« ZurückWeiter »
He had at the same time suggested to Sullivan, CHAP. IX. the necessity of securing his retreat from Rhode 7778. Island, should such a measure become neces. sary. A letter was now received, giving him certain information that a large body of troops had sailed, most probably, for the relief of Newport; and, without ordering him to retreat to the continent, a very decided opinion was manifested that such a movement had become proper.
Very fortunately, the re-enforcement, which consisted of four thousand men commanded by sir Henry Clinton in person, was delayed by adverse winds, until the letter from general Washington giving notice of its having sailed, was received. The resolution to evacuate the island was immediately formed.
Throughout the day, Sullivan, with consi. derable address, continued to take those mea. sures, by strengthening his works, and posting his troops, which were calculated to produce an impression of his being determined to maintain his ground. About six in the afternoon, Sullivan re· his orders to prepare for a retreat were given, his army to and his measures were so judiciously taken, that his whole army crossed over, and had disembarked on the continent, about Tiverton, by two o'clock in the morning, without having created in the enemy the slightest suspicion that he had contemplated the movement which was now completed. The troops were stationed along the coast from Tiverton to Providence.
CHAP. IX. Never was retreat more fortunate. The 1778. delay of one day must have ruined him. The
next day, sir Henry Clinton arrived with his re-enforcement, and with ships of war which would probably have entirely cut off the retreat
to the continent. Sept. 9. The conduct of Sullivan was highly approved
by the commander in chief, and by congress. A resolution passed in that body, declaring his retreat to have been" prudent, timely, and well conducted.” They also voted their thanks to the general and the army under his command, for their fortitude, and bravery, in the action of the 29th of August. On major Morris, the aid-du-camp of Sullivan, who brought the intel. ligence of the battle, and retreat, they conferred the rank of lieutenant colonel by brevet.
The marquis de La Fayette having repaired to Boston, for the purposes of conciliation with the French admiral, and of endeavouring to secure his return as soon as his fleet should be repaired, was absent during the engagement, but by great personal exertions, he rejoined the army just in time to have the charge of the rear guard on the retreat. This young nobleman also was named with approbation, “ as well for his great sacrifices of personal feeling to the public good, in consenting, for the interests of the United States, to leave the army when a battle was to be expected, as for the good con. duct with which he brought off the pickets and out sentries.”
The complete success of the expedition chap. IX. against Rhode island, had been anticipated 1778. throughout America as certain. The capture of that important garrison was believed to be inevitable. The loss of so essential a part of the army would lead, it was supposed, to further and still more valuable results.
In his public letters, general Sullivan had spoken with great confidence of effecting, in a few days, the object of the enterprise; and congress, the army, and the people, were equally sanguine.
Proportioned to the exaltation of their hopes, was the chagrin produced by their disappointment. In general orders issued by Sullivan Sullivan, in soon after the departure of D’Estaing, for the general purpose of quieting the apprehensions of his expressions army, and impressing them with a confidence the count: in the safety of their situation, under the mea. sures he had taken to secure a retreat, should the enemy be re-enforced, he permitted some expressions to escape him, which manifests the irritation of his feelings. “While,” continue the orders, "the general wishes them” (the army) « to place a proper confidence in him as their commander in chief, whose business it is to attend to their safety, he yet hopes the event will prove America able to procure that by her own arms, which her allies refuse to assist in obtaining.” These expressions being understood to impute to the count D’Es
one of his
orders, makes use of expressions, which offend
CHAP. IX. taing, and to the French nation, an indisposi. 1778. tion to promote the interests of the United
States, wounded the feelings of the French officers, and added in no small degree to the resentments of the moment. In subsequent orders, the general stated himself to have been misunderstood by those who supposed him to blame the French admiral, with whose orders he was unacquainted, and of whose conduct he consequently was unable to judge. He at the same time stated explicitly the great aids Ame. rica had received from France, aids of which, he ought not to be unmindful, under any disappointment; and which should prevent a too sudden censure of any movement whatever..
The count D'Estaing, on his part, addressed to to congress a statement of all the movements witince of the fleet since its arrival on the coast; in Sullivan. which his chagrin, and irritation, were but ill
concealed. He complained much of the disap. pointments he had experienced in not receiving adequate supplies of water and provisions; spoke of the delay produced by the American army not being in a condition to act against the common enemy on his first arrival before Newport, and of its afterwards entering the island precipitately. He insisted that the voyage to Boston was necessary for the preservation of the fleet, and declared that he could place no dependence on the fallacious promises made him, of water, of masts and of defence,
at Newport. Neither could he rely on a place, CHAP. IX. against which batteries had played for some 1778. considerable time without much effect, being taken in two days. He claimed much merit for taking Rhode Island in his way to Boston, and thereby giving general Sullivan the choice of retreating to the continent, or of continuing the siege.
“It is,” continues the letter, “with the noble confidence that I owe to the allies of the king, that I take pleasure in rendering them accounts which I owe only to his majesty. But it would be wounding the dignity of his crown, if I answered assertions and forms of which I do not complain. Passion dictated them....this is perhaps a proof that reason did not. We presume that they were inspired by the masters of small barks, who, scarcely knowing the bottom over which they sail, in order to avoid being blocked up, prefer the narrow channels of Newport, to the entrance of the banks of Boston; and who are ignorant of maritime positions, and what determines the strength or weakness of squad. rons. Such men, blinded by local and personal interest, which renders every thing excusable in their eyes, have found means to surprise for an instant, the opinion of some general land officers, whom we shall always profess to esteem, although we are fully persuaded that they have neither the knowledge, nor the experience necessary to decide despotically of the possibiVOL. III.