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1778. pilots who were to have facilitated his entrance into Newport, were wanting, which occasioned a delay. But on
Aug. the morning of August the 5 th, his operations commenced, when the British set fire to the Orpheus, Lark, Juno and Cerberus frigates, and several other vessels at the appearance of two of his fleet standing in near Prudence island to attack them. The Flora and Falcon were sunk afterward. The next day the American troops marched from Providence to Tiverton under the command of gen. Greene, who had been dispatched by gen. Washington from the main army to assist in the expedition. His excellency also sent on the marquis de la Fayette at the head of two thousand troops, who by a rapid march joined the militia in season. Gen. Sullivan's first letter to the count informed him, that he was not ready to act, and desired that the attack might be suspended. It was agreed between them that they should land their forces at Portsmouth on the tenth in the morn
g ing. On the eighth the French fleet went up the middle passage leading into Newport harbour, when the British batteries began a severe cannonade, which was returned with great warmth.
The royal troops on the island, having been just reinforced with five battalions, were about 6000 under the command of Sir Robert Pigot, who took every possible measure of defence. The force under gen. Sullivan was composed of about 10,000 men. Upon his receiving intelligence early on the ninth, that the enemy had evacuated their works at the north end of the island, and retreated within their lines about three miles from Newport, regardless of the agreement with d'Estaing, he concluded (as it appeared to him best) to push over 9 with
without loss of time. The army was immediately put r.77* in motion; about eight o'clock the right wing, under gen. Greene, began to cross from Tiverton, and the rest of the Americans followed in order. The Massachusetts -militia were attended by Mr. Hancock as their major general. About two in the afternoon a fleet consisting of near 25 sail was discovered standing in for Newport, which came to off point Judith for the night. Lord Howe had determined to attempt the preservation of the island; but notwithstanding all his exertions could' not reach fight of it, till the day after the French fleet had entered the harbour. Though his own exceeded the other in point of number, yet it was sar inferior with respect to effective force and weight of metal. He had one ship of 74 guns—seven of 64—five of 50—six from 44 to 32—and twelve smaller vessels, including fire ships and bomb ketches. When he first appeared, the garrison were much elated, but upon learning that he brought no provision, of which they were nearly exhausted, they were equally dejected. A sudden change of wind savoring the count, he stood out to sea with all his squadron, about eight o'clock the next morning. They were Io. severely cannonaded as they passed by the batteries, but received no material damage. Howe deeming the weather gage too great an advantage to be added to the superior force of the count, contended for that object with all the skill of an experienced seaman; while the * count was as eager to preserve it. This contest prevented an engagement on that day; but the wind on the following still continuing adverse to the design of Howe, he determined to make the best of present circumstances, and await the approach of the count. A strong gale
1778* which increased to a violent tempest, and continued for near 48 hours, put by the engagement. Two of the French ships were dismasted, and others much damaged. The Languedoc of 90 guns, d'Estaing's own ship, lost her rudder and all her masts; and was met in that condition on the evening of the 13th,.by the Renown of 50 guns. Capt. Dawson bore down without hoisting colours. The count ordered capt. Caleb Gardner, who was on board as a pilot, to hail him, that he might know what ship it was. Dawson made no answer, but ran with a full sail and sair wind till he was under the stern of the Languedoc, then hoisted English colours, fired in great and small shot, and musketry, and sailed off. The Languedoc upon that fired two chace guns after him, when he never attempted to approach her more. The same evening the Preston of 50 guns, commodore Hotham, fell in with the Tonant of 80 guns, with only her main-mast standing, and attacked her with spirit, but night put an end to the engagement. The junction of six sail of the French squadron, prevented Aug- all further attempts upon their two disabled ships, by the 1&. Renown and Preston the next morning. On the 16th, the Isis of 50 guns, capt. Raynor, was chaced by the Cæsar, capt. Bougainville, a French 74 gun. Neither had suffered in the tempest. A close and desperate engagement was maintained on both fides, with the greatest obstinacy, for an hour and a half, within pistol shot. The Cæsar at length put before the wind and sailed off, the captain having lost his arm, the lieutenant his leg, a number of men being killed and wounded, and the ship considerably damaged. The Isis had suffered so in her . . masts
masts and rigging, that she could not attempt a pur- 1778. suit.
The troops under gen. Sullivan now demand our attention. When they had landed, they possessed themselves of the heights near the north end of the island. They suffered no less than the ships by the tempest. The wind blew most violently, attended with a flood of rain through the whole day of the 12th, and increased so at night, that not a marquee or tent could stand: several of the soldiers perished by the severity of the storm, many horses died, the greatest part of the ammunition delivered to the troops was damaged, and the condition of the army was deplorable. On the 14th, the storm was over, and the weather clear and fine. The garrison having enjoyed better accommodations and greater security than the Americans, Sir Robert Pigot had a fair opportunity of attacking the latter while dispirited and worn down by the painful scenes from which they had just emerged. Gen. Greene and some British officers are of opinion, that a bold and vigorous onset under these circumstances would have been highly proper and successful. But as nothing of this kind happened, the day was spent by the Americans in drying their clothes, &c. and getting in order for an advance. The next morning they marched at six o'clock, and took post about two miles from the British lines. By the 20th as. they had opened two four' gun batteries; but their approaches were flow. About two o'clock in the afternoon the French fleet was discovered standing for Newport. At seven gen. Greene and the marquis de la Fayette went on board the Languedoc, to consult upon measures proper to be pursued for the success of the expe
Vol. III. M -dition
i77Edition in which, they were engaged. They urged d'Eftaing to return with his fleet into Newport harbour. He was apparently inclined to a compliance: but all the captains and principal officers on board were rather unfriendly to him. He being a land officer, they thought it an affront to their understandings, and a piece of injustice done to their merits and services to have him appointed to the command over their heads. They therefore crossed him in every measure, that looked like giving him any kind os reputation, in order if possible to bring him into disgrace. His instructions from the court of France were to go to Boston, if the fleet met with any, misfortune, or if there appeared a superior British sleep upon the coast. The count had met with a misfortune, the Cæsar which had steered for Boston was missing, and a superior British fleet was expected. All the officers insisted upon his following the instructions, and entered into a formal protest against prosecuting the expedition any further. .About twelve o'clock at night of the 21st,. Greene and. the. marquis returned, and made a report of what had passed. The next day letters went on board from gens. Sullivan and Hancock; as also a protest dated—Camp before Newport, Aug. 22, 1778—and signed by John Sullivan, N. Greene, John Hancock, J. Glover, Ezek. Cornell, Wm. Whippie, John Tyler, Solomon Lovell, Jon. Fitconel. They protested in a solemn manner against the count's taking the fleet to . Boston, as derogatory to the honor of France, contrary to the intention of his most Christian majesty and the interest of his nation, and destructive in the highest degree to the, welsare of the United States of America, and highly injurious to the alliance formed between the .