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being taken by two other ships of the line." The senior British naval officer, seeing retreat cut off both north and south, now destroyed those ships of war” 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,” 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.
3 I have not been able to find an exact statement of the number; Beatson gives eight regiments, with a reinforcement of five bat
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," 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 narrative, “either they must have been prevented from forming a junction with our squadron, and forced again to sea, or we should have had the mortification to see them increase the triumph of our enemy.” On the 1st of August, forty-eight hours after the Cornwall had come in from a stormy passage of fifty-two days, the squadron was ready for sea, and Howe attempted to sail; but the wind hauled foul immediately after the signal to weigh had been made. It did not become fair at the hour of high water, when alone heavy ships could cross the bar, until the morning of the 6th. “Rhode Island was of such importance,” says the narrator already quoted, “and the fate of so large a portion of the British army as formed the garrison was of such infinite consequence to the general cause, that it was imagined the Admiral would not lose a moment in making some attempt for their relief.” He had learned of the detachments made from the French fleet, and hoped that some advantage might be taken of this division. In short, he went, as was proper and incumbent on him in such critical circumstances, to take a great risk, in hope of a favourable chance offering. On the 9th, as before stated, he anchored off Point Judith, and opened communications with the garrison, from which he learned the events that had so far occurred, and also that the enemy was well provided with craft of all kinds to make a descent upon any part of the Island. As deGrasse at Yorktown, when rumour announced the approach of a British fleet, was deterred only by the most urgent appeals of Washington from abandoning his control of the Chesapeake, essential to the capture of Cornwallis, so now d'Estaing, in Narragansett Bay, was unwilling to keep his place, in face of Howe's greatly inferior squadron." 1 Troude attributes d'Estaing's sortie to a sense of the insecurity
* 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.