« ZurückWeiter »
count determined to stand out to sea, and give CHAP. IX. the enemy battle. Previous to his leaving 1778. port, he informed general Sullivan that, on his · return, he would land his men as that officer should advise.
The French fleet sailing out of port with a wind which blew directly on the British, had of course the weather gage; which being deemed by lord Howe too great an advantage to be added to their superior weight of metal, was an object for which he determined to contend with all the skill and judgment he possessed. He therefore weighed anchor, and stood out to sea. He was followed by D'Estaing, and both fleets were soon out of sight.
The militia had now arrived, and Sullivan's army amounted to about ten thousand men. Some objections were made by La Fayette to his commencing operations before the return of D'Estaing. That officer apprehended that the French admiral would once more feel himself wounded by the circumstance, that measures were taken against the enemy without his co-operation; and therefore advised that the army
should be advanced to a position in the neighbourhood of Newport, but should not break ground until the count should be in readiness to act in concert with them. It was extremely desirable to avoid whatever might give offence to the great ally on whose assistance so much depended; but time was deemed
CHAP. IX. of so much importance to an army which could
not long be kept together, that this advice was over-ruled, and it was determined to open the trenches, and commence the siege immediately.
Before this determination could be put in execution, a furious storm of wind and rain came up from the northeast, which blew down, and almost irreparably ruined, all the tents, rendered the arms unfit for immediate use, and damaged the ammunition, of which fifty rounds per man had just been delivered. The soldiers having no shelter, suffered extremely, and several perished in the storm, which continued for three days.
On the return of fair weather, as soon as the arms could be cleaned and fresh ammunition given out, the army moved towards the lines,
and encamped between two and three miles Fifteenth from the town of Newport. The succeeding General Sulli- morning, the siege was commenced, and conto Newport. tinued without any material circumstance for
The situation of the American army, which had as yet received no intelligence from the admiral, and was entirely uncertain of his fate, had become extremely critical. Re-enforcements might now without interruption be thrown into Newport, so as to give the enemy the superiority in point of strength, and not only defeat the enterprise, but render their retreat from the island entirely insecure. On
van lays siege
the evening of the 19th their anxieties on this CHAP. IX. subject were relieved for a moment, by the re-appearance of the fleet.
The two admirals, desirous the one of gaining, and the other of retaining the advantage of the wind, had employed two days in manœuvring without coming to action. Towards the close of the second, they were on the point of engaging, when they were separated by the violent Both fleets storm which had been felt so severely on shore a storm. and which dispersed and did great damage to both fleets. Some single vessels afterwards fell in with each other, but no important capture was made, and both fleets retired in a very shattered condition, the one to the harbour of New York, and the other to that of Newport.
A letter was immediately dispatched from D’Estaing D'Estaing to Sullivan informing him that, in Newport, pursuance of orders from the king, and of the advice of all his officers, he had taken the reso- sails for Boslution to carry the fleet to Boston.
His instructions were to sail for Boston if the fleet should meet with any disaster, or if a superior British fleet should appear on the coast.
The injuries sustained from the storm, and the information which had been received that Byron had arrived, were considered as producing the very state of things contemplated by his instructions, and it had been determined to obey them.
and against the solicitations of Sullivan,
ton to refit.
This communication threw Sullivan and his 1778. army into despair. Success, without the aid of
the fleet, could not be hoped for; and they had counted with almost absolute certainty on a brilliant termination of the enterprise. General Greene, and the marquis de La Fayette were directed to wait on the admiral with a letter from Sullivan, remonstrating against this resolution, and to use their utmost endeavours to induce him to change it.
They represented to him the certainty of carrying the garrison, if he would only co-operate with them for two days. The plan they proposed was to land on the southern part of the island, within all the works erected for defence, against which their present operations were directed, a measure which would very much abridge the duration of the siege, but which could not be attempted without the aid of the fleet. They pressed very strongly on him the importance of this event to France, as well as to America.
They also urged the danger of carrying the fleet in its present shattered state, through such a difficult navigation as that over the shoals of Nantucket; the facility with which it might be repaired at Newport; the superiority of its present station over the harbour of Boston for distressing the enemy; and that, in the event of the arrival of a superior feet, Boston offered no advantages over Newport.
It might with equal ease be blocked up, and CHAP. IX. could not be so readily defended. To these 1778. observations they added, that the expedition had been undertaken on condition that the French fleet and army should co-operate with them; that in confidence of this co-operation, stores to a very great amount had been brought on the island, and that to abandon it in the present state of things, would be a reproach and disgrace to their arms. To be deserted at such a critical moment would have a very pernicious influence on the minds of the American people, and would furnish their internal foes, as well as the common enemy, with the means of animadverting very severely on their prospects, from an alliance with those, who could desert them under circumstances such as the present. They concluded with wishing that the utmost harmony and confidence might subsist between the two nations, and especially between their officers; and entreated the admiral, if any personal indiscretions had appeared in conducting the expedition, not to permit them to operate a prejudice to the common
Whatever weight these observations might be entitled to, and whatever impression they might have made on the count, he continued immovable in the determination he had formed.
In making a representation of this conversation, general Greene stated the principal