George Washington Papers

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

From Major General William Heath

Mandavilles [Dutchess County, N.Y.]
July 30th 1779 4 oClock P.M.

Dear General

I am this moment returned from the Village, I found there John Conolly a Deserter from the Volluntiers of Ir[e]land (who is on his way hither)1 who deserted the day before yesterday and saies the army have been for Several Days under marching orders their route unknown reports that they are to Cross into the Jersies and take a Circutious march in the rear of our works.

While I was at the village Capt. Hopkins Sent me Three wounded dragoons belonging to Emmericks Corps taken by him this morning near Youngs Tavern I take the Liberty to enclose his Letter to one of my Aids De Camp, Capt. Hopkins Conduct does him great honor He came very near takeing Colo. Emmerick the dragoons who Escorted the wounded prisoners assert that Six of the Enemy were left dead on the Field, Surgeons are Dressing the wounded, I will Send them to Head Quarters to morrow morning to be disposed of as your Excellency may please to direct2 One of the Dragoons John Ambler is an Intelligent Lad and gives me the Intelligence Contained in the enclosed.3

I this Day received a Letter from Genl Glover in which is the following paragraph[:] “By the best Intelligence The Enemy are preparing for a move. Whether it is toward New York or up the Country is uncertain, The former is talked of in their Camp” from the different reports the real intentions of the Enemy are yet to be developed, Distrust is the mother of Security.4

Colo. Harrison acquainted me a Day or two Since that your Excellency purposed to have a Small work for Musquetry only thrown up Some where near the South Gorge5 of the Highland I have been this Day to reconnoitre the Ground there are So many heigths that I know not which to fix upon with any prospect of advantage. If I apprehended Colo. Harrison the Heigth which your Excellency proposed was near the parting of the road, to Fish kill & This place If a work is erected there only for Musquetry, Columns of Troops may Pass at the Foot of it without Injury it being at least 60 Rods to the Top of the Hill and I find no other Spot but what is Commanded by other heigths, and indeed it appears upon a view of the Ground and the advanced distance that a work Cannot be erected with any Prospect of Success but if it be your Excellency pleasure to have works there my best endeavours Shall be exerted to effect it.6 I have the honor to be with the greatest respect your Excellencys most obedient Servt

W. Heath

ADfS, MHi: Heath Papers.

1The muster roll for 24 April of the 10th Company, Volunteers of Ireland, a Loyalist unit, listed a John Connelly, who apparently served as a private (National Archives of Canada, Record Group 8, “C” Series).

2A copy of the letter of this date from Capt. David Hopkins to Heath’s aide-de-camp Thomas Cartwright, written at Crompond, N.Y., reads: “Yesterday being joined by 22 men from our Regiment, and hearing Baromore was out, I resolved to wait for him a little above the plains, this morning, at light, I discovered the enemy advancing. the report was that it was Baromore. I made a disposition to charge him. In the charge we discovered them to be Col. Emericks corps. It was conducted by such vigor that we had in a little time near half his corps prisoners when we discovered a large body of Infantry, which issued on us from behind a stone wall. Upon this we were obliged to retreat, in which being pushed by the Regiment of Yagers we were under the necessity to leave all of the prisoners but three men, and four horses. I left one man and three horses, and one in the woods his horse giving out. The enemy were about five hundred strong. It was their intention to cut off my retreat. However they got nothing by it, we left six dead on the field and a great number wounded. I had only two wounded” (DNA: PCC, item 152; 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 227). Maj. Mansfield Bearmore was a Loyalist who served in De Lancey’s Brigade.

Another account of this engagement, printed in the New-Jersey Gazette (Trenton) for 18 Aug., reads: “Capts. Hopkins and Pike, Lieuts. [Larkin] Smith and Willis, with 40 of Col. Moylan, and 4 or 5 of Col. Sheldon’s light-dragoons, lay in a wood, below Young’s tavern, between Tarry-Town and White-Plains; about sunrise the videts fired their pistols, and gave notice of the advance of the enemy; the party formed instantly, and Capt. Pike, with Lieut. Smith, at the head of 10 or 12 men, met as many of the enemy, and charged them, the major part of whom surrendered before they reached Young’s, where they were supported by Col[.] Emerick and 30 fine horse, who charged briskly on Pike’s small party, and obliged them to retreat about 150 yards, when Captain Hopkins came on, who charged the enemy and drove them a quarter of a mile below Young’s: This party, aided by Pike’s, it is imagined, killed 4 or 5, and wounded many in the pursuit. Col. Emerick and his party would inevitably have fallen into our hands, had not a large party of infantry come up, who fired at about 40 or 50 yards distance, but luckily did no execution: It, however, prevented our men from a further pursuit. Capt. Hopkins thought it necessary to make a brisk retreat, in which they lost all but 5 of their prisoners, and 2 of these got off in the sequel, for being met by a corps of the enemy’s yagers, under Col. Worms, they were obliged to retreat by the North-River road to Compond: And, indeed, it was the only route by which they could, as by every information it was the only unguarded road; for which they may be obliged to a certain gentleman in that neighbourhood, whom they hope to reward with a cord for his kindness. Our men behaved with the greatest courage: They do justice to Col. Emerick’s personal behaviour, in which he was not so well supported by his men as might have been expected.—Our loss is 1 man taken, 1 missing, and 2 men and 3 horses wounded. The enemy lost 3 men taken, 4 horses, 8 swords, 3 pistols, &c. wounded unknown.”

