George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Major General William Heath, 8 January 1778

From Major General William Heath

Head Quarters Boston Jany 8. 1778

Dear General

From several peices of Intelligence which we have lately received, I think there are some grounds to apprehend that the Enemy are removing some of their Troops from philadelphia to New York, and from thence to Newport. Whether these movements are for the security of those places, or with further design is matter of conjecture. It has long been my Sentiment that the great Sea-port Towns are there object; and I think they must be convinced that they can never penetrate far into the Country. If I am not mistaken in my conjecture, I think Boston will be their next object, which they will attempt by Two landings, the one at providence, the other some where not far from this place. Lord Howe is now at Rhode Island with the greater part of the Men of War, and it is said with near 150 Sail of Transports.

Should New England happen to be the Seat of War another Campaign, I fear our Magazines of provisions will not be Stored with that plenty which we could wish—Flour in particular must be sent from some other Quarter, and in large Quantities, as the Troops here will soon exhaust our present Stock.

Enclosed is a sketch of some matters related by a person who lately escaped from New-York. As he appeared to be very honest & intelligent I thought it might be worthy of some notice.1 I have the Honor to be very respectfully Your Excellency’s Most Obed. Servant

W. Heath

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

1The enclosed intelligence report, dated 7 Jan. 1778, reads: “Aaron Draper of this State who Left New York the 17th Decemr says, That the Conduct of Genl Burgoyne is applauded, and Genl Howe much Censured for not Attempting up the North River to form a Junction with General Burgoyne as it could be easily Effected The Communication have been cut of, After Which they could have penetrated either Eastward or Southward at Pleasure.

“About 980 Recruits for Different Regts arrived at New York three Weeks the Last Sunday.

“Mr Draper After he was on Long Island, He was Informed by a Gentn of Veracity that Two Brigades Consisting in the Whole of about 1500 had just Returned from Philadelphia to N. York—A Number of Victuallers were to sail for Philidelphia with Provissions the Morning he came away, that Philidelphia was so well fortifyed that they had no Apprehension of an Attack from our Army this Winter.

“That there is One Regt of Regulars at Brook line on Long Island—At Kerricks & Jamaica are a number of the new Corps, at most not more than 250. That Hampsted and Newtown Troops of Horse Joyned by some few Militia not more than 450 in the Whole, Marched Down the Island in pursuit of Genl Parsons on his Late Excursion to Long Island but did not come up with him. Altho the Horse Could have Done it, but were afraid of the Consequences—That this Party Pillaged and abused many of those who they supposed friendly to our Cause.

“In N. York are about 1200 Men all Hessians—no British Except Invalids, who are Numerous, Notwith Standing Numbers have been sent Home at Different Times—Our Prisoners are Very Sickly, and at the Time of their Late Apprehensions of an Attack after the Takeing of Genl Burgoyne the Prisoners were all sent on Board the Ships w[h]ere they remained when He came away, Except Such as had been sent to the Provost, But that the Officers had been sent on Shore again to their former Quarters, that the Sufferings of our Prisoners is beyond Discription.

“That a Strong Detachment of Hessians are Quartered at the Bowry—and mount Guard at Bunker Hill and at the Fort Jones Hill.

“That they talk much of Reinforcements Especially of Russians—in the Old way. That there was a talk of Sending a Reinforcement to Rhode-Island which they thought rather Insecure.

“That there were but few Ships at N. York, but many Transports & Victuallers—that we have many friends on Long Island—who Wish we may not attempt to Come on the Island Unless we mean to do Something to Purpose as it rather makes there Case Miserable being Insulted and abused on Suspicion” (DLC:GW). Aaron Draper, a marine, recently had been exchanged after being held prisoner at New York.

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