George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Major General William Heath, 9 January 1777

From Major General William Heath

Peeks-kill [N.Y.] Jany 9th 1777

Dear General

I have received the honor of your’s of the 31st of December, & 5th & 7th of Jany.

In my last I mentioned to your Excellency the taking of one Strang & the Appointment of a General Court martial for his Tryall—The Court gave in their Judgment on the 5th Inst. Copy of which I take the Liberty in inclose1—I have not as yet approved or disapproved the Sentence, as this is the first Tryal of the Kind, I have thought it my Duty to lay the matter before your Excellency, and to crave your Opinion.

I have just received a Letter from Governor Trumbull which I also inclose.2

Your Excellency in your Letter of the 5th Inst. Signify’d your Pleasure, that a Body of the Eastern Militia should move towards New York—I took immediate measures for the purpose—Those coming on from Connecticut I have ordered to Rye, & Kingstreet—The New York Militia was before at North Castle—In order to give your Excellency the earliest Aid in our power, part of Two Regiments crossed the North River, and marched to Rampaugh several days since—The Remainder of those Regiments are now on their march with Brigadier General Warner—There are but Two other Regiments as yet arrived from Massachusetts Bay—One of which must remain here as a Guard; the other is marching for North Castle—Our greatest difficulty is the want of Artillery men—I have been oblig’d to offer Ten Dollars bounty, for a number sufficient to man Five or Six pieces of Cannon for Six Weeks—I hope I shall obtain them.

Your Excellency hinted in your last that if it was agreable to General Lincoln, & myself you would have him continue on this Side—It being perfectly so to us both he will remain with me.

We are making every preparation necessary with the greatest dilligence—The Troops are Rendezvousing as fast as possible—General Lincoln & myself shall go down tomorrow, if the Artillery is manned—Our parties already Scout pretty far down—Rogers’s men desert fast, and others are joining of him many of whom, we have taken.

Rogers is alarmed—part of his Regiment have moved to the other Side of Kingsbridge where about 50 Light Horse are Quartered—I think this Expedition will be attended with good Consequences—It must certainly make a Diversion in favor of your Excellency—It will prevent much Forage & provisions being sent to them by the way of Kingsbridge, & I hope enable us to raise Magazines of forage for our own Army—and your Excellency is sensible that Army which is best provided with Forage, can earliest take the Field to advantage—Forage at present is extremely scarce with us.

The day before yesterday I was informed that the Enemy were warping over some Ships to the Jersey Side, we suppos’d to cover a Retreat, & that others were under Sail—I immediately sent an Express towards Dobbss Ferry for Intelligence, he return’d yesterday & informs that Two Ships are in the River, One off the mouth of Spiten Devil, the other off Fort Washington, & that he could not discover any others.

I most heartily congratulate your Excellency on your success at Princetown, mention’d in your Letter of the 5th & others as we are informed Since—Your Excellency may be assured of every Exertion in our power here.

This moment a Flag has been sent from the City, requesting of the Convention of this State, Liberty for Lady Johnson, & Mrs Cuyler with their Servants & Effects to go to New York—As the former is said to be a Lady of great art & Intrigue, I am informed the Convention refused a former Application, on Account of Sr John’s Influence among the Indians.3 I have the honor to be with great respect & Esteem your Excellency’s most humbe Servt

W. Heath

LS, DLC:GW; ADf, MHi: Heath Papers. Heath revised a substantial portion of the draft on this date in order to inform GW of the efforts he had undertaken since he began writing the draft of 8 January.

1Heath last wrote GW on 4 January. The enclosed court-martial proceedings of Daniel Strang’s trial, held at Peekskill on 4 and 5 Jan., are in DLC:GW. Strang, who was charged “with being a Spy, and attempting to enlist men for the British Army,” pleaded not guilty to the first charge but admitted that he had been recruiting for Col. Robert Rogers’s Queen’s Rangers. The court found Strang guilty of both charges and sentenced him to “be hanged by the Neck until he be Dead Dead Dead.” GW concurred with the court’s verdict (see GW to Heath, 12 Jan.), and Strang was executed on 27 Jan. at Peekskill (see Shonnard and Spooner, History of Westchester County description begins Frederic Shonnard and W. W. Spooner. History of Westchester County, New York: From Its Earliest Settlement to the Year 1900. 1900. Reprint. Harrison, N.Y., 1974. description ends , 432, and Heath to GW, 30 Jan. 1777 [first letter]). Heath also enclosed a copy of Robert Rogers’s authorization of 30 Dec. 1776 for Strang to enlist men in British pay (DLC:GW).

2This letter has not been identified.

3Heath detained the flag at his headquarters in Peekskill but forwarded its letters to the New York committee of safety at Fishkill, N.Y. (see William Howe to William Heath, 6 Jan., in MHi: Heath Papers, and Heath to James Livingston, 9 Jan., in 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 , 1:769), and the committee of safety on 10 Jan. determined that none of the letters contained any matters “injurious to the country” (ibid.). Mary Watts Johnson and her family, consisting of “three children, Miss Watts, a nurse, one white and one negro servant,” recently had been escorted to the home of her cousin Susanna De Lancey Barclay and her husband Thomas A. Barclay, in Wallkill, Ulster County, N.Y., by a delegation representing the New York committee of safety notwithstanding the delegation’s efforts to dissuade her from going there (see ibid., 761). GW refused to involve himself with the committee’s treatment of Lady Johnson, and in early February she escaped to her husband, Sir John Johnson, in New York City (see GW to Heath, 12 Jan.; New-York Gazette: and the Weekly Mercury, 10 Feb. 1777; and Jones, History of N.Y. description begins Thomas Jones. History of New York during The Revolutionary War, and of the Leading Events in the Other Colonies at that Period. Edited by Edward Floyd De Lancey. 2 vols. New York, 1879. description ends , 1:80–81, 592). Mrs. Cuyler probably is Janet (Jannetje) Glen Cuyler, the wife of Abraham C. Cuyler (d. 1810), an Albany Loyalist who was arrested and sent to Hartford, Conn., in the spring of 1776. Cuyler had broken his parole the following November and gone to New York City (see Memorial of Abraham Cuyler, 10 June 1784, in Egerton, Royal Commission description begins Hugh Edward Egerton, ed. The Royal Commission on the Losses and Services of American Loyalists, 1783 to 1785: Being the Notes of Mr. Daniel Parker Coke, M. P., One of the Commissioners during that Period. 1915. Reprint. New York, 1969. description ends , 134–35, and Minutes of the Albany and Schenectady Committees, 1:597). Mrs. Cuyler applied to the Albany committee of correspondence for protection in June 1776 but was not permitted to go to New York City until October 1777 (see ibid., 1:433, 839, 855). Alternatively, Mrs. Cuyler could be Lady Anne Cuyler (d. 1815), daughter of Major Richard Grant and wife of Sir Cornelius Cuyler (d. 1819) of Albany, a general in the British army.

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