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freed him from observation, he turned, and made for Narragansett Bay, an attack on which, in support of an American land force, had been concerted between him and Washington. On the 29th he anchored three miles south of Rhode Island, and there awaited a suitable moment for forcing the entrance.
Narragansett Bay contains several islands. The two largest, near the sea, are Rhode Island and Conanicut, the latter being the more westerly. Their general direction, as that of the Bay itself, is north and south; and by them the entrance is divided into three passages. Of these, the eastern, called Seakonnet, is not navigable above Rhode Island. The central, which is the main channel, is joined by the western above Conanicut, and thus the two lead to the upper Bay. The town of Newport is on the west side of Rhode Island, four miles from the main entrance.
On the 30th of July, the day after the French fleet had arrived, two of its ships of the line, under command of the afterwards celebrated Suffren, went up the western channel, anchoring within it near the south end of Conanicut. One of them, as she passed, was hulled twice by the British batteries. At the same time, two frigates and a corvette entered Seakonnet; whereupon the British abandoned and burned a sloop of war, the Kingfisher, 16, and some galleys there stationed. The British general, Sir Robert Pigot, now withdrew his detachments from Conanicut, after disabling the guns, and concentrated the bulk of his force in the southern part of Rhode Island and about Newport. Goat Island, which covers the inner harbour of the town, was still occupied, the main channel being commanded by its batteries, as well as by those to the north and south of it upon Rhode Island. On the 5th of August, Suffren's two ships again got under way, sailed through the western passage, and anchored in the main channel, north of Conanicut; their former positions being taken by two other ships of the line.1 The senior British naval officer, seeing retreat cut off both north and south, now destroyed those ships of war2 which could not enter the inner harbour, sinking two between Goat and Rhode Islands, to prevent any enemy passing there. Five transports also were sunk north of Goat Island, between it and Coaster's Harbour, to protect the inside anchorage in that direction. These preliminary operations cost the British five frigates and two sloops, besides some galleys. Guns and ammunition taken from them went to increase the defences; and their officers and crews, over a thousand in number, served in the fortifications.
On the 8th of August the eight remaining French ships of the line ran the batteries on Rhode and Goat Islands, anchoring above the latter, between it and Conanicut, and were rejoined there by the four previously detached to the western passage. Ten thousand American troops having by this time crossed from the mainland to the northern part of Rhode Island, d'Estaing immediately landed four thousand soldiers and seamen from the fleet upon Conanicut, for a preliminary organisation; after which they also were to pass to Rhode Island and join in the operations. For the moment, therefore, the British garrison, numbering probably six thousand men,3 was hemmed in by vastly superior forces, by land and by water. Its embarrassment, however, did not last long. On the following morning Lord Howe appeared and anchored off Point Judith, seven miles from the entrance to the Bay, and twelve from the position then occupied by the
1 These four ships were among the smallest of the fleet, being one 74, two 64's, and a 50. D'Estaing very properly reserved his heaviest ships to force the main channel.
2 Flora, 32; Juno, 32; Lark, 32; Orpheus, 32; Falcon, 16.
31 have not been able to find an exact statement of the number; Beatson gives eight regiments, with a reinforcement of five battalions.
French fleet. He brought a stronger force than he had been able to gather for the defence of New York, having now one 74, seven 64's, and five 50's, in all thirteen of the line, besides several smaller vessels; but he still was greatly inferior to opponent, by any rational mode of naval reckoning.
Howe's energies in New York had not been confined to preparations for resisting the entrance of the enemy, nor did they cease with the latter's departure. When he first arrived there from Philadelphia, he had hastened to get his ships ready for sea, a pre-occupation which somewhat, but not unduly, delayed their taking their positions at Sandy Hook. Two, for instance, had been at the watering-place when the approach of the French was signalled. Owing to this diligence, no time was lost by his fault when the new destination of the enemy was made known to him, on the 28th or 29th of-July, by the arrival of the Raisonnable, 64,1 from Halifax. This ship narrowly escaped the French fleet, having passed it on the evening of the 27th, steering for Rhode Island. The Renown, 50, which on the 26th had reached New York from the West Indies, had a similar close shave, having sailed unnoticed through the rear of the enemy the night before. Besides these two, Howe was joined also by the Centurion, 50, from Halifax, and by the Cornwall, 74; the latter, which crossed the bar on the 30th, being the first of Byron's fleet to reach New York. The three others belonged to Howe's own squadron. For the two Halifax ships which helped to make this most welcome reinforcement, the Admiral was indebted to the diligence of the officer there commanding, who hurried them away as soon as he learned of d'Estaing's appearance on the coast. The opportuneness of their arrival attracted notice. "Had they appeared a few days sooner," says a contemporary narra
1 It may be interesting to recall that this was the ship on the books of which Nelson's name was first borne in the navy, in 1771.