George Washington Papers

From George Washington to Major General William Heath, 28 November 1780

To Major General William Heath

Morris Town [N.J.] 28th November 1780

Dear Sir

I gave directions to Generals Glover—Patterson and Huntington to discharge the Levies of Connecticut and Massachusetts, by degrees, upon their arrival at their places of cantonment, beginning with those first who were worst clad and otherwise unfit for service, as this would diminish our numbers insensibly, and not give the enemy an opportunity of knowing the truth before the time which they naturally count upon.1 You will be pleased to direct the same to be done with those of New Hampshire, and consult with Genl Knox upon the propriety of dismissing those attached to the Artillery also, for I find we shall have occasion to divest ourselves of every mouth that we can possibly do without, and have difficulty enough to subsist afterwards.2

To give more perfect security to the Northern and Western Frontier and to keep the York line as much as possible together, that they may have the better opportunity of compleating their new arrangement, I have determined to send the remainder of the York Brigade to Albany, to be stationed there and at Schenectady and else where as Genl Clinton shall direct. You will therefore put them in Motion, by water, if the Weather will permit, and give Genl Clinton notice of their coming, that he may endeavour to make preparation and provision for them—You will let the commanding Officers know my motives, and at the same time inform them that3 their being brought down from Albany, a little time ago, was owing to the sudden contradiction of the false alarm, which did not give me time to send orders for their stay, as I then intended.4

The Regimental Cloathiers of each had best remain below, to receive their respective proportions, which I will have delivered upon my arrival at New Windsor. I expect that will be in three or four days, or perhaps a little longer, as I have some arrangements to make here.5

You will divest yourself as speedily as possible6 of all the superfluous Horses of the Connecticut and Massachusetts lines, as I imagine you have long since done of those of the others.7 I am Dear Sir Yr most o[b]t Servt

Go: Washington

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

1GW had written brigadier generals John Glover and John Paterson from headquarters at Preakness on 27 Nov.: “The State of our Magazines makes it necessary to discharge every Mouth that can be dispensed with, as early as possible, and as I think the season is so far advanced that the greatest part of the Levies may be immediately dismissed without danger from the decrease of our numbers, you will, as soon as you reach the Ground allotted for your Winter Cantonment, begin to discharge those of the Massachusetts line, dismissing those first who are most in want of Cloathes, or who are unhealthy—I should make no scruple of discharging them all at once, was it not that the diminution of our numbers would be thereby more perceptible than if they went off by degrees.

“You will be pleased to attend pointedly to drawing the public Arms and Accoutrements from the Men before they are dismissed” (LS, in Tench Tilghman’s writing, PPAmP: David Library; Df, DLC:GW; Varick transcript, DLC:GW; a note on the draft indicates the same letter was sent to Brig. Gen. Jedediah Huntington; see also GW to Anthony Wayne, same date). For GW’s arrangements for his army’s winter quarters, see his letter to Samuel Huntington, this date, and n.12.

2Heath wrote Brig. Gen. Henry Knox from headquarters on 1 Dec. to discharge “such of the Levies [that] are worst clad and otherwise unfit for Service … His Excellency General Washington has hinted this to me in a Letter I have had the honor this Day to receive from him” (MHi: Heath Papers). Knox replied to Heath from New Windsor on 3 Dec.: “I received your favor of the 1st instant. The new levies attach’d to the Artillery here, of the description you mention, shall be discharg’d agreable to your direction” (MHi: Heath Papers).

3GW’s aide-de-camp Tench Tilghman also wrote the draft, and he struck out at this place: “the unsettled state of things upon their own frontier and the Alarms created thereby has occasioned them much more moving I am sorry they have been so often moved of late, and that.”

4Heath began a letter to Brig. Gen. James Clinton from headquarters at West Point on 2 Dec.: “To give more perfect Security to the northern and western Frontier and to keep the New York Line as much to gether as possible that they may have a better Oppertunity of Compleating their New arrangment His Excellency General Washington has Signified his pleasure that the Three Regiments here Should repair to Albany, to be Stationed there and at Schenectady and else where as you may direct, This was his Excellencys first intention but the Speedy return of the Regiments after the late Alarm prevented their receiving orders to remain at Albany before they left it, I have now ordered them to return as Soon as Possible that they may avail themselves of the water transportation before the River is Frozen, I give you this notice that you may make the best preparation in your power for their reception, I wish you may be able to obtain every thing necessary for them, I fear we shall experiance want here I hope you will escape it” (MHi: Heath Papers; see also Heath’s second letter to GW, 15 Nov., and n.1 to that document). Heath later wrote in his memoirs for 4 Dec.: “The three New York regiments sailed for Albany, where they were to take winter-quarters” (Wilson, Heath’s Memoirs description begins Rufus Rockwell Wilson, ed. Heath’s Memoirs of the American War. 1798. Reprint. New York, 1904. description ends , 280).

Clinton replied to Heath from Albany on 5 Dec.: “My difficulties Still continue to increase, neither flour nor forage in store, what the Troops will do when they arrive is a mistery.

“The River is fast at this place which will probably retard their Motion and afford the more time to plunder at least one Days provis[i]on for them. … you need expect nothing from this Quarter but repeated lists of Grievances” (MHi: Heath Papers; see also Clinton to GW, same date).

5Heath wrote in his memoirs for 6 Dec.: “At evening his Excellency Gen. Washington, arrived at New Windsor, where he took winter-quarters” (Wilson, Heath’s Memoirs description begins Rufus Rockwell Wilson, ed. Heath’s Memoirs of the American War. 1798. Reprint. New York, 1904. description ends , 280; see also GW to Gouverneur Morris, 10 Dec.). GW started to address letters from New Windsor on 7 December.

6Tilghman wrote “possibly” on the LS.

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