« ZurückWeiter »
CHAP. IX. mediate preparations for the expedition against 1778. Rhode Island, which might eventually take
place, general Sullivan had, on the arrival of re-enforcements from New York, called on the states for aids of militia ; yet the delays inseparable from measures to bring husbandmen into the field as soldiers, and the difficulties of drawing them from their farms, were such, that operations of the last importance, exposed inevitably to great hazards by delay, were necessarily suspended. To avoid this was the more to be desired, because the success of the enterprise essentially depended on maintaining the superiority at sea, which there was much reason to apprehend would be wrested from them, since intelligence had been received that considerable re-enforcements to the British fleet might be expected. An additional motive for urging the utmost dispatch was that every day the works of the enemy were strengthened, and additional impediments were sunk in such places as might obstruct the approaches by water to their most important batteries. *
As the militia of Massachussetts and New Hampshire, who were principally volunteers,
* The spirit of the nation was at this time so high, that a great body of volunteers offered themselves for the service, and thus there was less delay on this occasion, and less interruption given to the labour of the country than in almost any other, where a large body of militia is to be called out.
approached, general Sullivan joined general chap. IX. Greene at Tiverton, and it was agreed that the 1778. fleet should enter the main channel immediately, August 8. and that the descent should be made the succeeding day.
In execution of this plan, the ships of war entered the channel, and passed the British batteries into the harbour, without receiving, or doing any considerable damage.
The militia not arriving precisely at the time they were expected, general Sullivan could not hazard the attack, and stated to the count, the necessity of postponing it yet another day. Meanwhile, the preparations for the descent being perceived by the enemy, the troops were recalled in the night from the north end of the island into the lines at Newport. This was not perceived by general Sullivan until the next morning. On discovering it, he at once determined to avail himself of that circumstance, and take immediate possession of the works which had been abandoned. He was induced to do this from an apprehension that the British might possibly return to them.
The whole army, in conformity with this resolution crossed the east passage, and landed Ninth. on the north end of Rhode Island. Information of this movement was immediately given to the admiral, who highly resented the indelicacy supposed to have been committed by Sullivan in landing before the French, and without consulting him.
Unfortunately, some previous difficulties on 1778. subjects of mere punctilio had been created.
The count D'Estaing was a land, as well as sea officer, and held the high rank of lieutenant general in the service of France. Sullivan being only a major general, it had been appre. hended that the service might sustain some injury in consequence of a misunderstanding on this delicate point, and general Washington had suggested to him the necessity of taking every precaution to avoid it. This, it was supposed, had been effected in their first conference, at which time it was agreed that the Americans should land first, after which, the French should land, to be commanded by the count D’Estaing in person. The motives for this arrangement are not stated, but, most probably, it was made in consequence of the superior numbers of the Americans, or on some other account, solely with a view to the promotion of the object at that time contemplated. Either his own after reflections, or the suggestions of others, dissatisfied the count with it, and he insisted that the descent should be made on both sides of the island precisely at the same instant, and that one wing of the American army should be attached to the French, and land with them. He also declined commanding in person, and wished the marquis de La Fayette to take charge of the French troops, as well as of the Americans attached to them.
This alteration of the plan, it was feared, CHAP. IX. would endanger both parts, and, though not 1778. without difficulty, D'Estaing was prevailed on to consent that his demand should be reduced from one wing of the American army to one thousand militia. When afterwards, general Sullivan crossed over into the island before the time to which he had himself postponed the descent, and without giving previous notice to the count of this movement, some suspicions seem to have been excited, that the measure was taken with other views than those which were assigned; and no inconsiderable degree of ill humour was manifested on the occasion. He refused to answer Sullivan's letter, and charged lieutenant colonel Fleury who deli. vered it, with being more of an American than a Frenchman, and with prefering the interests and honour of the former to those of the latter.
At this time, a British fleet appeared, which, after sailing close into the land, and communicating with general Pigot, withdrew some distance, and came to anchor off point Judith just without the narrow inlet leading into the harbour.
After it had been ascertained that the destination of the count D'Estaing was America, he was followed by a squadron of twelve ships of the line under the command of admiral Byron, who was designed to relieve lord Howe, that nobleman having solicited his recall. The
CHAP. IX. vessels composing this squadron, meeting with 1778. weather unusually bad for the season, and being
separated in different storms, arrived, after lingering through a tedious passage, scattered, broken, sickly, dismasted, or otherwise da. maged, in various degrees of distress, on different and remote parts of the coast of America. Between the departure of D'Estaing from the hook on the 22d of July, and the 30th of that month, the Renown of fifty guns from the West Indies, the Raisonable, and Centurion of sixty-four, and fifty, from Hallifax, and the Cornwall (belonging to Byron's squadron) all arrived at Sandy hook."
This addition to the British fleet, though it left lord Howe considerably inferior to the count D'Estaing in point of force, was sufficient to determine him to attempt the relief of Newport. After being detained some time by contrary winds, he sailed from New York on the sixth, and on the ninth appeared in sight of the French fleet, before the intelligence of his departure, which, so soon as it could be obtained was transmitted by general Washing ton, had been received by the Admiral.
The wind at the time of his arrival set Howe, who directly into the harbour, so that it was impos
sible to get out of it; but the next morning, August 10. it shifted suddenly to the northeast, and the
Sails to attack lord
h Annual Register.