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Letter from General Heath to General Washington



King' s Bridge, August 18, 1776.

DEAR GENERAL: Early this morning the Phenix man-of-war, Rose frigate, and the two tenders, came to sail and stood down the river, keeping close under the east shore, in order to avoid the fire of our cannon; but notwithstanding this precaution, the Phenix was thrice hulled by our shot from Mount Washington, and one of the tenders once. The Rose was hulled once by a shot from Burdett' s Ferry. They kept their men close, otherwise some of them would have been picked down by a party of riflemen who were posted on the bank. They fired grape-shot as they passed, but did no damage save to one tent. We hope to hear that your batteries have done the work for some of them.

We shall recover some swivel-guns, gun-barrels, shot, &c˙, out of the wreck of the tender, which was burnt the other night, the particulars of which shall be transmitted to your Excellency as soon as I can obtain them.

General Clinton has about fourteen hundred men already come in, but their quarters are so scattered that it will be almost impossible to collect them suddenly, if occasion should require it. If there are any spare tents, I earnestly beg for


them, if it were but for one regiment. General Clinton has orders from the Convention of the State of New York to purchase ten thousand feet of boards, for erecting sheds, &c˙, but it is uncertain when we shall have them. I shall tomorrow send for six or seven hundred of tools, being able to employ that number more than we have at present.

The more I view this post, the more I am convinced of its importance. The ships have now tried the practicability of passing our works; they have explored every part of the shore, as far as they have gone up the river, and sounded the river in almost every place. Should the ships rejoin the fleet without receiving much damage, I think Howe will be emboldened to attempt an attack somewhere above this place, thinking that there may be a greater probability of succeeding here than in the face of so many and strong works as have been erected in and around the city. However, should his inclination lead him this way, nature has done much for us, and we shall, as fast as possible, add the strength of art. Our men are in good health and spirits, and I dare say will give them a warm reception.

I should be glad to have the carriages for the four-pounders sent forward the moment they are done, as we have not as yet a single cannon mounted beyond Mount Washington.

I have just now received your Excellency' s commands to inquire into the cause of the inactivity of some of the row-galleys in the late attack on the enemy' s ships; but as the galleys have all left this post and fallen down to the city, I must beg your Excellency to excuse me from that service.

I have the honour to be, with the greatest respect, your Excellency' s most humble servant,

To His Excellency General Washington, at New York.