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General Washington to General Heath



Head-Quarters, at Keith' s, December 22d, 1776.

DEAR SIR: I have been favoured with yours of the 13th instant, and wish you may have succeeded in your intended scheme to dislodge the enemy from Hackensack bridge.

In my letter of the 13th, I transmitted you a copy of a letter from the Council of the Massachusetts-Bay, advising that six thousand men were coming from that State, under General Lincoln, to supply the place of the Militia which had returned home, and of their troops whose time of service will soon expire. At the time of writing, I thought it probable that their reinforcement might be ordered to the State at Rhode-Island, in case of an invasion, and which I find has actually taken place, and, therefore, did not so strenuously urge that it should be sent here. Indeed, I had then hopes, from the information I had received, that a large proportion of the Eastern troops, who were marching to join me, had reinlisted; but, to my great distress and mortification, I find the report to have been without the least foundation, and that in the course of a few days, I am to be left with a handful of men. I therefore request that if these troops have come on to Peekskill, and also the four battalions which, I am advised by Governour Trumbull, have been raised in Connecticut, to serve to the 15th of March next, that after securing the passes and fortifications in the Highlands with a sufficient number, which, I should imagine, would not exceed twelve or fifteen hundred men at faithest, besides the forces which, I apprehend, will be provided for the purpose by the Convention of New-York, you will forward on all the rest with the utmost expedition,


to join such troops as I may be able to collect for the defence of Philadelphia. That city is now the object of the enemy' s designs. Let me entreat you to impress the officers and men with a due sense of its importance in the present contest for our liberty, and that without their speedy and early arrival it may be lost. I am persuaded these considerations will be duly regarded, and urge them on to every possible exertion. As yet but few succours belonging to this State have come in, nor do I hear that many are in motion; when they hear that other Slates are applied to, and pushing in aids for their defence, perhaps they will arouse from that lethargy which now keeps them back, against the most pressing calls of interest. In a word, sir, my situation and that of our cause, is critical and truly alarming. Without vigorous exertions and early succours, I do not see what reasonable hope there will be to preserve Philadelphia from falling into the enemy' s hands. They will attempt to possess it as soon as the Delaware is so frozen as to admit of their passage; appearances and many concurring reports agree in this.

I have received yours of the loth, and am happy to hear of your success at Hackensack; the stores you got will be of great service.

By a letter just received from General McDougall, I find he has been much indisposed, and is now at Morristown. I intend to write him to return to Peekskill, to conduct matters in that department with General George Clinton, requesting you and General James Clinton to come on with the Eastern troops which I have mentioned, if they have arrived at Peekskill, and it should be necessary for him to come.

I am, dear sir, yours, &c˙,


To Major-General Heath.