George Washington Papers

From George Washington to Major General William Heath, 27 February 1781

To Major General William Heath

Head Quarters New Windsor 27th February 1781.

Dear sir

I last evening received your favor of the 24th.1 By a return of the 15th instant There were then at Westpoint—Fishkill and Ringwood 151 Teirces and 454 Barrels of salt meat and 400 Barrels on the communication from Deleware, which will be coming forward2—I have directed the meat from the nearest deposits of Connecticut and Massechusetts to be brought to the River—A very considerable quantity of Flour is at the landings waiting for the opening of the Navigation—By a letter from Mr Philips, purchasing Agent for Massechusetts, we may expect about half a supply of fresh meat weekly from that State.3

The Logs for the Chain are in tolerable forwardness—Captn Niven informs me that with the addition of six Carpenters and twelve fatigue Men to his present number, they will be ready in good season4—All the Carpenters of the regiment of Artificers being already employed upon that and other Jobs—you will be pleased to endeavour to procure six from the troops—The fatigue men also to be sent5—The Logs are at a landing about two miles above Newburgh on this side of the River.

The orders given to the Officer who first took possession of the post at Dobbs’s ferry were, to defend himself to the last extremity should he be suddenly surrounded, but if he discovered appearances of a serious attack in force and with Artillery time enough to withdraw his men, he was to do it—spiking up his Cannon and setting fire to the works—These orders may have been handed over to the present Officer as they were directed to be6—should they not, you will give similar ones.7 I am Dear sir With great esteem and Regard Your Most Obedt and Most Hble servant.

P.S. I have recd your favr of this date, I will enquire of Genl Knox whether the Arms can be repaired here,8 and will see if it be in the power of the Qr Mr to supply paper.9

L, in William Colfax’s writing, MHi: Heath Papers; Df, DLC:GW; Varick transcript, DLC:GW. Heath replied to GW on 28 February.

2The return dated 15 Feb. has not been identified.

3GW’s aide-de-camp Tench Tilghman penned the draft, on which “Phelps” is written instead of “Philips” (see Oliver Phelps to GW, 4 Feb.).

4See Daniel Niven to GW, 25 Feb., found at GW to Niven, 12 Dec. 1780, n.2; see also Timothy Pickering to GW, 9 February.

5GW wrote the preceding seven words on the L above struck-out words: “The fatigue Men will be more handy from Hazens, than from the point.”

6GW wrote the previous six words above the line on the L. For GW’s orders, see his letter to John Mauritius Goetschius, 7 Oct. 1780, n.2; see also Heath to GW, 10 Feb. 1781, n.1.

7Ensign John Heart began a letter to Heath from Nyack, N.Y., on 21 Feb.: “Captain [Roger] Welles has left the Command of the Water Guard with me. … P.S. Please to let me Know if those that are at the Block House at Dobbs Ferry is to be Relieved or to Join the Water Guard again that I may Know in What manner to Draw Provision” (MHi: Heath Papers).

Heath wrote Heart on this date that he did “not know what Instructions His Excellency General Washington has given to the Garrison of the Block House what ever they are they must be Observed” (MHi: Heath Papers). Heath wrote Heart from West Point on 28 Feb. with the instructions given in GW’s letter and added that “in this view of things Fifteen or Twenty days Provisions on hand will be fully Sufficient as a reserve” (MHi: Heath Papers). Heart began his reply to Heath from Nyack on 2 March: “I Received your favor of the 28th Ultimo. His Excellencys Orders is With the Officer at the Block House” (MHi: Heath Papers).

8For the reply GW received from Brig. Gen. Henry Knox, see GW to Heath, 1 March; see also Heath to GW, this date.

9Tilghman penned the postscript on the L. He also wrote Heath from headquarters at New Windsor on 28 Feb.: “I perceive by your letter to His Excellency how nearly your stock of paper is exhausted. I have spared you a little from our small magazine untill you can be recruited” (MHi: Heath Papers).

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