George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Major General William Heath, 30 June 1779

From Major General William Heath

Danforths House [Highlands, N.Y.]
June 30th 1779

Dear General

I do myself the honor to Send your Excellency one Sugden a Deserter from the 33rd British Regt who left verplanks Point the day before yesterday.

Colo. Putnam has gone down this morning to reconnoitre the Enemys Posts as Soon as he returns which I do not expect will be before tomorrow, report shall be made to your Excellency.1

In conversation the last evening with Some of the Principle officers of this Division on the Subject of the Divisions removing to Gallows Hill2 it was observed by Some well acquainted with the Ground, that If the whole Division Should remove to that place the Enemy should be at or near Kings Ferry with shipping that might with a Fair wind reach and effect a Landing at Robinsons—and get Possession of the Strong Grounds before our Troops Could possibly reach them,3 but that by advancing General Huntingtons Brigade, The Forrage at the village would be Secured, our left flank be well Covered and the Strong Grounds be kept in our possession. your Excellencys Superior wisdom will best determine.4 I have the honor to be very respectfully your Excellencys most Obedient Servt

W. Heath

ADfS, MHi: Heath Papers.

1Heath’s letter to Col. Rufus Putnam of 29 June initiating this reconnaissance reads: “I am very desireous if Possible to Obtain the exact Situation of the Enemy on Verplanks Point and of the Vessels in the river, as you are well acquainted with the Ground on both Sides of the River, I would request that you would to morrow reconnoitre the Enemy, with due pre caution and make Such remarks as you may think proper you will take a part or the whole of your own—Light Company, as a Guard—which you will request of Genl Nixon and proceed Down the river in Boats If you should think the best view can be had from the Dunder berg you will land at or Near Fort Montgomery, If any of the American Troops are Posted at or below that place you will take care that no Accident happens to your own Party or to them through mistake your knowledge of the Country, and ability render particular Instructions unnecessary” (MHi: Heath Papers). A letter from Heath to Brig. Gen. John Nixon on the same date reads: “Please to order Colo. Putnams Light Company to attend him to morrow to reconnoitre the Enemy at Verplanks Point as the Colo. is well acquainted with the Country in that neighbourhood I shall rely much on a report from him, let them be furnished with a Boat & Such Provisions as may be necessary” (MHi: Heath Papers). Heath also wrote an order on the same date: “Colo. Rufus Putnam of General Nixons Brigade being Sent with an Escorte of Light Infantry to reconnoitre the Enemy on Verplanks Point, to proceed down the River as far as may be thought Convenient in Boats, and if he should think necessary to land on the west Side of the river and Proceed to the top of the Dunderberg, If any of the Light Troops of the Right wing should be posted at or near the Dunderberg the Commanding Officer is desired to afford Colo. Putnam any Assistance he may need to facilitate his Business” (MHi: Heath Papers). For the map that Putnam produced from this reconnaissance, see Heath to GW, 3 July, and n.2 to that document.

2This is a 443-foot elevation in northern Westchester County, N.Y., about two miles north of Peekskill and one mile south of Continental Village. It was known exclusively as Bald Hill until the hanging of Edmund Palmer in 1777, after which it sometimes was called Gallows Hill. For Palmer, robber and spy, see Israel Putnam to GW, 19 July 1777, and n.3 to that document.

3Beverly Robinson’s house on the east side of the Hudson River about a mile and a half below West Point was at least seven road miles from Gallows Hill.

4For GW’s thoughts on movements to secure both critical positions on the east side of the Hudson River and forage for Heath’s command, see his first and second letters to Heath, this date.

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