George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Major General William Heath, 15 November 1780

From Major General William Heath

West point November 15th 1780

Dear General,

This moment the 1st and 5th New York Regiments arrived here from Albany. this is altogether unexpected to me but it Seems by the enclosed Copy of orders from Genl Clinton to Colonel Willet that it is conformable to your Excellencys instructions.1 As I know not what other instructions you may have given to General Clinton I am at loss what orders to give respecting these Regiments, but, if they are to pass the winter at Albany, it will be best for them not to disembark—at least not to take out the Baggage.

I am told that Gansevoorts Regiment is also on their way to this place. I wish to know your pleasure by the return of the Express. I believe the late alarm was without much foundation.2

The chain is taken up without the least accident.3 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.

1Heath enclosed a duplicate of a letter from Brig. Gen. James Clinton to the officer commanding the 1st and 5th New York regiments, written at Albany on 12 Nov.: “I have just received Expresses informing me that the first and fifth New York Regiments are on their way to this place. As the alarm which gave occasion to this Sudden move is Subsided, and as it is [his] Excellency’s express order that the Troops in that Case should immediately return, I have to request that upon the receipt of this Letter, whereever it may find you, you instantly back about and repair without delay to West point” (DLC:GW; see also GW to Clinton, 6 Nov., found at GW’s second letter to George Clinton, same date, n.2, and William Malcom to GW, 7 Nov.).

3Heath wrote in his memoirs for 14 Nov.: “The great chain, which was laid across the Hudson at West Point, was taken up for the winter; it was done under the direction of Colonel Govion, Capt. Buchanan, and Capt. Nevers [Niven], with a strong detachment of the garrison, and with skill and dexterity. This chain was as long as the width of the river between West Point and Constitution Island, where it was fixed to great blocks on each side, and under the fire of batteries on both sides of the river. The links of this chain were probably 12 inches wide, and 18 inches long; the iron about 2 inches square. This heavy chain was buoyed up by very large logs of perhaps 16 or more feet long, a little pointed at the ends, to lessen their opposition to the force of the water on flood and ebb. The logs were placed at short distances from each other, the chain carried over them, and made fast to each by staples, to prevent their shifting; and there were a number of anchors dropped at distances, with cables made fast to the chain, to give it a greater stability” (Wilson, Heath’s Memoirs description begins Rufus Rockwell Wilson, ed. Heath’s Memoirs of the American War. 1798. Reprint. New York, 1904. description ends , 277; see also Heath’s second letter to GW on 13 Nov., and GW to Daniel Niven, 12 Dec.).

Index Entries