Heath praised Hopkins in a letter to that officer of this date: “The three wounded Dragoons of Emmericks Corps taken by your detachment this morning have been brought to my Quarters, I congratulate you on your fortunate escape from the Enemy who had undoubtedly laid their plan for takeing your whole Detachment, Your Own Conduct that of your Officers and Dragoons do you honor, you will please to accept my thanks for your gallantry and address on this Occasion and present it also to the Officers and Dragoons who were with you, be Carefull not to fatigue your Self men or horses too much, refresh them well before you make another attempt” (MHi: Heath Papers; see also GW to Heath, this date, and n.1 to that document).

Hessian captain Johann Ewald wrote in his diary that during the early morning darkness “of the 30th, the following parties went out to seek and defeat the enemy detachments under the two colonels Sheldon and White which had appeared in the vicinity of our post. Lieutenant Colonel Wurmb and the mounted jägers went to Dewese’s Hill, and ordered me to take my post with one hundred jägers between Tarrytown and Sing Sing in order to cover his rear. Lieutenant Colonel Simcoe and his corps took the route along the Saw Mill Creek and occupied Storm’s Bridge. Lieutenant Colonel Emmerich went with his corps and the [British] Legion almost to White Plains. According to this plan, it was impossible that an enemy party—if one was in this area—should not be found and defeated, for it must fall into our hands, since these three detachments could mutually assist each other.

“At daybreak Emmerich’s horsemen ran into those under Colonel Sheldon; they were overthrown, and lost ten to twelve men killed and captured. Lieutenant Colonel Wurmb, who heard the pistol firing, rushed to help; he overthrew the enemy, took some twenty men prisoner, and pursued him as far as Sing Sing” (Ewald, Diary, description begins Johann Ewald. Diary of the American War: A Hessian Journal. Translated and edited by Joseph P. Tustin. New Haven and London, 1979. description ends 172–73).

Lt. Heinrich Carl Philipp von Feilitzsch, an Anspach officer in camp near Philipse Manor, wrote a diary entry for 30 July: “At three o’clock in the morning 150 infantry and our cavalry made a patrol as far as Tarrytown. Our cavalry clashed with sixty dragoons who had already skirmished with Emmerich, from whom they had made six captives. Our jaegers joined in, however, and recaptured the prisoners and one rebel, who due to misunderstanding was severely wounded. Four rebels were killed on the spot. We lost one horse” (Burgoyne, Diaries of Two Ansbach Jaegers, description begins Bruce E. Burgoyne, ed. and trans. Diaries of two Ansbach Jaegers: Lieutenant Heinrich Carl Philipp von Feilitzsch and Lieutenant Christian Friedrich Bartholomai. Bowie, Md., 1997. description ends 63).

3Heath apparently is referring to an intelligence report of this date: “John Ambler born at Yorkshire in England a Dragoon in Colo. Emmericks Corps taken this morning by Capt. Hopkins Left Sir Henry Clintons Army this morning between 12 & 1 oClock Near Mile Square with the Yeagers Bearmore Corps and he thinks the 17th Light Dragoons, brought one Days Bread.

“The Army has been under marching orders for three days Past of their destination Opinion various Some that they are going onto York Island Others that they are to Advance report in Camp that Lord Cornwallis is arrived with 7000 men who are landed on Staten Island. Genl Clinton, Vaughan Garth & Matthews are with the Army” (MHi: Heath Papers). For the arrival at New York City of Lt. Gen. Charles Cornwallis, without troops, see Heath to GW, 28 July, and n.4 to that document.

4The letter from Brig. Gen. John Glover to Heath has not been identified, but Heath’s reply to Glover, this date, 10:30 A.M., reads: “Your favor of yesterday is this moment handed to me, am much Obliged by the intelligence you have favored me with, A deserter who Came in the last evening reports that the Enemy were about to remove on to York, Island when he came away, and Supposes that before this time they have removed.

“Major General Howe is this moment on his way to Ridgfield, which makes it Unnecessary for me to make any Observations, on the disposition which you have made of your Troops or intend to make, any farther than to Observe that I think it very Judicious. Three Deserters have Just Come in from Verplanks point, but relate nothing very material” (MHi: Heath Papers).

Reports of a British retreat proved true. Anspach officer Feilitzsch’s diary entry for 31 July reads: “At five o’clock in the morning we marched. The entire army returned to York Island” (Burgoyne, Diaries of two Ansbach Jaegers, description begins Bruce E. Burgoyne, ed. and trans. Diaries of two Ansbach Jaegers: Lieutenant Heinrich Carl Philipp von Feilitzsch and Lieutenant Christian Friedrich Bartholomai. Bowie, Md., 1997. description ends 63). British officer Archibald Robertson’s diary entry for the same date reads: “at Day break all the Army march’d within and near to Kingsbridge, Light Troops with out the Redouts” (Lydenberg, Robertson Diaries, description begins Harry Miller Lydenberg, ed. Archibald Robertson, Lieutenant-General Royal Engineers: His Diaries and Sketches in America, 1762–1780. New York, 1930. description ends 201).

5Heath inadvertently wrote “George” for this word.

6For GW’s explanation of the desired defensive work, see his letter to Heath of this date.

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