Front Page Titles (by Subject) TO MAJOR-GENERAL HEATH. INSTRUCTIONS. - The Writings of George Washington, vol. IX (1780-1782)
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TO MAJOR-GENERAL HEATH. INSTRUCTIONS. - George Washington, The Writings of George Washington, vol. IX (1780-1782) 
The Writings of George Washington, collected and edited by Worthington Chauncey Ford (New York and London: G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 1890). Vol. IX (1780-1782).
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TO MAJOR-GENERAL HEATH.
You are to take command of all the troops remaining in this department, consisting of the two regiments of New Hampshire, ten of Massachusetts, and five of Connecticut infantry, the corps of invalids, Sheldon’s legion, the third regiment of artillery, together with all such State troops and militia, as are retained in service, of those which would have been under my own command.
The security of West Point and the posts in the Highlands is to be considered the first object of your attention. In order to effect this, you will make such dispositions as in your judgment the circumstances shall from time to time require; taking care to have as large a supply of salted provisions as possible constantly on hand; to have the fortifications, works, and magazines repaired and perfected as far as may be; to have the garrison at least in all cases kept up to its present strength; to have the minuter arrangements and plans for the defence and support of this important post perfectly understood and vigorously acted upon, in case of any attempt against it. Ample magazines of wood and forage are to be laid in against the approaching winter. The former should be cut on the margin of the river, and transported by water to the garrison. The latter ought to be collected from the country below the lines, in the greatest quantities possible, and deposited in such places as you shall judge proper.
The force now put under your orders, it is presumed, will be sufficient for all the purposes above mentioned; as well as to yield a very considerable protection and cover to the country, without hazarding the safety of the posts in the Highlands. This is to be esteemed, as it respects the friendly inhabitants and resources of the country, an extremely interesting object; but, when compared with the former, of a secondary nature. The protection of the northern and western frontiers of the State of New York, as well as of those parts of that and other States most contiguous and exposed to the ravages and depredations of the enemy, will claim your attention. But, as the contingencies, which are to be expected in the course of the campaign, may be so various, unforeseen, and almost infinite, that no particular line of conduct can be prescribed for them, upon all such occasions you will be governed by your own prudence and discretion, in which the fullest confidence is placed.
Although your general rule of conduct will be to act on the defensive only, yet it is not meant to prohibit you from striking a blow at the enemy’s posts, or detachments, should a fair opportunity present itself.
The most eligible position for your army, in my opinion, will be above (i. e. on the north side of) the Croton; as well for the purpose of supporting the garrison of West Point, as annoying the enemy, and covering the country, as for the security and repose of your troops. Waterbury’s brigade, which may be posted towards the Sound, Sheldon’s corps, the State troops of New York, and other light parties, may occasionally be made use of to hold the enemy in check, and carry on the petite guerre with them; but I would recommend keeping your force as much collected and as compact as the nature of the service will admit, doing by corps instead of detachments whenever it is practicable, and above all exerting yourself most strenuously and assiduously, while the troops are in a camp of repose, to make them perfect in their exercise and manœuvres, and to establish the most regular system of discipline and duty. The good of the service and emulation of corps will, I am persuaded, prompt the officers and men to devote their whole time and attention to the pleasing and honorable task of becoming masters of their profession. The uncertainty, which the present movement of the army will probably occasion with the enemy, ought to be increased by every means in your power, and the deception kept up as long as possible.
It will not be expedient to prevent the militia which were ordered from coming in, until the arrival of the Count de Grasse, or something definite or certain is known from the southward; and even then, circumstances may (but of this you will be advised) render it advisable to keep the enemy at New York in check, to prevent their detaching to reinforce their southern army, or to harass the inhabitants on the seacoast.
The redoubt on the east side of Dobbs’s Ferry is to be dismantled and demolished, the platforms to be taken up and transported up the river, if it can conveniently be done. The blockhouse on the other side to be maintained, or evacuated and destroyed, as you shall think proper. The water-guards and other precautions to prevent a surprise, you will be pleased to take into your consideration, and regulate in such a manner as you shall judge most expedient. You will be pleased, also, to keep me regularly advised of every important event, which shall take place in your department. Given under my hand at Head-Quarters, this 19th day of August, 1781.
P. S. By the act of Congress of the 3d of October, 1780, a return is to be made to them annually on or before the 1st of September of the troops belonging to the several states that requisitions may be made for completing the same. This you will be pleased to have done by the troops under your command. The preservation of the boats is a matter of very great importance to which you will attend. Let all the new boats and such others as are not absolutely necessary and allotted to the service of the garrison, be hauled up and put under the care of a guard so that the person to whom they are committed shall be accountable for every boat. The abuses committed by people belonging to commissioned whale boats on Long Island ought to be enquired into and suppressed especially as Congress have ordered those commissions to be revoked.1
[1 ]“I have the pleasure to inform your Excellency, that my troops arrived at the [King’s] Ferry yesterday, and began to pass the river at ten o’clock in the morning, and by sunrise of this day they were all completely on this side of the river. I hope your army will be enabled to cross with the same facility when they arrive.”—Washington to Rochambeau, 21 August, 1781.