George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Major General William Heath, 15 December 1776

From Major General William Heath

Hackensack [N.J.] Decr 15th 1776

Dear General

On the 12th Instant I reached Tapan, and Yesterday made a Forced march to this Place, with so much Secrecy and Dispatch that the Inhabitants had no Knowledge of my Coming, The Enemy had left the Town Some Days Since Except five whom we took, Two of them sick, we have taken about 50 of the Disaffected, and about 50 or 60 Muskets the greater part of which had been taken from the Whigs as is Supposed and Stored—at the Dock we found One Sloop Loaded with Hay, House Furniture, Some Spirits &c. which we have this Day unloaded, A Brig Loaded Run Down the River about 7 miles and got a Ground, I am afraid that we shall not be able to Secure the Effects[.] a Schooner loaded with Hay, Furniture &c. which had Sailed from the Dock ran on the Bank of the River the wind being very Fresh, and in the night over Set by which the Goods were Damaged if not lost—Two or three Companies have been raising Here and in the vicinity, and Field officers appointed, one Buskark Colo., at his House we found 50 bbls of Flour a number of Hogsheds of Rum &c. and at one Browns who is Lieut. Colo. about 1000 lb. of Cheese &c., one Ten Penny is Major, they are all gone Down to York to have matters Properly Settled, get ammunition arms &c. and were to have returnd on yesterday, I Beleive we have Luckily Disconcerted them,1 Such of the Inhabitants as are Friendly receive us with Joy, but are almost afraid to Speak their Sentiments, and Indeed Little or no Intelligence can be got from the Inhabitants—The Disaffected have Sent Down a Petition for Troops to protect them, and Expect them every moment (as they say) and by Some reports from New york Several regiments are in motion, and there Destination Said to be up by the north River—This report is So much Credited that I think it will be rather Hazardous to move the Troops which I have in this neighbourhood much more to the westward, as I shall thereby leave the Passage on the Back of Fort montgomery too much Exposed[.] I think therefore after having Secured every thing Here to move to Paramus, at least for a few Days as I can from that place Protect this Part of the Country, and Should they attempt the Pass in the mountains be beforehand of them.

Colo. Vose, with the Three Regiments from Ticonderoga have marched to the Neighbourhood of Chatham, where they will arrive I suppose this night or to morrow, I shall move in Such manner as best to Protect the Country and Harrass the Enemy—your Excellency is Sensible That General Wadsworth Brigade goes Home in a few Days, and I cannot learn that any militia are Coming from Connecticut—I should be glad to Know if your Excellency has wrote to the State of Massachusetts Bay for any number of their militia and whether they are Expected, I regret the loss of the Brave General Lee; and much more the manner in which He was Taken.

If the Enemy Should not be able to pass the Delaware, I think they will take a Turn this way—Several Thousands Landed at Elizabeth Town on Yesterday or the Day before, and General How has lately Gone after the army to your Quarter. I have the Honor to be with great respect your Excellencys most Humble Servt

W. Heath

ALS, DLC:GW; Df, MHi: Heath Papers.

1For another account of Heath’s occupation of Hackensack, see Wilson, Heath’s Memoirs description begins Rufus Rockwell Wilson, ed. Heath’s Memoirs of the American War. 1798. Reprint. New York, 1904. description ends , 110–12. These Loyalists recently had been commissioned officers in Gen. Cortlandt Skinner’s New Jersey Volunteers, a corps consisting of four battalions, each of which was commanded by a lieutenant colonel. Abraham Van Buskirk (born c.1735), a physician who lived at Teaneck on the east side of the Hackensack River, was commissioned lieutenant colonel of the 3d Battalion of the New Jersey Volunteers on 16 Nov. 1776. Although Van Buskirk in 1775 had been a member of the Bergen County committee of correspondence and had represented the county in the provincial congress, he proved to be an ardent Loyalist. His battalion was involved in numerous skirmishes and raids in Bergen County during the next several years, and in September 1781 he participated in Benedict Arnold’s raid on New London. Van Buskirk’s house and gristmill on the Hackensack River were confiscated and sold by the Patriots, and at the end of the war he moved to Shelburne, Nova Scotia, where he lived on a military pension.

Daniel Isaac Brown (born c.1739), an attorney in Hackensack who served as clerk of court for Bergen County, was commissioned major of the 1st Battalion of the New Jersey Volunteers on 17 Nov. 1776. A political moderate, Brown had been chosen president of the Bergen County committee of observation and correspondence in September 1775, and in May 1776 he had been elected a delegate to the provincial congress. He also had been elected to the general assembly that met in September 1776, but he had refused to take the required oath renouncing loyalty to the king. Brown’s property in Bergen County was confiscated by the Patriots in 1779, and after the war he moved to Annapolis Royal, Nova Scotia.

Robert Timpany (c.1742–1844), a native of Ireland who had come to America in 1760, was a schoolmaster in Hackensack before he was commissioned major of the 4th Battalion of the New Jersey Volunteers on 18 Nov. 1776. In the fall of 1779, Timpany became second in command to Patrick Ferguson in the American Volunteers, a Loyalist corps that served in the Carolinas during the campaign of 1780 and was nearly destroyed at the Battle of Kings Mountain on 7 Oct. 1780. Although wounded several times, Timpany survived the campaign, and after the war he settled in Yarmouth, Nova Scotia.

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