George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Major General William Heath, 1 July 1779

From Major General William Heath

Highlands [N.Y.] July 1st 1779

Dear General

I have been honored with your favors of yesterday morning and afternoon have ordered Huntingtons Brigade to the Gorge1 of the mountains north of the village to take Post in the most advantageous Ground and to exercise every precaution for the Security of their Camp and to prevent a Surprise,2 have ordered the shortest and best Communication, from that Post to Parsons Brigade to be Carefully reconnoitred by the officers of both Brigades, that in Case the Enemy should advance each may support the other without loss of Time.

I find upon enquiry such an Almost total deficiency of Instruments Bandages Dressings &c. &c. among the Regimental Surgeons as is shocking to humanity admiting the Least probability of the Troops Coming to action. I have thought it my Duty to make this representation to your Excellency.3

If the Intelligence from Major Genl Gates may be depended upon Sir Harry Clinton has drawn a Considerable part of the Garrison of Rhode Island to New York he probably has Something Serious in Contemplation, He may be mad enough again to move up the River, and will perhaps first make Some Manoeuvre to draw their army from their present Strong Posts. The more I view the Ground, and the probability of any advantage the Enemy could derive from a movement up the River the more I am Convinced, that their first and Principle aim will be to Possess themselves of Some Strong Grounds in this neighbourhood, and whether Considering the Present Position of the Enemy the nature of the Ground and the first advance He will most probably make if his intentions are against the Fort a Sufficient Force is now on this Side of the River your Excellency can best determine.

permit me to request the favor that the Letter address’d to His Excellency the President of Congress may be forwarded by the first Express your Excellency Sends to Philadelphia.4 I have the honor to be with the greatest respect your Excellencys most obedient Servt

W. Heath

ADfS, MHi: Heath Papers.

1Heath inadvertently wrote “George” on the draft manuscript.

2This gorge apparently is just northwest of Continental Village, N.Y., where a road leading toward West Point passed between steep peaks. This location proved a problematic place for camps (see John Nixon to Heath, 12 Aug., and Heath to GW, 13 Aug., both MHi: Heath Papers).

3Before closing this paragraph on the draft manuscript with this sentence, Heath wrote and struck out several lines, which include: “the wounded must Infallably Suffer; Doct. Burnet whom I am informed is to furnish the necessary Supplies is Some where in the Jersies. a few Days Since I wrote Doct. Turner, and Mr McKnight on the Subject, have received very Polite answers from them and assurances of aid in case of emergency, but at the same time information that it is not their province but Doct. Burnets to furnish the necessary Supplies, as the Troops here are Considered as under your Excellency[’s] immediate Command.” For a draft of the letter seeking medical assistance, dated 26 June, that Heath sent surgeons general Charles McKnight and Philip Turner, see MHi: Heath Papers (see also McKnight to Heath, 27 June; Turner to Heath, 29 June and 15 July; Heath to Turner, 1 July; Heath to Jedediah Huntington, 2 July; and William Burnet, Sr., to Heath, 17 July, all MHi: Heath Papers).

4The enclosure was Heath’s letter to John Jay of this date acknowledging an appointment to the Board of War, requesting information on duties, and asking whether acceptance meant giving up his rank in the army (DNA:PCC, item 157). Congress read Heath’s letter on 7 July and decided to furnish Heath with a copy of the resolutions that established the Board of War as well as to inform him that “he will retain his rank, but be paid only as a commissioner of the Board” (JCC, description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds. Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774-1789. 34 vols. Washington, D.C., 1904–37. description ends 14:806). After receiving this information, Heath wrote Jay on 19 July to decline the appointment (DNA:PCC, item 157; see also Jay to Heath, 24 June and 8 July, in Smith, Letters of Delegates, description begins Paul H. Smith et al., eds. Letters of Delegates to Congress, 1774–1789. 26 vols. Washington, D.C., 1976–2000. description ends 13:105, 162).

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