George Washington Papers

From George Washington to Major General William Heath, 14 September 1779

To Major General William Heath

Head Quarters—West-point 14th Septr 1779.

Dr Sir

It is my intention that General Nixon shall form a junction with General Howe at Pines’ bridge Croton River. This you will communicate to him, and send to Genl Howe to know, when he espects to be there; and let General Nixon begin his march so as to arrive there nearly at the same time with him. You will give General Nixon your instructions accordingly, and advise him to be cautious in his march lest the enemy at Kings ferry should attempt any stroke upon him which however is not very probable.1 I am Dr Sir your most obt servt

Go: Washington

P.S. I have written to General Howe on this subject yesterday. When Gen: Nixon moves you will provide for the security of your own camp by proper pickets &c.2

LS, in James McHenry’s writing, MHi: Heath Papers; Df, DLC:GW; Varick transcript, DLC:GW.

1These movements were part of GW’s plan for a cooperation with the French fleet of Vice Admiral d’Estaing (see GW to d’Estaing, 13 Sept.). Heath’s instructions to Maj. Gen. Robert Howe, written on this date from “Highlands,” read in part: “His Excellency General Washington has Signified his pleasure that General Nixons Brigade should form a Junction with you at Pines Bridge Croton river. General Nixon has received orders this morning to hold the Brigade in readiness to march on the Shortest notice, His Excellency has been pleased to inform me that He wrote you yesterday on the Subject, you will please to acquaint me at what Time you expect to be at the place intended, that General Nixon may so begin his march as to arrive nearly at the Same Time, I am glad that we are drawing towards each other should be happy if we were much nearer” (MHi: Heath Papers). For Heath’s earlier orders to Brig. Gen. John Nixon, see GW to Heath, 13 Sept., n.1.

Heath issued orders to Nixon, dated at 8 P.M. on this date from “Highlands,” reading: “His Excellency has Just intimated to me that it is his Pleasure that your Brigade should form a Junction with General Howe at Pines Bridge on Croton River, at which place Genl Howe will Soon be, you are to be Compleatly ready to move on the shortest notice, but are not to march Untill you receive a further order as to the Time which will depend on Genl Howes moving, to whom I have wrote, and shall write you again when I receive an answer from him. please to forward the Letter addressed to Genl Howe early in the morning by ⟨three⟩. P.S. You will please to keep the place of destination Secret untill the Troops move” (MHi: Heath Papers).

After receiving word from Howe that he intended to march for Pine’s Bridge, N.Y., on 16 Sept., Heath issued further orders to Nixon on 15 Sept. from Mandevilles in Dutchess County, N.Y., reading in part: “you will please to march with your Brigade as early to morrow morning as Possible ⟨and⟩ form a Junction with Genl Howe at Pines Brigde you will please to take every nessary precaution for the Security of your Brigade on their march as it is not impossible, that the Enemy at Kings ferry may attempt a Stroke at you, you will therefore march prepared for any event that can happen” (MHi: Heath Papers).

2GW wrote to Heath again from headquarters at West Point on 16 Sept.: “I have just received a letter from Gen: Howe informing me that his march to Pine bridge was to take place this morning. You will be pleased to regulate General Nixon’s march accordingly” (LS, in James McHenry’s writing, MHi: Heath Papers). Maj. Gen. Robert Howe wrote to GW on 12, 14, 15, and 16 Sept., but none of those letters have been found. Howe arrived at the vicinity of Pine’s Bridge, N.Y., with his brigade on 16 Sept. (see Howe to Heath, that date, MHi: Heath Papers). However, GW subsequently ordered him to return to Lower Salem, N.Y., with the brigades of Nixon and Brig. Gen. John Glover, after concluding that reports of the arrival of the French fleet off the New England coast were “without foundation”; see GW to Howe, 18 September.

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