George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Major General William Heath, 25 September 1780

From Major General William Heath

Newport Septr 25 1780

Dear General—

A few days Since, and during the absence of General Comte de Rochambeau at Hartford1 I received very particular intelligence from Major Talmadge that Adml Rodney arrived at Sandy hook on the 13th Instant With ten Sail of the Line and two frigates—that on the 15th Admiral Rodney detached Commodore Drake with four Sail of the Line to reinforce Admiral Arbuthnot (these four Ships formed a junction on the 18th near Gardner’s island)—their object is said to be to intercept 12 Sail of French Ships expected on this Coast from the West Indies, & that orders were given for an embarkation of troops to take place immediately at New York—the whole of this intelligence was forwarded by Major Talmadge to Head quarters, which your Excellency may have Seen Since your return, if not before.2 in Consequence of the receipt of it here General Viomenil proposed to me the calling back Colonel Green’s regiment; which had passed over to the Main on their way to the Main army—this I did and the Regiment return’d accordingly.3 The french General also proposed the notifying the Militia to hold themselves in readiness to come in on the Shortest Notice; but their readiness has been So conspicuous on every occasion that I thought this last measure unnecessary.

I cannot yet think the Enemy will make an attempt on this place, altho’ their present great naval Superiority may prompt them to attempt the destruction of the French fleet.

Since this last intelligence was received the fleet has taken a new position, which with the Support of three Batteries of heavy Metal, one on each flank, and the other in the centre, it is thought their Situation is rendered Safe against an attack from the Fleet altho’ So much Superior, and that they cannot be destroyed, unless the Enemy come with Such a land force as to get possession of Some posts on the Island.

Comte Rochambeau return’d here the last Evening.

Admiral Arbuthnot’s fleet remain near Gardner’s island.4 I have the honor to be, With the greatest respect Your Excellency’s Most obedient Servant

W. Heath

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

2See Benjamin Tallmadge to Heath, 18 Sept. (MHi: Heath Papers), and Tallmadge to GW, 19 Sept.; see also GW to Samuel Huntington, 17 Oct., n.2.

Francis Samuel Drake (1729–1789), a British naval officer during the French and Indian War, joined Adm. George Rodney’s fleet in 1780 and became a rear admiral that September. He received a baronetcy in 1782 for service in the West Indies.

3See Vioménil to Heath, 21 Sept., and Heath to Christopher Greene, 22 Sept. (both MHi: Heath Papers); see also Heath to GW, 14 Sept., n.2.

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