We often focus on the day of the Battle of Rhode Island, but the Rhode Island Campaign was more than just a day. It began with the cultivation of French help in the war and then the buildup of French and American forces in the Rhode Island area. This blog will focus on the American gathering of troops at Tiverton. The next blog will feature the amassing of flat bottom boats for the landing on Aquidneck Island.

7/22/1778 – Washington received word from Alexander Hamilton that the French were sailing for Rhode Island. Col. John Laurens was sent to Providence to be liaison officer with the French.

DuChesnoy Map

7/23/1778 – Varnum and Glover and Jackson marched toward Rhode Island. “The game for Rhode Island was on.”

7/27/1778 – Lafayette was ordered to surrender half his command to Major General Nathanael Greene.

7/29/1778 – The French fleet arrived off Point Judith. General Sullivan came aboard to tell French the Continentals and militia had not arrived. The Fleet had to wait.

7/31/1778 – General Nathanael Greene appeared in Rhode Island. He brought carpenters and boat builders under Major Benjamin Eyres. Greene devoted himself to supply and transportation issues. He wrote the Board of War. “It will be necessary for the board to order that one half of the militia fit for actual service be drafted and none others. If something of this sort don’t take place, there will be a great diminution of our expected force.” The Rhode Island Council of War waited until the French arrived to draft the militia and that call up was only for fifteen days so as not to delay the harvest. The militia were not due to arrive until August 6th.

Glover’s brigade arrived in Providence.

8/3/1778 – All the Continental forces had arrived in Rhode Island. Troops were camped in Swansea in Massachusetts and in Tiverton, Bristol and Providence.

8/4/1778 – Lafayette boarded the Languedoc – d’Estaing’s flagship.

A plan was agreed upon. The French were to block the entrance of the Newport harbor on August 8th. The next convenient day, after militia arrived, there were to be two simultaneous landings (1st – by Americans at Fogland Ferry. 2nd by French and some American reinforcements near Lawton’s Valley.). This would cut off Portsmouth and give Americans control of Northern forts.

The forces would unite and move against the works at Newport.

Sullivan’s address to his troops before moving onto Aquidneck Island: (quoted in Taylor’s Campaign on Rhode Island but I have not be able to find this in another source.)

“The commander in chief in Rhode Island takes this opportunity to return his cordial thanks to the brave officers and soldiers and volunteers who have with so much alacrity repaired to this place to give their assistance in extirpating the British tyrant from this country. The zeals which they have discovered are to him the most pleasing presages of VICTORY; and he is happy to find himself at the head of an army far superior in numbers to that of the enemy, animated by a sacred regard for the Liberties of their country and fired with a just resentment against the Barbarians who have deluged with innocent blood and spread desolation on every part of the continent where they have been suffered to march.

The prospect before you is exceeding promising. The several corps have now everything to animate them and to press them on to VICTORY. The tried bravery of the Continental officers and soldiers and the idea they must have of the dependence upon their valor of both the army and country stimulates them to support themselves in the character they most justly acquired. Independent corps and volunteers who have so cheerfully come to assist in the enterprise have every inducement to exert themselves to meet the expectations they have acquired by flying to the relief of their country. The state troops which the General has so long had the honor to command, he has the strongest reasons to believe will not suffer themselves to be outshined or excelled in bravery by any troops in the army. The militia composed of respectable freemen and citizens of America who have so ably fought and conquered the last year must now feel every inducement inspirit them on to Conquest and Glory.

The character of the several corps which compose the army; the expectations of their country; the safety of our land; the protection of our property; and, in short, everything which animates men to fight and conquer calls aloud upon us to act the part of freemen, becoming to the character of Americans.

The General, for his part, assures his brave army that he will with the utmost cheerfulness share with them in every danger and fatigue and is ready to venture his life in every instance where the good of his country calls for it – to them and to his country he stands ready to sacrifice his life if necessary – And from the brave officers and men which he has the honor to command, he expects to find the same disposition. Fired with the same sentiment and engaged in so just a cause, we must conquer. We must win the laurels which await us; and return into the arms of a grateful country.”

Major General John Sullivan.

Campaign on Rhode Island 1778 by Erich A. O’D. Taylor, 1928
The Rhode Island Campaign by Christian McBurney, 2011.

Map: Capitaine Du Chesnoy, Michel, and Marie Joseph Paul Yves Roch Gilbert Du Motier Lafayette. Carte des positions occupeés par les trouppes Américaines apres leur retraite de Rhode Island le 30 Aout. [1778] Map. https://www.loc.gov/item/00555648/.