From Major General John Sullivan
Portsmouth Rhode Island 10 Aug. 1778
The Count De-Estaing and myself were by Agreement to land our Forc[e]s here this Morning but I having received Intelligence early Yesterday Morning that the Enemy had abandoned the north End of the Island entirely in Consequence of the French Fleets coming up the River thought it best to push over without Loss of Time the whole of my Troops which accordingly was done1—immediately after our landing a Fleet of 29 Sail, 8 or 10 of which appeared to be Vessells of Force were discovered standing into Newport under Eng. Colours2—As the Wind was small & unfavourable the Count kept his Position but this Morning he got under Way with a fine Breeze, passed the Batteries at Newport and those which are below with all his Ships of the Line & went in Chace of the English Fleet—At 11 oClock I had the Pleasure of seeing them fly before him.
The Count has left three Frigates in the East Passage—It is out of my Power to inform You when we shall make the Attack on the Enemy as it is uncertain when the French Fleet will return and I think it necessary to wait their Arrival as their Troops are on b[o]ard. I have the Honor to be with much Respect, dear General, Your most obedt & very hble Servt
LS, DLC:GW; copy, DNA:PCC, item 160. The copy was enclosed in GW’s letter to Henry Laurens of 13 August.
1. Manasseh Cutler, chaplain for Brig. Gen. Jonathan Titcomb’s brigade of Massachusetts militia, recorded in his journal for 9 Aug.: “This morning the army was ordered to parade near Howland’s Ferry, in order to embark and re-embark in the boats, that they might better understand such a maneuver; but a reconnoitering party having discovered that the enemy had left the upper end of the Island, and retreated into Newport, the troops embarked and proceeded over, formed on the opposite beach, and marched up and took possession of their works, which were not at all damaged” (Cutler, Rev. Manasseh Cutler description begins William Parker Cutler and Julia Perkins Cutler, eds. Life, Journals and Correspondence of Rev. Manasseh Cutler, LL.D. 2 vols. Cincinnati, 1888. description ends , 1:65–66).
2. The British fleet consisted of the Cornwall, mounting 74 guns; the Eagle, Trident, Nonsuch, Raisonable, Somerset, St. Albans, and Ardent of 64 guns; the Preston, Centurion, Experiment, Isis, and Renown of 50 guns; the Phoenix and Roebuck of 44 guns; the 36-gun Venus; the Richmond, Pearl, and Apollo of 32 guns; the Sphynx and Vigilant of 20 guns; the sloop Nautilus; and three fireships, two bombs, two tenders, and four galleys (“List of the Squadron of His Majesties Ships which Sailed from Sandy Hook under the Command of the Vice Admiral the Viscount Howe, August the 6th 1778,” P.R.O., Adm. 1/488, fol. 319).