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Count D'Estaing arrives on the coast of Virginia with a
French fleet under his command....He meditates an attack on the British fleet at New York, but is obliged to relinquish it....Sails out to Rhode Island, and arrives off Newport....Sails to attack lord Howe, who appears off Rhode Island....General Sullivan lays siege to Newport.... Both feets dispersed by a storm....D'Estaing returns to Newport, and against the solicitations of Sullivan, sails for Boston to refit....In consequence of the departure of the French fleet, Sullivan raises the siege of Newport.... Action between Sullivan and the British army....Sullivan retreats with his army to the continent.... Sullivan, in one of his general orders, makes use of expressions which offend the count....Count D'Estaing expresses to congress his dissatisfaction with general Sul liván....General Washington labours to heal these discontents, in which he succeeds....Lord Howe resigns the command of the British fleet....Colonel Baylor's regiment surprised....Captain Donop, with his corps, attacked by colonel Butler, and defeated.... Expedition of the British against Egg harbour....Pulaski surprised, and his in
fantry cut off. 1778. BEFORE general Washington could reach
the ground he designed to occupy, intelligence
was received that a very powerful French fleet, arrives on under the command of the count D'Estaing, Virginia had appeared off Chingoteague inlet, the et northern extremity of the coast of Virginia.
The count had sailed from Toulon the 13th of April, with twelve ships of the line, and six frigates, having on board a respectable body of land forces. His destination was the Dela.
the coast of Virginia
French fleet under bis command.
ware; and sanguine hopes were entertained CHAP. IX. that he would find the British fleet in that river, 1778. and their army in Philadelphia. A very uncommon continuance of adverse winds protracted the voyage across the Atlantic, to the extraordinary length of eighty-seven days. This unusual, and to the English, providential circumstance, saved both their fleet and army. A passage of seventy-five days would have brought D'Estaing to the Delaware, while Howe was yet within the capes; and such was the decided superiority of the French force, that the British fleet must inevitably have been destroyed, or have fallen into their hands. Such an event must have been certainly and quickly succeeded by the destruction of their army.
On his reaching the capes of the Delaware, He meditates the count announced his arrival to congress; the British and, having failed in accomplishing his first Work, but is object, proceeded along the coast of New York, Fel in the hope of being able to'attack the British fleet in the harbour of that place. ,
Here again the enemy were indebted for their safety to some fortunate incidents.
In the course of the preceding winter the violence of the storms had broken through the narrow isthmus by which Sandy hook was connected with the continent, and had converted the peninsula into an absolute island. This rendered it necessary to pass over the army
an attack on the British
obliged to relinquish it.
CHAP. IX. from the main to the hook, on a bridge of 1778. boats, which would have been impracticable,
if obstructed by the French feet. It was effected the very day on which D’Estaing ap
peared off Chingoteague inlet. Tuly 13 At Paramus, in Jersey, general Washington
received a letter from the president of congress, advising him of this important event, and requesting that he would concert measures with the count for conjoint and offensive operations.
The next day, he received a second letter on the same subject, containing two resolutions of congress, the one directing him to co-operate with the French admiral, and the other authorizing him to call on the states, from New Hampshire to New Jersey inclusive, for such aids from their militia as he might deem necessary for the operations, which might be agreed on.
He determined immediately to proceed to the White Plains; from whence, the army might with more facility co-operate in the execution of any attempt which might be made by the fleet, and dispatched lieutenant colonel Laurens, one of his aids-de-camp, a young gentleman distinguished for his military and civil accomplishments, with every information relative to the enemy, as well as to his own army, of which he was himself possessed, and which might be useful to D'Estaing. Lieu- '. tenant colonel Laurens was authorized to consult on future conjoint operations, and to
establish conventional signals for the purpose of CHAP. IX. facilitating the communication of intelligence. 1778. At the same time, persons supposed to be best acquainted with the water on the bar, and in the harbour, and who were superior in point of character to ordinary pilots, were sought out and dispatched to the count D'Estaing, in order to furnish the information which might determine him respecting the proposition for attacking the British fleet in the harbour; and, if that resolution should be taken, to give him their aid towards its execution.
. Immediately after his arrival off the hook, the French admiral dispatched major De Chouin, a gentleman of his family, to general Washington, for the purpose of communicating fully his views, and the strength of his fleet. The first object of D’Estaing was to attack the British fleet in the harbour of New York. If this should be found impracticable, he was then desirous of turning his attention to Rhode Island. To assist in coming to a result on these enterprises, lieutenant colonel Hamilton was immediately dispatched with such further communications as had suggested themselves since the departure of lieutenant colonel Laurens.
From the inquiries made by general Washington, he apprehended that the water on the bar at the entrance of the harbour, was not of sufficient depth to admit the passage of the
CHAP. IX. largest ships of the French fleet, without much
difficulty and danger. Should such be the fact, the attempt would be too hazardous to be ad. visable, and must necessarily be abandoned. That the least possible inconvenience might be sustained from this circumstance, he very pro. vidently turned his attention to those measures, which would be necessary for an enterprise to be undertaken, on the failure of that contem. plated against New York.
General Sullivan had been detached in the preceding winter, to command the troops in Rhode Island, and directions were now given him to call on the New England states, imme. diately to furnish their quotas of militia, so as to make his army strong enough to ensure success to the enterprise against the enemy in Rhode Island, should it be determined on. He was also directed to prepare magazines, to collect the boats necessary for a descent, to engage the best pilots, and to make himself perfectly master of the situation and strength of the
enemy both by land and sea. July 21. As the opinion, that the attack on New York
would be unadvisable, gained strength from the information received in its support, the marquis de La Fayette was detached with two brigades to join general Sullivan at Providence, and to put himself under the command of that officer. The next day, lieutenant colonel Hamilton re.. turned to camp with the final determination of