Front Page Titles (by Subject) TO MAJOR-GENERAL HEATH. - The Writings of George Washington, vol. V (1776-1777)
The Online Library of Liberty
A project of Liberty Fund, Inc.
Search this Title:
TO MAJOR-GENERAL HEATH. - George Washington, The Writings of George Washington, vol. V (1776-1777) 
The Writings of George Washington, collected and edited by Worthington Chauncey Ford (New York and London: G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 1890). Vol. V (1776-1777).
About Liberty Fund:
Liberty Fund, Inc. is a private, educational foundation established to encourage the study of the ideal of a society of free and responsible individuals.
The text is in the public domain.
Fair use statement:
This material is put online to further the educational goals of Liberty Fund, Inc. Unless otherwise stated in the Copyright Information section above, this material may be used freely for educational and academic purposes. It may not be used in any way for profit.
TO MAJOR-GENERAL HEATH.
By a letter just received from the State of Massachusetts, (copy of which you have enclosed) I find that they had ordered six thousand militia to be immediately raised, and appointed the place of rendezvous at Danbury in Connecticut, where they are to meet General Lincoln, who is to take the command. You will perceive from the tenor of the letter, that the appearance of the men of war and transports off the coast of New England did not seem to alter their intention of sending the militia forward; but I am inclined to think, if the descent should really be made, they will find employ for them nearer home. If this considerable reinforcement should arrive with you, I do not know how you could better employ them, or render more essential service to the cause, than, after keeping a sufficient force to guard the passes of the Highlands, by throwing such a number over into Jersey, as would cover the upper parts of that province, and afford such support and assistance to the well affected, as would encourage them to join you and keep the enemy within straiter bounds than they are at present. You may depend, that the great end they have in view is to spread themselves over as much country as they possibly can, and thereby strike a damp into the spirits of the people, which will effectually put a stop to the new enlistment of the army, on which all our hopes depend, and which they will most vigorously strive to effect. To carry this plan into execution, they have already extended themselves as far westward as the Delaware, and if the whole of your army continues on the east side of Hudson’s River, they will have possession of all the country between that river and the Delaware, which includes the whole province of Jersey and part of New York. As soon as you find yourself in a situation to send a force into the upper parts of Jersey, I would have you immediately communicate your intentions to the people, with assurances that you will be ready to back and support them in any movements, which they may make in your favor. I am certain, that the defection of the people in the lower part of Jersey has been as much owing to the want of an army to look the enemy in the face, as to any other cause, though to be sure neither cost nor pains has been spared to influence them against us.
Whatever steps you take in this affair, I would wish you to consult and coöperate with General Lincoln, of whose judgment and abilities I entertain a very high opinion. I would just add, that your attention should likewise be paid to the country between Peekskill and Kingsbridge, by affording some protection and countenance to the people there, from whom you may draw supplies and perhaps some men for the new army. Particular attention should be paid to the bridge at Croton River, which secures your front. I enclose to you a letter for General Lincoln, which please to forward to him wherever he may be. I am, dear Sir, yours, &c.1
[1 ]“Were it not for them [these new forces], in a few days, by reason of the impolicy and fatal system of short inlistments, there would not be the least shadow of an army to check the operations of the enemy. I should be happy if there had been just grounds for the report of the success of our arms at Hackensack, but matters have been entirely the reverse. By the expiration of the service of the troops denominated the Flying Camp men on the 1st. inst., and their return home, our force on this side Hudson’s River, (which before that period was not competent to a successful opposition,) was reduced to a mere handful. With this small number, without deriving the least aid from the militia, notwithstanding the earliest and most pressing application, I have been pushed thro’ Jersey by the main body of the enemy’s army, and for want of their assistance a large part of that state has been exposed to all the effects of ravage and of the most wanton plunder. The Delaware now divides what remains of our little force from that of Gen. Howe, whose object beyond all question is to possess Philadelphia. They have been industrious in their efforts to procure boats for their transportation, but the precautions I have taken, have hitherto rendered their attempts unsuccessful. How things will terminate I must leave to itself; as yet I have received but little or no augmentation except that of the city militia, who have turned out in a spirited manner. Convinced that Philadelphia was the object of Mr. Howe’s movements and of the fatal consequences that would attend the loss of it, I wrote for Genl. Lee to reinforce me with the troops under his immediate command. By some means or other their arrival has been retarded, and unhappily on Friday last, the General, having left his division and proceeded three or four miles nearer the enemy, then 18 miles from him, of which they were informed by some Tories, was surprised and carried off about 11 o’clock by a party of 70 Light Horse. I will not comment upon this unhappy accident. I feel much for his misfortune and am sensible that in his captivity, our country has lost a warm friend and an able officer. Upon the whole our affairs are in a much less promising condition than could be wished, yet I trust, under the smiles of Providence, and our own exertions, we shall be happy. Our cause is righteous and must be supported. Every nerve should be strained to levy the new army. If we can but procure a respectable one in season, all may be well, and to this no pains can be too great. The next campaign will be an important [one], and the issue may lead to happiness,—or the most melancholy of all events.”—Washington to Governor Bowdoin, 18 December, 1776.