George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Major General William Heath, 6 January 1781

From Major General William Heath

Garrison west Point
Jany 6th 1781 7 oClock P.M.

Dear General

The enclosed this moment came to hand, which I beg to submit to your Excellency1—This will be forwarded at Gun fireing in the morning. I detain the Express, & wish your answer, if agreeable by the return of the Bearer, that Colonel Hull may have notice as early as possible. Colonel Thomas mentioned the matter in a letter to me yesterday, but as it did not come from Colonel Hull, I took no notice of it.2 If the Plan should be approved, it will probably be necessary to furnish the Militia with some ammunition—As to burning the houses at Morrissiania, altho they are a nest for the nefarious Enemy, yet as many of them belong to Persons very friendly to our cause, and who have been obliged to abandon their habitations, it may not only be impolitic, but injurious to do it—however I will advise as your Excellency may think fit to direct. I must confess, I do not well like the Militia, haveing so much to do in the matter, notifying & collecting men from three regiments, among whom many disaffected Persons reside, and upon the very line of the Enemy, is very likely to give air of the design, and a knowledge of the design will tend to blow the whole.3 I have the honor to be With the greatest respect Your Excellencys most Obedient Servant

W. Heath

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

1The enclosed letter from Lt. Col. William Hull to Heath, dated 6 Jan. at “Danforths near Pines Bridge” in New York, reads: “I am this moment informed by Capt. Delivan & Justice Honeywell, that a Plan is concerted by Colonels Thomas, Drake & Crane for attacking the Refugees in their Quarters at Morrisinia. They have applied to me to join them with the Troops on the Lines, and propose my commanding the whole—They say they will at least Muster one hundred Horse, and two hundred Foot—Indeed they have proceeded so far as to appoint next Wednesday Afternoon [10 Jan.] the Time for their Rendezvous at North Castle—I give you, Sir, this early Information for the Purpose of knowing, whether you conceive the Object of sufficient Importance, to consent to the Troops under my Command being employed in it.

“The Success of the Expedition, I think must depend on the secrecey with which it is conducted—Should the Enimy gain Intelligence of the Design, they can easily frustrate it—If not, we should probably make Prisoners, and kill a Number of Delanceys Corps.

“The scattered Situation in which they are contoned, would I doubt, prevent a large Number falling into our Hands—As they are a Nest of Theives & Robbers, would it not be proper totally to distroy their Habitations by Fire, and prevent them from inhabiting that Part of the Country in future—Delancey can muster about three Hundred Men on giving short Notice—In the Redoubt No. 8 is a Guard of Hessions, consisting of about one hundred—I thought it my Duty to give the earliest Notice of this Plan and could wish to know as soon as possible whether my engaging in it will meet with your Approbation—If I should, would not a Reinforcement from the New hamshire Line of a hundred or more be necessary?

“As I wish to have you apprised as early as possible of the Plan, have not Time to lay before you the Disposition which I should make” (DLC:GW).

2New York militia colonel Thomas Thomas had written Heath from North Castle, N.Y., on 2 Jan. to request ammunition and recommend a “Maneuvre in Westchester [County] or within the Vicinity to harrass some of the Enemies Parties.” He also wanted fifty Continental troops to support the operation (MHi: Heath Papers).

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