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piqued and chagrned at the departure of his allies, determined to commence the siege immediately, without waiting for his tardy aid. On the twelfth, however, came on a tempest of wind and rain, wheh raged for two days and nights with unexampled violence. Texts were blown down; several soldiers and many horses perished, and a great part of the ammunition recently dealt out to the troops was destroyed. On the 14th, the weather cleared up and the sun shone brightly, but the army was worn down and dispirited. Had the British troops sallied forth at this juncture hale and fresh from comfortable quarters, it might have fared badly with their weatherbeaten besiegers. The latter, however, being unmolested, had time to breathe and refit themselves. The day was passed in drying their clothes, cleaning their arms, and putting themselves in order for action. By the next morning they were again on the alert. Expecting the prompt return of the French, they now took post on Honeyman's Hill, about two miles from the British lines, and began to construct batteries, form lines of communication, and make regular approaches. The British were equally active in strengthening their defences. There was casual cannonading on each side, but nothing of consequence. Several days elapsed without the reappearance of the French. The situation of the besiegers was growing critical, when, on the evening of the 19th, they descried the expected fleet standing toward the harbor. All now was exultation in the camp. Should the French with their ships and troops attack the town by sea and land on the one side, while the Americans assailed it on the other, the surrender of the place was inevitable.
These sanguine anticipations, however, were shortlived French fleet was in a shattered and forlorn condition.
D'ESTAING REFUSES TO CO-OPERATE.
sailing from before Newport, on the 20th, it had manoeuvred for two days with the British fleet, each unwilling to enter into action without having the weathergage. While thus manoeuvring, the same furious storm which had raged on shore separated and dispersed them with fearful ravage. Some single encounters of scattered ships subsequently took place, but without definite result. All were too much tempest-tost and disabled to make good fight. Lord Howe with such of his ships as he could collect bore away to New York to refit, and the French admiral was now before Newport, but in no plight or mood for fighting.
In a letter to General Sullivan, he informed him that pursuant to the orders of his sovereign and the advice of his officers, he was bound for Boston, being instructed to repair to that port, should he meet with misfortune, or a superior British force appear upon the coast.
Dismayed at this intelligence, which threatened ruin and dis grace to the enterprise, Sullivan wrote a letter of remonstrance to the count, and General Greene and the Marquis Lafayette repaired with it on board of the admiral's ship, to enforce it by their personal exertions. They represented to the count the certainty of carrying the place in two days, by a combined attack; and the discouragement and reproach that would follow a failure on this their first attempt at co-operation; an attempt, too, for which the Americans had made such great and expensive preparations, and on which they had indulged such sanguine hopes. These and other considerations equally urgent had their weight with the count, and he was inclined to remain and pursue the enterprise, but was overruled by the principal officers of his fleet. The fact is, that he was properly a land officer, and they had been indignant at his having a nautical command over their heads. They
were glad, therefore, of any opportunity to thwart and mortify him; and now insisted on his complying with his letter of instructions, and sailing for Boston. On Lafayette's taking leave, the count assured him that he would only remain in Boston time enough to give his men repose after their long sufferings, and refit his ships; and trusted to leave the port again within three weeks after entering it, "to fight for the glory of the French name and the interests of America." *
The marquis and General Greene returned at midnight, and made a report of the ill success of their mission. Sullivan sent another letter on the following day, urging D'Estaing in any event to leave his land forces. All the general officers, excepting Lafayette, joined in signing and sending a protest against the departure of the fleet for Boston, as derogatory to the honor of France, contrary to the intention of his most Christian majesty and the interest of his nation, destructive of the welfare of the United States, and highly injurious to the alliance formed between the two nations. The fleet was already under way when Colonel Laurens got on board of the admiral's ship with the letter and protest. The count was deeply offended by the tone of the protest, and the manner in which it was conveyed to him. He declared to Colonel Laurens that "this paper imposed on the commander of the king's squadron the painful, but necessary law of profound silence." He continued his course to Boston.
At the sailing of the ships there was a feeling of exasperation throughout the camp. Sullivan gave vent to his vexation in a general order on the 24th, wherein he observed: "The general cannot help lamenting the sudden and unexpected departure of
* Letter of Lafayette to Washington. Memoirs, T. i. p. 194.
DEPARTURE OF THE FLEET.
the French fleet, as he finds it has a tendency to discourage some who placed great dependence upon the assistance of it; though he can by no means suppose the army, or any part of it, endangered by this movement. He yet hopes the event will prove America able to procure that by her own arms which her allies refuse to assist in obtaining."
On cooler reflection he thought proper, in subsequent orders, to explain away the rash and unwarrantable imputation on French loyalty contained in the foregoing document, but a general feeling of irritation against the French continued to prevail in the army.
As had been foretold, the departure of the fleet was a deathblow to the enterprise. Between two and three thousand volunteers abandoned the camp in the course of four and twenty hours; others continued to go off; desertions occurred among the militia, and in a few days the number of besiegers did not exceed that of the besieged.
All thoughts of offensive operations were now at an end. The question was how best to extricate the army from its perilous position. The harbors of Rhode Island being now free, and open to the enemy, reinforcements might pour in from New York, and render the withdrawal of the troops disastrous, if not impossible To prepare for rapid retreat, if necessary, all the heavy artillery that could be spared, was sent off from the island. On the 28th it was determined, in a council of war, to fall back to the military works at the north end of the island, and fortify there, until it should be known whether the French fleet would soon return to their assistance, the Marquis Lafayette setting off with all speed to have an interview with the Count D'Estaing, and ascertain the fact.
General Sullivan broke up his camp, and commenced his retreat that very night, between nine and ten o'clock; the army retiring by two roads; the rear covered by parties of light troops, under Colonels Livingston and Laurens.
Their retreat was not discovered until daylight, when a pursuit was commenced. The covering parties behaved gallantly making frequent stands, abandoning one eminence only to take post on another, and keeping up a retreating fire that checked the advance of the enemy. After a series of skirmishes they were pressed back to the fortified grounds on the north end of the island; but Sullivan had already taken post there, on Batt's Hill, the main body of his army being drawn up in order of battle, with strong works in their rear, and a redoubt in front of the right wing.
The British now took post on an advantageous height called Quaker Hill, a little more than a mile from the American front, whence they commenced a cannonade which was briskly returned. Skirmishing ensued until about ten o'clock, when two British sloops-of-war and some small vessels having gained a favorable position, the enemy's troops, under cover of their fire, advanced in force to turn the right flank of the American army, and capture the redoubt which protected it. This was bravely defended by General Greene: a sharp action ensued, which had nearly become a general one; between two and three hundred men were killed on each side; the British at length drew back to their artillery and works on Quaker Hill, and a mutual cannonade was resumed and kept up until night.
On the following day (29th) the enemy continued his distant firing, but waited for reinforcements before coming to close quarters. In the mean time, General Sullivan had received intelli