George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Nicholas Cooke, 8 December 1776

From Nicholas Cooke

Providence December 8th 1776.
past 10. o’Clock P.M.


It is with great Concern that I give you the disagreeable Intelligence that the Enemy with a Fleet consisting of 78 Ships of War and Transports entered the Harbor of Newport Yesterday. We had about Six hundred Men upon Rhode-Island who were Obliged to evacuate it with the Loss of about 15 or 20 heavy Cannon, having taken off the Amunition and Stores & the greatest part of the Stock. The Enemy have full Possession of the Island. I am informed by Genl West, & Lieutenant Barron of the Providence that they Landed this Morning about Eight O’Clock with Eight Thousand Men who marched in three Divisions, One towards Newport the Second towards Howlands Ferry and the Third to Bristol Ferry where they arrived time enough to fire upon the Boats that brought over our last Men; but without doing Damage.1 I have sent Repeated Expresses to the Massachusets-Bay & Connecticut. The Forces of the former are upon the March as I believe the latter are also. In great haste I am Your Excellencys most Obt hble Servt

Nichs Cooke

P.S. We have also intelligence of 60 Sail more of Transports coming down the Sound.

LS, PHi: Gratz Collection; copy, enclosed in GW to Hancock, 20 Dec. 1776, DNA:PCC, item 152; copy, DNA:PCC, item 169. The copies do not include the postscript. The cover of the LS is in DLC:GW. It is addressed: “To His Excellency George Washington Esq. Commander in Chief of the Armies of the United States of America at Head Quarters. Jersies.” The cover includes a note in unidentified writing that reads: “Munday Evening the 16 found this letter at Morris Townd at Cpt. Th[omas] Kinney Left by a light horse man.” GW apparently received the letter on 20 Dec. (see GW to Hancock that date).

1For a more detailed account of the landing of Gen. Henry Clinton’s troops on Rhode Island and their capture of Newport on 7 Dec., see Mackenzie, Diary description begins Diary of Frederick Mackenzie Giving a Daily Narrative of His Military Service as an Officer of the Regiment of Royal Welch Fusiliers during the Years 1775–1781 in Massachusetts, Rhode Island and New York. 2 vols. Cambridge, Mass., 1930. description ends , 1:123–24. William West (1732–c.1816) of Scituate, a brigadier general of the Rhode Island militia and a member of the general assembly, wrote Cooke on 7 Dec.: “I arived at Newpo[r]t the fifth Day of this Instant when I found Colonel [John] Cook upon a Retreat and I thought it Best not to Countermand the order Bout to asist with all Posable Des patch[.] we have got of[f] a grate quanty of Stock also Chiefe of the Bagage and war Like Stores But obliged to Leve about fifteen have Canno[n.] have take of[f] all the troops[.] I Came of[f] in the Last Boat But one[.] the Enemy Got Down to the farry Befour I Got half over and fired upon the Last Boat But killed no men” (Naval Documents description begins William Bell Clark et al., eds. Naval Documents of the American Revolution. 11 vols. to date. Washington, D.C., 1964–. description ends , 7:396). William Barron (d. 1778) of Virginia was commissioned first lieutenant of the Continental navy frigate Providence in June 1776. In the spring of 1778 Barron was first lieutenant of the frigate Boston, which took John Adams to France, and during the voyage Barron was fatally injured by the accidental explosion of one of the ship’s guns (see Butterfield, Adams Diary and Autobiography description begins L. H. Butterfield, ed. Diary and Autobiography of John Adams. 4 vols. Cambridge, Mass., 1961. description ends , 2:284, 286–88, 4:23, 25–27). Howland’s ferry and the Bristol ferry both were at the north end of Rhode Island, about ten miles north of Newport.

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