Battle of Rhode Island Interactive Timeline

The first collaboration between the United States and the French Monarchy took place in Rhode Island during the summer of 1778. King Louis appointed Charles Henri Theodat, Comte d’Estaing to command the French navy’s powerful Toulon squadron. The French fleet were poised to sail towards New York but they realized that their ships were too deep for the shallow waters. D’Estaing sent a letter to General Washington suggesting that he could support the efforts in Newport. George Washington ordered General John Sullivan to raise an army in Rhode Island and troops gathered in Tiverton. With the arrival of the French fleet, the British abandoned the northern defenses on Aquidneck Island. On August 9th Sullivan began to cross into Portsmouth via Howland Ferry. The Americans moved into Middletown and began to build siege lines to attack Newport. A great storm blew in August 11th and 12th and the French fleet was damaged. The French departed for Boston to make repairs to their ships and d’Estaing could not be persuaded to come back to Newport. August 24th Sullivan receives communications from Washington that a British fleet of 100 ships is on its way to Newport. The Americans prepare to withdraw. This sets the stage for the Battle of Rhode Island. The goal of the Americans was to withdraw successfully from Aquidneck Island so they could fight another day.