’s Ferry; the greatest alertness having been discovered by both officers and men on the occasion” (Wilson, Heath’s Memoirs description begins Rufus Rockwell Wilson, ed. Heath’s Memoirs of the American War. 1798. Reprint. New York, 1904. description ends , 108).

2See the New-York Gazette: and the Weekly Mercury, 2 December. The previous Thursday was 28 November. The transport vessels carrying Gen. Henry Clinton’s Rhode Island expedition sailed up the East River on that date, but they did not proceed through Hell Gate to Long Island Sound until 1 December. Sir Peter Parker’s squadron of warships departed from New York Harbor on the morning of 29 Nov., and after sailing along the southern coast of Long Island, it joined the transports in Long Island Sound on 5 Dec. (see 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 , 1:116–20; see also Heath to GW, 8 December). Peter Parker (1721–1811), who was knighted in 1772, was appointed in late 1775 as commodore of the squadron of warships that supported Clinton’s southern expedition during the winter and spring of 1776. During the ensuing summer and fall Parker participated in the operations around New York. Parker remained at Newport during the winter of 1777, and in the spring he was promoted to rear admiral and named commander in chief at Jamaica, where he served until 1782. Parker became a vice admiral in 1779 and a full admiral in 1787, and in 1782 he was made a baronet. William Hotham (1736–1813) sailed to America during the summer of 1776 aboard the warship Preston to serve as a commodore under Lord Howe. Hotham supervised the landings on Long Island and Manhattan Island in September 1776, and during the British occupation of Philadelphia from 1777 to 1778, he remained in New York as senior naval officer there. From 1778 to 1782 Hotham served with credit in the West Indies participating in several naval engagements. He was promoted rear admiral in 1787, vice admiral in 1790, and full admiral in 1795.

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