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General Washington to General Heath



SIR: The uncertainty with respect to the designs of the enemy renders any disposition of our Army at this time a little unsettled; but, for the present, your division, with such troops as are now at Forts Constitution, Montgomery, and Independence, are to be under your command, and remain in this quarter for the security of the above posts and the passes through the Highlands from this place, and the one


on the west side of Hudson' s river. Colonel Tash' s regiment is meant to be included in this command.

Unnecessary it is for me to say any thing to evince the importance of securing the land and water communication through these passes, or to prove the indispensable necessity of using every exertion in your power to have such works erected for the defence of them as your own judgment, assisted by that of your Brigadiers and the Engineers, may show the expediency of.

To form an accurate judgment of the proper places to fortify, in order effectually to secure the two land passes above-mentioned through the Highlands, requires a considerable degree of attention and knowledge of the roads and ways leading through the hills. These you must get from information and observation, as my stay here will not allow me to give any direction on this head with precision. You will not only keep in view the importance of securing these passes, but the necessity of doing it without delay, not only from the probability of the enemy' s attempting to seize them, but from the advanced season, which will not admit of any spade-work after the frost (which may be dally expected) sets in. Lose not a moment' s time therefore, in choosing the grounds on the east and west side of the river, on which your intended works are to be erected. Let your men designed for each post be speedily allotted, and by your presence and otherwise do every thing to stimulate the officers (respectively commanding at each) to exert themselves in forwarding them.

The cheapest kind of barracks must be erected, contiguous to these places, where no covering now is for the men. These may, I should think, be built of logs, and made warm at very little cost. In apportioning your men 10 the different posts (those to be established as well as those already fixed on the river) I advise your keeping the corps as much as possible together, and also desire that in this allotment you will consult your officers and such gentlemen as have it in their power (from their superiour knowledge of the country) to afford you good advice.

Independent of the barracks which may be found necessary for the men at the posts before-mentioned, I should think others ought to be built at such places in this neighbourhood as the Quartermaster-General and Engineer shall point out, as this must, from the nature of it, be considered in an important point of view, and as well adapted for winter quarters for part of the Army as any other place can be. If, contrary to the generally-received opinion, General Howe' s remove to Dobbs' s Ferry was only intended as a feint, to draw off part of our force from the place which we last occupied, and should make an attempt upon General Lee, you are to give him all the aid you can, taking care at the same time to keep guards in the posts and passes you occupy.

For the speedy and regular punishment of offences, you are hereby authorized and empowered, whilst you remain in a separate camp, to hold General Court-Martials, and carry the judgments of them into execution, in all cases whatsoever.

Be particularly careful of all intrenching tools, tents, (seeing that the bottoms of them are not covered with dirt,) and, above all, take care that no discharged soldiers are suffered to carry away any of the publick arms or accoutrements. Apply to the Commissary of stores for a list of those things furnished to the respective Colonels of Regiments, and see that they account for them before the men are dismissed. In like manner should every thing had of the Quartermaster-General be delivered up.

Keep persons employed in making of cartridges, and be particularly attentive that the stores are taken care of, and the powder kept from receiving damage; also prevent the soldiery from committing any kind of waste and injuries to private or publick property.

The men who composed the detachment under Colonel Lasher are all to join their respective corps.

Given at Head-Quarters, at Peekskill, this 12th day of November, 1776.


To Major-General Heath.