George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Major General William Heath, 23 December 1780

From Major General William Heath

Garrison West Point Decr 23d 1780.

Dear General

The exposed situation of many friendly Inhabitants in and about Bedford, to the excursions of the Enemy, whose fears are much raised since the capture of Colonel Welles, & part of his regiment,1 and some ravages in the neighbourhood of Bedford; at their earnest request I have thought it best to reinforce the Detachment on the Lines, which has consisted of 150 Rank & File, to 200 properly Officered, the Command of which I have given to Lt Colonel Hull:2 this Detachment I hope will be fully sufficient, with vigilance, & proper precaution, to curb the excursions of the Cowboys, and Refugees, secure our Front, quiet the Inhabitants, and prevent supplies getting to the Enemy—I have also another Object in view; the secureing a quantity of Forrage, which yet remains between Croton River, & Singsing, Pines Bridge & North Castle, which may be now brought off; as the Quarter Master can obtain Teams, without any extra Detachment for the purpose, by only giving a hint to the Commanding Officer, to guide his movements, from time to time, so as to cover the place proposed to forrage.3 and I hope it will be in our power by & by to lessen Colonel Delanceys Corps by some means or other.

Lt Colonel Thompson who was taken the last winter on the Lines, is lately exchanged & come out of New York. He has requested a Court of enquiry, which has been appointed; inclosed is their report4—As Lt Colonel Thompson is to retire on the benefit of half Pay,5 and is desireous to get to his Family as soon as possible; I request your E⟨x⟩cellencys opinion on the Report of the Court as soon as may be convenient.6 I have the honor to be With the greatest respect Your Excellencys Most Obedient Servant.

W. Heath

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

1Heath later wrote in his memoirs for 21 Dec.: “On the night of the 9th, Major Hugerford, of Delancey’s corps, surprised and took prisoners Lieut. Col. Wells, of a Connecticut State regiment, who was stationed near Horseneck, with one Captain, two Lieutenants, two Ensigns, and upwards of twenty privates” (Wilson, Heath’s Memoirs description begins Rufus Rockwell Wilson, ed. Heath’s Memoirs of the American War. 1798. Reprint. New York, 1904. description ends , 281). For Maj. Thomas Huggeford, see Dornfest, Military Loyalists description begins Walter T. Dornfest. Military Loyalists of the American Revolution: Officers and Regiments, 1775-1783. Jefferson, N.C., 2011. description ends , 168.

2Bedford, N.Y., residents sent Heath a petition dated 18 Dec. expressing their alarm at being exposed to “the Least Party of the Enemy” and the prospect of being “Murdered in their Own Homes or torn from their families and Draged to a Horred and Cruel Confinement wors then Death if posible” (MHi: Heath Papers). Heath responded to the petition on 22 Dec. and promised “every Support and Protection in my Power,” including a reinforcement that “will march tomorrow morning” with Lt. Col. William Hull in command, who “will be Specially instructed to extend protection” (MHi: Heath Papers).

Heath also wrote Hull from West Point on 22 Dec.: “The exposed Situation of many friendly Inhabitants on and near the Lines to the excursions and ravages of the Enemy have induced me to order a reinforc[e]ment to the Troops now doing Duty on the Lines, as this encreases them to a Lieut. Colonels Command I have thought proper to appoint you to the Command … The Detachment at present is Commanded by Major Maxwell an exceeding attentive and good officer … It may be best for the Body of your Detachment to be towards Pines Bridge, but Small parties must Patrole on your right on the north of Croton even to the mouth of that River, and particular attention must be paid to the New Bridge to prevent undue intercourse between the Enemy and Country, at present the fords must be watched but they will soon be impassible, endeavour to obtain every possible intelligence of the motions and designs of the Enemy and if Possible the news papers regularly, which you will Send up by one of your expresses. … P.S. if at any time you cover the waggons of the Q.M. in any Small forages, without using the Troops too much I would wish you to do it” (MHi: Heath Papers). In his memoirs for this date, Heath wrote that “the lines were reinforced with 50 men, and Lieut. Col. Hull was appointed to the command” (Wilson, Heath’s Memoirs description begins Rufus Rockwell Wilson, ed. Heath’s Memoirs of the American War. 1798. Reprint. New York, 1904. description ends , 281–82).

4The enclosed report has not been identified, but Lt. Col. Joseph Thompson had written Heath from West Point on 18 Dec.: “Having been unfortinate in My Command upon the third of Feburay last when with part of My Detatchment by being Taken Prisiner by the Enemey and now being Released from Captivitey Would request to have my Condudct Enquired in to at that Time” (MHi: Heath Papers). For Thompson’s capture, see Heath to GW, 4 Feb., and notes 1 and 4.

6No reply to this letter has been found, but GW visited Heath on 30 Dec. (see Heath to GW, 28 Dec., source note).

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