George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Major General William Heath, 2 July 1779

From Major General William Heath

Highlands [N.Y.] July 2nd 1779

Dear General

I send herewith a Capt. Coles of the Militia lately taken from Long Island, by the letters I take the Liberty to enclose your Excellency will observe, that it is wished he may be exchanged for One of the Captains lately taken from us by the Enemy.1

I also send a deserter with his arms who left Verplanks Point on Tuesday.

In a Letter which I received the last evening from Major Talmage he acquaints me that Sixty Sail of Vessels passed down the Sound towards New York a few days Since doubtless they were the Fleet from Rhode Island.2

Major Talmage writes me that deserters are frequently coming out of Bedford and wishes to be informed whether they shall be Sent up this way or be Sent back into Connecticut, I wish to be informed which will be most agreable to your Excellency, if it should be the latter, what Sum shall be paid for arms and accoutrements that may be brought out3—The objection against Sendg the deserters up is the distance & number of disaffected on the road, which renders it necessary that a Guard should attend or they may be taken up [by] the Tories and carried back.4

Colo. Putnam has not yet returned, but expect him this Day He took two or three Days Provisions with him and was determined if possible most fully to reconnoitre the Enemys Situation before he returned.5 I have the honor to be with the greatest respec⟨t⟩ your Excellencys most Obedient Servt

W. Heath

a Gentn who Came from Major Talmage the last night informed me that the Enemy attempted a Landing at Norwalk the day before yesterday but were beaten off this perhaps was the Cannonade he heard at Camp.6

ADfS, MHi: Heath Papers.

1The enclosures have not been identified.

2Heath is referring to a fleet reported in Horatio Gates to GW, 25 June.

3GW replied to Heath on 3 July.

4Heath conveyed information from Maj. Benjamin Tallmadge’s letter to him of 30 June, written at Pound Ridge, N.Y., reading in part: “I presume the intelligence will not be new to your Honour, that a few days since a fleet of about 60 Sail passed thro’ the Sound from the Eastward, supposed to have Troops on board from Rhode Island. . . . P.S. As we very frequently have Deserters from the Enemy coming in to this Post, would wish to be informed whether they must be sent to Hd Qrs as they come out or not. Should have sent them regularly heretofore, had they any thing important to relate, & was not the Country thro’ which they must pass so disaffected that they can hardly pass with Safety. . . . July 1st 79—Col. Sheldon having just returned to this Post presents his most respectful Compliments” (MHi: Heath Papers).

5Col. Rufus Putnam had begun this reconnaissance on 30 June (see Heath to GW, that date; see also Heath to GW, 3 July, and n.2 to that document).

6The New-York Gazette: and the Weekly Mercury for 5 July printed a letter of 1 July from the lieutenant commandant of the Associated Refugees, a Loyalist corps, to Col. Edmund Fanning, which contained an account of this attack on Norwalk, Connecticut. That letter, written aboard the Royal Charlotte in Huntington Harbor, Long Island, N.Y., reads: “I Have the honour to report to you, that on the 29th ult. . . . I left this place, intending to make a descent upon the town of Norwalk, in the colony of Connecticut. At two o’clock in the morning of the 30th, our vessels came to an anchor at the mouth of Norwalk harbour, between the Islands. The Rebels immediately fired alarm guns, made false fires and rocquets, and rung the bells in the churches, by which means considerable bodies were collected in different places to oppose our landing.

“I at first supposed that the brightness of the evening had enabled them to discover our vessels at a distance; but I have since every reason to conclude that they had received particular intelligence of our movements by boats from this place. At day break there were at least 600 men in view, with several pieces of cannon, one of which they brought down to the water’s edge, and began firing on our armed vessels, which Mr. Leonard had ordered to stand on and off. Finding it impracticable, from the great superiority of their numbers to pursue our first object, I determined to make the alarm as general and extensive as possible. For this purpose I continued in Norwalk harbour till about nine o’clock, making frequent shews of landing, and discharging the 12 pounders of the General Prescot. When the enemy were sufficiently disturbed in this quarter, I took the benefit of a favourable breeze, and ran down to that part of Fairfield which is called Green’s Farms.”

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