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The transports (which must otherwife have fallen into the enemy's hands) were sunk in different parts of those channels and passages, which might have afforded them an opportunity of attacking the works with advantage. The royal frigates were removed as far from danger as possible ; but as their loss and destruction were inevitable, in the prosecution of the enemy's design, they were dismantled of their artillery and stores, and the neceffary measures taken for fecuring the latter part of the alternative. Two oppofite bays, in the inlets on the eastern and western, fides of the island, comprefs it fo much, as to form a kind of isthmus, by which the southern end, that fpreads into the ocean, is connected with the main body. The town of Newport is just within this peninsula, and facing the island of Conanicut; the space between both forming a bay, which includes or forms the harbour. The inlet to the harbour from the sea, called the Middle Channel, is narrow, and enclosed by Brenton's Point, and the opposite point of Conanicut, which forms the southern extremities of both islands. A bar of high grounds, which crof. fes the isthmus from channel to channel above Newport, was strongly covered with lines, redoubts, and artillery ; so that the peninsula might be considered as a garrison, distinct from the rest of the island, and under the protection of a superior naval force, might in a great measure defy any attempts from the northern side, supposing that an enemy had made good its landing in such circumstances. But the enemy being masters of the sea, rendered the task of defence, under the apprehension of an attack on both fides at the same time, exceedingly arduous. The commander had however, just before, received a reinforcement
of five battalions ; the troops were in excellent condition and spirit; and the body of seamen, both with respect to labour and danger, were no small addition to their means of resistance.
The force destined against them by land, was not fo considerable as their information had led them to apprehend. The business on that side, seems to have been committed mostly, if not entirely, to the northern colonies, who were those immediately concerned in the event.
General Sullivan is, however, said to have assembled about 10,000+ men, of whom, at least, half were composed of volunteers from New England and Connecticut. As the operations of the French fleet were regulated by those of the army on the land, they continued inactive, until Sullivan was in condition to pass over from the continent to the north end of the island. On the 8th of August, finding that measure in forwardness, and the wind being favourable, they entered the harbour under an easy fail, cannonading the town and batteries as they passed, receiving their fire without any material effect on either side. They anchored above the town, between Goat-Island and Conanicut, but rather nearer to the latter, on which both the French and Americans had parties for some days. When it was discovered that the enemy intended to enter the harbour, our commanders were thrown into the utmost confusion : They found it out of their power to preserve his majesty's ships that were in that station, and it was a great mortification to set fire to vefsels that were so necessary in those parts, and of which they were likely to be in so much need, for the purposes of war, and safety to themselves and the land forces. They were, however, obliged to make a virtue of
necessity, and to burn the Orpheus, Lark, Juno, and Cerberus frigates, and soon after to fink the Flora and Falcon. Our people were now obliged to pursue the measures which they had boasted they had driven the colonists to observe, and they found at this time the poignant influence of that refle&tion, do as you would be done by. Some of these officers and their crews had been engaged in burning expeditions in several parts of the coasts of America ; but the sweetness of the application was now brought home to themselves, and they began to feel the full force of their own practice, turned against them, aggrava. ted with the grievous reflection, that they now fuf. fered no more than they well deserved. The loss of these frigates were at home considered as only a trifling matter, and the ministry and their friends, affected to bear it in a very stoical manner. It was at the same time fufficiently manifest that they felt severely the present disaster, though they spoke lightly thereof, and wanted to have it otherwise believed. When I.ord Howe received the news of the danger Rhode. Ifland was in, from the French fleet and the American troops, he was much perplexed what measures to take. His squadron, notwithstanding the late reinforcements, was in many respects inferior to that of D'Estaing. The difference in point of number of ships was little, bụt there was a great difference with respect to the number of men and the weight of metal. It was dangerous to hazard an engagement in these circumstances, and without doing it, there was no hope of saving the island. The admiral was, however, determined to attempt every thing which resolution, under the government of reason and wise conduct, could effect; and though the case was dif
ficult and hazardous, he did not despair of giving fuch
In the midst of all the preparations and eagernefs
enabled to keep a communication with General Pigot; but this was but indifferent confolation, as the result was, that under the present circumstance, the afford, ing him any effential relief was wholly impracticable. Information of this fort was really worse than none at all, for it was ready to dispirit the men upon land, and gave them reason to conjecture that matters were really worse than they were. It muft be allowed that the situation of both our feet and army was still ex ceedingly critical, and the wiseft officers amongst them could but promile little upon the head of any effore that they should make on this occasion. The circumstances of both parties were suddenly altered by the change of the wind to the north east, upon the following day, when the French admiral stood ouç to sea with his whole fleet, those in the passage of Naraganfet as well as those in the port. Lord Howe very justly considered the weather gage too great an advantage to be added to the fuperior force of the enemy, and contended for that abject with all the fkill and judgment worthy of an able and experienced fea officer. The French admiral, notwithstanding the fuperiority of his force, was as earnest to preserve this advantage, as the English was to gain it. This trial of skill in sea operations prevented an engage. ment for all that day ; but the wind on the following day continuing adverse to the defigns of Lord Howe, he determined to make the best of the present circumstances, and to engage the enemy; forming the line in such a manner as to be joined by three fire. slips, which were under the tow of as many frigates. All the preparations for this refolute engagement, and the whole design, frustrated by a violent storm that now arose, which