From Major General John Sullivan
Providence Septemr 17th 1778
Inclosed is all the Intelligance of this Day1 The Sloops & Schooners mentioned by General Cornell by the name of the mesqueto Fleet are undoubtedly the Fleet which I mentioned in a former Letter went from Newport & Stood Eastward Hugging the Shore2—The other Fleet mentioned by Genl Cornell is Grays—The Ships which Colo. Peabody mentions as Coming into the Harbor are Lord Howes Fleet Joined to the musqueto Squadron—They Sailed again to Join Gray & the whole are passing up the Sound I am at a Loss for their Intentions but Rather Suppose new London is their object.3 I think my Letter of yesterday bears Date the 15th which your Excellencey will please to Rectify.4 I have the Honor to be with the most profound Respect your Excellenceys most obedt Servt
1. Sullivan enclosed the letter that Brig. Gen. Ezekiel Cornell of the Rhode Island militia wrote to him on 16 Sept. from Tiverton, R.I., and the letter that Lt. Col. Stephen Peabody of the New Hampshire militia wrote to Col. Christopher Greene on 16 Sept. from South Kingstown, R.I. (both in DLC:GW).
Cornell writes in part: “Last Sunday Night [13 Sept.] our Neighbours at Butts Hill, for the sake of good Neighbourhood took up the Bridges at the Creek—The day following the Musqueto fleet all Sloops & Schooners but one, twenty three in all, beat into Seconnet Passage [Sakonnet River] come too about 10 oClock in the morning and spent the remaining part of the day in landing Cattle & Sheep at sachueast [Point]—This morning at Sunrise appeared off Seconnett Passage, about Sixty Sail Close in with the land Standing directly for Newport Harbour as we suppose, about forty of which are Square rigged Vessells—I beleive there is full that Number tho I cannot Exactly say as they double one upon Another—There was a Number a large Distance at sea which seemed to Manouvre much like the Connecticut Light-Horse, when they undertake to Flank a little & so I suppose the last mentioned fleet to be the one that has lately been at Bedford the Vineyard.”
Peabody’s letter reads: “There is this forenoon A fleet of forty eight Sail of the enemies Shipping Sailed out from Newport the most of them Came into the Harbour last night, And are now gone to the westward There are near Twenty which Appear to be Ships of force, The greater part of the others are Small vessels.”
3. For rumors of a British attack on New London, Conn., see also Ezekiel Cornell to Lafayette, 13 Sept., in Sullivan to GW, 15 Sept., n.2; Sullivan to GW, 21 Sept.; Horatio Gates to GW, 23 Sept.; and Charles Scott to GW, 27 Sept. (first letter). The British fleet carrying Maj. Gen. Charles Grey’s troops back to New York from their recent raids on New Bedford and Fairhaven, Mass., and Martha’s Vineyard arrived off the Rhode Island coast on the morning of 16 Sept. and proceeded to Fishers Island. The next day it sailed west through the Long Island Sound to Whitestone, Long Island, where the troops landed on 19 Sept. (see Gruber, Peebles’ American War description begins Ira D. Gruber, ed. John Peebles’ American War: The Diary of a Scottish Grenadier, 1776–1782. Mechanicsburg, Pa., 1998. description ends , 219–20; see also Charles Scott to GW, 21 Sept., and Baurmeister, Revolution in America description begins Carl Leopold Baurmeister. Revolution in America: Confidential Letters and Journals, 1776–1784, of Adjutant General Major Baurmeister of the Hessian Forces. Translated and annotated by Bernhard A. Uhlendorf. New Brunswick, N.J., 1957. description ends , 214–15). Lord Howe’s fleet had arrived at New York on 11 Sept. (see Kemble Papers description begins [Stephen Kemble]. The Kemble Papers. 2 vols. New York, 1884-85. In Collections of the New-York Historical Society, vols. 16–17. description ends , 1:162, and Laughton, “Journals of Henry Duncan,” description begins John Knox Laughton, ed. “Journals of Henry Duncan, Captain, Royal Navy, 1776–1782.” The Naval Miscellany 1 (London, 1902): 105–219. In Publications of the Navy Records Society, vol. 20. description ends 164).