George Washington Papers

From George Washington to Major General Robert Howe, 4 August 1779

To Major General Robert Howe

Head Quarters [West Point] Augt 4th 1779

Dear Sir,

I received your letter of yesterday about three hours ago1—For the reasons you assign, I approve of the alterations you have made in the disposition of the troops which had taken place previous to your arrival.

I am sorry the proposed removal of the Militia from horseneck has met with the opposition you mention—In the late position of the enemy they were exposed to the most imminent danger; but their removal within Kings bridge which my intelligence announces has rendered it less than it was—I still however think the place insecure and should be glad the party could be drawn off some distance from the coast; but if it cannot be effected without clashing with the sense of the state, or giving material disgust to the inhabitants, they may remain where they are. You will please to consult General Woolcot more particularly and if the removal cannot be put upon a satisfactory footing, you will for the present dispense with it—I am the less anxious about it, as the time of service for which his men are engaged is so near expiring.

I have as yet seen nothing of the supposed spy, which you say was sent with your guard.

I wish you to ascertain as soon as possible what corps the enemy have left on this side the bridge and their stations. I am with great regard Your most Obed. servan⟨t⟩.

Df, in Alexander Hamilton’s writing, DLC:GW; Varick transcript, DLC:GW.

1This letter has not been found; however, Howe—just arrived at Ridgefield, Conn., to take command of the troops in the area in accordance with GW’s orders (see GW to Howe, 28 July)—sent a letter to Maj. Gen. William Heath the same day that addressed the matters to which GW responds in this letter. Howe’s letter to Heath, dated 3 Aug. at Ridgefield, reads in part: “My time since my Arrival has been wholly spent in acquainting myself with the Country—the Temper of Its Inhabitants—visiting the posts already, and fixing upon those to be established. I found the Main Body of Glover’s Brigade encamped in my approach to Ridgefield, near four Miles from it, a party of Sheldon’s Horse in Ridgefield; a Detachment of the Brigade at the Church, three Miles in Advance towards Poundridge; Head Quarters of the Main Body of Horse, with two hundred Infantry at Poundridge; Detachments of each in proper Numbers advanced at proper Posts; and Reconnoitring parties scouring the Country everywhere. In general, but not wholly, I approved of this Disposition. The Brigade was not posted as defensively as it could have been; it was too much melted down by Detachments, to act independently, and the Detachments too remote to give timely Assistance to, or receive it from, the Main Body. This determines me to bring the Brigade to the Hill you once encamped upon—to extend Detachments in the Road nearer Poundridge, and, upon every other Avenue of Access, leave proper Rear Guards in Ridgefield and beyond it—station Armand at or near Cantito—keep continual Detachments of Horse on every side, as well as towards the Enemy’s Lines, communicating with each other through the whole Extent of my Front and Flank, until they meet with the Militia parties extended from Horseneck.

“I have had an Interview with General [Oliver] Wolcott. He says it is so much the Sense of his State that the Militia should occupy Horse-neck, that he could not be justified in removing them; I have, therefore referred the Matter to the General. Tomorrow I visit Horseneck, of which I shall transmit you an Account. The Time for which General Wolcott’s party were inlisted, expires on Wednesday in next Week [11 Aug.]. He tells me he expects his place to be supplied by Colonel [Matthew] Meade, with about 600 Men. Our Friend Glover thinks that if 400 arrive it will be rather more than we can expect—but however doubtful thier Number or Arrival may be, the Retreat of the Militia present, at the exact Expiration of their time is a Matter intirely out of Question” (MHi: Heath Papers).

Index Entries