French Arrival, 1778 - The Battle of Rhode Island

French Arrival, 1778  - The Battle of Rhode Island

The British sailed into Newport harbor on December 8, 1776 and began a three year occupation of Aquidneck Island. After the declaration of an American-French alliance in 1778, the French sent an expeditionary fleet under the command of Comte D’Estaing to aid the Americans. The fleet arrived in Newport on July 29, 1778. Together with General John Sullivan, D’Estaing planned a joint siege of British occupied Newport. The battle plans included simultaneous naval and land engagements, led by General Nathaniel Greene and the Marquis de Lafayette.

On August 9th, 1778, Lord Howe arrived in Newport Harbor with British reinforcements. The threat posed by Howe’s presence caused D’Estaing to abandon his initial plan and engage the British fleet offshore. An unexpected storm struck the two fleets on August 11, greatly damaging a number of French vessels, including the flagship Languedoc. D’Estaing retreated to Boston for repairs, leaving the American-French land forces without naval support.

British and American-French troops engaged in battle on August 22, 1778, but the Americans eventually retreated and Aquidneck remained in the hands of the British until 1779.