George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Major General William Heath, 20 October 1780

From Major General William Heath

West point October 20th 1780

Dear General,

As the Season is growing Cold and the Men beginning to build chimneys in their Tents, I have thought it best, as it respects the Comfort of the Troops, œconomy in Fuel and preservation of the tents, to put the troops in quarters—I have cantoned them as follows—the Artillery where they were the last year. The New jersey Brigade in the great Barrack—this Brigade assigned to the defence of Fort Putnam, Wyllys, and Webb The New York brigade to hutt near redoubt No. 3—this Brigade assigned to the defence of redoubts No. 1. 2 & 3. & 4 1—General Starks’s Brigade in the Barracks within the old lines of Fort Clinton, and assigned to the defence of that Fort.

I purpose erecting a Barrack on Constitution island Capable of containing about One hundred Men, encamp a few Troops of the late General Poor’s Brigade near the North and middle Redoubts for the present, and order the remainder of that brigade to hut either near Soldiers Fortune or the place where General Glover hutted the last year.2

I find that there are two Small Regiments at Verplanks and Stony points, with a much greater proportion of officers than Men.3 I have thought that two Captains, one to be on each Side, with about fifty or Sixty Men exclusive of the Artillery Men, and a major to command the whole, regulate the post &c. Might be Sufficient, and the Corps now at the posts be removed. I observe by the instructions that in case of the appearance of a Serious attack on the posts at Kings ferry, the Stores and troops are to be drawn off4—but is there not some danger that this may be done too soon, or too late? and I beg leave to Submit to your Excellency whether such a Garrison as I have mentioned, or Such other as your Excellency may think proper, with proper Stores &c., Should be instructed to hold the post and defend it to the last extremity? This, even if the Garrison was finally to be taken might Answer valuable purposes to the posts above.5 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.

1For these forts and redoubts, see General Orders, 24 July 1779, and n.1 to that document.

2For Soldier’s Fortune, see Ezra Newhall to GW, 20 March, n.1. For the location of Brig. Gen. John Glover’s brigade in winter 1780, see GW to Heath, 27 Nov. 1779 (second letter), source note.

4For these instructions, see GW to Alexander McDougall, 27 Sept., n.1.

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