George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Major General William Heath, 14 July 1779

From Major General William Heath

Ridgfield [Conn.] July 14. 1779

Dear General

I arrived here with the Division, the last Night. I do myself the honor to enclose a Letter and extract of a Letter from General Parsons.1 I march immediately for Canaan,2 sending off the Tents & heavy baggage to Danbury. The Enemy are frequently Sending out light parties. If it might possibly be Consistent with your Excellencys intention, to order on the light Infantry belonging to this Division they would be of infinite Service.3

If your Excellency has received any thing interesting from the Southward or Westward that may be Communicated, a hint will lay me under an obligation. I have the honor to be with the greatest respect Your Excellencys Most obedient Servant

W. Heath

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

1The enclosure, a letter from Brig. Gen. Samuel Holden Parsons to Heath, written at Wilton, Conn., on 12 July, reads: “I recd yours & am happy to hear the Connectt Brigades are orderd toward the Coast. Col. Moyland has recd your Orders to join with the Horse & Foot under his Command; I have desird him to leave the Infantry as they are the only Force I can depend on & will give Animation to the Militia; the Action Yesterday puts the Necessity of detaining this Corps beyond a Doubt, they signalizd themselves in Action & shew a Bravery not exceeded by the most veteran Troops. we maintaind a long Contest with the Scoundrels the Action began at 4 & ended about 11 o’Clock in great part of which Time we manifestly had the Advantage.

“The Shipping are Still at Norwalk; I shall order the few Conl Troops & the Militia toward Stamford & advise you of Every Movement of the Enemy; at present I am of Opinion you had best proceed to Ridgfield thrô Ridgbury.

“I hear Nothing of Glover’s Brigade but have sent Expresses to meet them” (DLC:GW).

The enclosed extract likely was some portion of a letter from Parsons to Heath, written at “Canaan Parish” (present-day New Canaan) on 13 July, 5:00 P.M. That letter reads: “I recd yours of Yesterday’s Date about Two Hours since at Stamford where I have been to gain Inteligence: I find that Sr Harry Clinton has movd the Advance of his Army within Ten Miles of Stamford that he has about 700 or 1000 Horse & mounted Infantry; and about 2500 or 3000 Foot with him. that Seven Regiments are in the Fleet destined to desolate our Towns which together will probably form a Body of about 4500 or 5000 Foot & 700 Horse. the Fleet now appear to be getting under Sail & probably designd for Stamford where if the Division arrives in Season we can with inferior Numbers defeat a great Body of Men at landing: I wish you Sir for the Safety of our Towns & Reputation of our Arms urge your March for the N. Easterly Part of Stamford I will march my 140 Men & the Militia toward Stamford & will fight them thô I know, I must loose my Reputation, if I have any, my force is inadequate & not 300 Men I can depend on for God’s Sage [Sake] hasten out Troops who will live or die with their Country” (MHi: Heath Papers). Heath’s reply to Parsons, written at Ridgefield on 14 July, reads in part: “Your favor of yesterday Came to hand the last Evening, the Division will march from this place about nine oClock for Cannain, without Baggage if you have received any further Intelligence please to favor me with it” (MHi: Heath Papers). Two brief items from Parsons to Heath, both soliciting prompt assistance, are dated 14 July, one at 11:00 A.M., and the other at 11:30 A.M. (see MHi: Heath Papers; see also Wilson, Heath’s Memoirs, description begins Rufus Rockwell Wilson, ed. Heath’s Memoirs of the American War. 1798. Reprint. New York, 1904. description ends 221-22).

2Heath is referring to present-day New Canaan, Fairfield County, Conn., which borders Stamford and Norwalk and was called Canaan parish for some decades after its settlement in the early eighteenth century.

3For GW’s decision to hold back the light infantry in Heath’s command when ordering its march toward Connecticut, see GW to Heath, 10 July (second letter) and 11 July; see also the two letters from Heath to GW, 11 July, and n.2 to both documents.

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