George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Major General William Heath, 2 January 1781

From Major General William Heath

Garrison West Point Jany 2d 178[1]

Dear General

I was the last evening honored with Yours of yesterday. I had given orders, the day before to the Guards at the Ferry, at the water Battery, at Swims’s, & at Kings Ferry not to allow any Boats to pass up, or down the river between Tattoo & Revillee.1

I am happy to hear Colonel Humphries, the Officers, and men who were with him have safely returned. I have releived Lt Edes with a Lt White, the former succeeds to a Captaincy. If Captain Welles is to continue in the Command of the Guard Boats with his Company, I think it will be unnecessary, for Lt White to remain with his Detachment. If Captain Welles was only sent down for a particular purpose & is to return, Lt White must remain.2 Shall be happy in knowing your Excellencys pleasure.

Enclosed is a letter I received this morning from Lt Colonel Hull.3 By his Vigilance, precaution & good conduct, I hope the Inhabitants will receive protection, the Enemy be disappointed in their attempts & desires. I have the honor to be With the greatest respect Your Excellencys Most Obedient Servant

W. Heath

P.S. I am informed that a Capt. Chambers of late Colonel Nixons regiment, has been for some time stationed at Springfield for the purpose of forwarding Recruits4—is his Stay longer necessary at that place, or shall he join his regiment, from which he has been long absent.5


LS, DLC:GW; ADfS, MHi: Heath Papers. The year is written as “1780” in the dateline of the LS.

1For the water batteries, part of the defenses at West Point, see GW to Henry Knox, 20 Aug. 1779, n.1. A defensive outpost was also maintained at Robinson’s Landing, the eastern terminus of a ferry across the Hudson River (see Duportail to GW, 24 Sept. 1779). Swim’s tavern was located near the western terminus of the ferry.

2Heath ordered Lieutenant White on this date to proceed with a “Corporal and Six oars men” to King’s Ferry, N.Y., and “take the Command of Boatmen from the Massachusetts Line” (MHi: Heath Papers). Two lieutenants by the name of White were serving in the Massachusets line in January 1781.

Edward White (1758–1812) of Brookline, Mass., joined the 9th Massachusetts Regiment as an ensign in January 1777 and received promotion to lieutenant in March 1778. White transferred to the 8th Massachusetts Regiment on 1 Jan. 1781 and to the 3d Massachusetts Regiment in June 1783. He served until the end of the war. In June of 1797, President John Adams appointed him surveyor and inspector of the revenue for the port of Savannah (see Senate Executive Journal description begins Journal of the Executive Proceedings of the Senate of the United States of America: From the commencement of the First, to the termination of the Nineteenth Congress. Vol. 1. Washington, D.C., 1828. description ends , 245–46).

Henry White (c.1745–1823) of Gloucester, Mass., enlisted as a sergeant in Col. Samuel Gerrish’s Massachusetts Regiment in May 1775. In January 1776, White transferred to the 26th Continental Regiment and received a commission as an ensign the following July. He joined the 9th Massachusetts Regiment at that rank in January 1777 and became a lieutenant in July 1779. He transferred to the 8th Massachusetts Regiment on 1 Jan. 1781 and left the army in January 1783.

3The enclosed letter from Lt. Col. William Hull to Heath, dated 1 Jan. at Pine’s Bridge on the Croton River, reads: “I have this Moment returned from near Tom Wrights Mills, where I took a Possition last Evening for the Purpose of being in a Situation to intercept the Enemy in Case they continued their Designs of driving the Cattle from Bedford and its Neighbourhood—On my Arrival to this Ground, I found the Enemy had advanced from the Head of King street towards the Mills, but finding the Troops & Millitia in that Quarter were in Motion to oppose them, they made a hasty Retreat to the Sawpitts, and this Morning were still continuing their Retreat without effecting their Purposes.

“Finding myself at such a Distance, and my Detachment destitute of Provisions, I thought propper to march and take my former Position—On my Arrival to the Bridge, Major Wait had just arrived with a Hundred Men from the Newhamshire & Rode Island Lines, with Orders to reinforce me in Case the Enimy had not retired—Circumstanced as Affairs were, I advised him to return with his Detachment to their Cantonements, and they are now on their March—As soon as my Troops have drawn & cooked their Provisions, I shall put them in the most perfect readiness to move, as it is probable the Enimy will continue their Excursions as long as the Weather is so favourable.

“My Intelligence from below is that the Fleet sailed a Number of Days past, and that eight or nine Regiments were on Board—I do not give this as very sure Intelligence, as the Enimys being out, has interrupted the Plans which I had concerted for the Purpose, and prevented my obtaining the News Papers—Hope in a few days, to Obtain more sure Intelligence, and be able to send the late Papers.

“I shall send the Returns of Men destitute of Shoes as soon as it can be made out—It would have been sent before this had it not been for the Movement—We are in great Want of Ammunition” (DLC:GW). For the British expedition in Hull’s report, see GW to Nathanael Greene, this date.

4Matthew (Mathew) Chambers (c.1746–1809) of Marblehead, Mass., enlisted as a sergeant in Col. John Glover’s Massachusetts Regiment in May 1775. He received a commission as a second lieutenant in the 9th Continental Regiment in January 1776. In January of the following year, Chambers joined the 6th Massachusetts regiment as a first lieutenant. He became a captain lieutenant in June 1779 and a captain the following November. He left the army in June 1783.

Two muster rolls list Chambers as on command at Springfield, Mass., in August, September, and October 1780 (see DNA: RG 93, Compiled Service Records of Soldiers who Served in the American Army During the Revolutionary War, 6th Massachusetts Regiment).

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