Recorded in the London Gazette is a letter from Major General Pigot to General Clinton – dated August 31st, 1778. From this letter we learn of the preparations the British made with the threat of French ships approaching. With the appearance of the French, Pigot began to gather provisions, ammunitions and stores of goods in order to prepare a fortified camp.

With the French in the Sakonnet, Pigot ordered the Kingfisher and two Galleys (Alarm and Spitfire) to be set on fire; and afterwards … the four advanced Frigates (Juno, Orpheus, Cerberus, Lark). These ships were destroyed to keep them from being captured.

According to the annotations by John Hattendorf:

  1. Kingfisher was a sloop. She was deliberately set on fire, broke from anchorage and blew up off High Hill Point in Tiverton
  2. Alarm was a galley. She was set on fire and exploded south of McCorrie Point.
  3. Spitfire was a galley. She also was set on fire off High Hill Point in Tiverton.
  4. Juno was sunk in Coddington Cove.
  5. Orpheus was sunk off Melville.
  6. Cerberus was sunk about 400 feet off Carr Point.
  7. Lark was sunk on the south side of Arnold’s Point in Portsmouth.

A few years ago I had come across a newspaper clipping dealing with these scuttled British ships. I’m not sure where the clippings came from, but Barre Press 1966 was sited in the article. Note that Flora, Pigot and Falcon are also listed as burned or sunk. Red circles show the locations of the downed ships.

The ship locations also appear on an early map 1778- Attacks upon Rhode Island that is in the collection of the Library of Congress.


John Hattendorf – The Battle of Rhode Island in 1778: the Official British View as Reported in the London Gazette.2021 Stone Tower Press, Middletown, Rhode Island