Rhode Island Campaign: The First French and American Operation in the Revolutionary War
On July 29, 1778, a powerful French naval squadron appeared at the entrance of Narragansett Bay. Its goal was to help the Americans capture the British garrison at Newport, Rhode Island. As the French moved into the bay, surprised British captains scuttled many of their vessels rather than risk capture, resulting in the most significant loss of warships suffered by the British navy during the war. The French then turned to sea to engage the main British fleet but were scat- tered and damaged by a huge storm, taking them out of the campaign. The American army under General John Sullivan, meanwhile, was stranded on a small island near Newport without the expected French naval support. When they tried to retreat, British and Hessian regulars were sent to destroy Sullivan's army; instead of a rout, a running battle ensued. The Continentals, brimming with confidence after their training during the winter of Valley Forge, once more proved that they were an effective fighting force, despite the cam- paign's failure. The Rhode Island Campaign: The First French and American Operation in the Revolutionary War unravels one of the most complex and multifaceted events of the war, one which combined land and sea strategies and featured contro- versial decisions on both sides. Many prominent patriots participated, including Nathanael Greene, Marquis de Lafayette, John Hancock, and Paul Revere. Most important, while the lack of success led to harsh criticism of the French in some quarters, leaders such as Greene, Lafayette, and George Washington steadfastly worked to ensure that the alliance would remain intact, knowing that the next joint operation could well succeed. Relying on in-depth research from American, French, British, and German original sources, author Christian M. McBurney has written the most authoritative book on this fascinating episode.