George Washington Papers

From George Washington to Major General William Heath, 26 September 1780

To Major General William Heath

Robinson’s House the 26 Sepr 1780

Dr Sir

In the present situation of things I think it necessary that You should Join the Army and request that You will do it. You will come to Head qrs yourself. The rout through Litchfield will be the most eligible for You, on account of security, and You may direct your baggage to halt at Fish Kills for your further Orders. I write to the Count de Rochambeau by this conveyance, & I trust that your coming away now, will not be attended with any material inconvenience to him.1

I cannot conclude without informing You of an event which has happened here, which will strike You with astonishment and indignation. Major General Arnold has gone to the Enemy. He had had an interview with Major André Adjutant General of the British Army and had put into his possession—a state of the Army—of the Garrison at this post—of the number of Men considered as necessary for the defence of it—a Return of the Ordnance—and the disposition of the Artillery Corps in case of an Alarm. By a most providential interposition Major André was taken in returning to New York with all these papers in General Arnold’s hand writing, who hearing of the matter kept it to himself—left his quarters immediately under pretext of going over to West point on Monday forenoon about an hour before my arrival—then pushed down the river in the barge, which was not discovered till I had returned from West point in the afternoon and when I received the first information of Mr Andre’s capture.2 Measures were instantly taken to apprehend him, but before the Officers sent for the purpose could reach Verplank’s point, he had passed it with a flag, & got on board the Vulture Ship of War which lay a few miles below.3 He knew of my approach and that I was visiting with the Marquiss the North & Middle Redoubts—and from this circumstance was so straitned in point of time, that I believe he carried with him but very few, if any material papers—though he has a very precise knowledge of the affairs of the post. The Gentlemen of General Arnold’s family I have the greatest reason to believe4 were not privy in the least degree to the measures he was carrying on or to his escape.5 I am Dr sir With very great esteem & regard Yr Most Obedt st

Go: Washington

LS, in Robert Hanson Harrison’s writing, MHi: Heath Papers; Df, DLC:GW; Varick transcript, DLC:GW.

Heath replied to GW from Newport on 30 Sept.: “I am just honored with yours of the 26th instant. Shall prepare to Set out for the Army as soon as possible.

“The Conduct of Major General Arnold is astonishing. I think it a kind interposition of Heaven that his traiterous designs were so Seasonably discovered.

“A Frigate arrived here the last Night from France by the way of the West Indies. I apprehend Genl Rochambeau will give your Excellency all the News she has brought.

“Enclosed is my last intelligence from Colo. Ledyard” (ALS, DLC:GW; ADfS, MHi: Heath Papers; GW’s aide-de-camp Tench Tilghman docketed the ALS: “no answer required”). Lieutenant General Rochambeau also wrote GW on 30 September.

The enclosure was Lt. Col. William Ledyard to Heath, written at New London, Conn., on Friday, 29 Sept.: “a Privateer belonging to this place Arrivd here this day with a prize She took within Sandy Hook having On Board a Company of New Levies—consisting of 50 Men which were bound from Staten Island to the Light House in Order to Relieve a Guard there.” Captured officers erroneously advised that Adm. George Rodney’s squadron intended “to Join the Fleet under Command of Adml Arburthnot now in Gardiners Bay” (DLC:GW). New York City printer Hugh Gaine had written in his journal entry for 25 Sept.: “Yesterday a Boat, with near 40 Men on board was Taken near the Hook by a Rebel Privateer and was carried off” (Ford, Journals of Hugh Gaine description begins Paul Leicester Ford, ed. The Journals of Hugh Gaine, Printer. 1902. Reprint. [New York] 1970. description ends , 2:100).

1See Document IX.

3GW’s secretary Robert Hanson Harrison also wrote the draft, where a complimentary closing is struck out at this place.

For Arnold’s escape, see Document III.

4At this place on the draft, Harrison wrote “from every thing that has appeared” and then struck out those words.

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