After the British intentionally sunk some of their ships in order to keep the French naval force at bay, the French Admiral Comte d’Estaing, brought his entire fleet into the harbour and landed his troops on the close by Conanicut Island. However, the British were expecting reinforcements by sea and, upon learning this, d’Estaing re-boarded his troops and headed out to meet the British fleet at sea lest he be cornered by a combined, and hence larger, British force. The two fleets met at sea but the battle was plagued by bad weather and seas causing both sides much damage and scattering their respective fleets.

The British made for their port of origin in New York for repairs while d’Estaing went back to Newport in order to inform his American allies that he would he departing for Boston to do the same. The Americans were outraged by this ‘desertion’ but d’Estaing had no choice but to seek repairs for his ships in a safe harbour.

The struggle between British and American forces on land continued until the Americans realised they could push the British no further back. They departed for Bristol soon after. The British, although successful in their defense, eventually abandoned Newport towards the end of 1779 and the French temporarily moved in until 1781.

Map of the position of the French army around Newport and the anchorage of the squadron in the harbor of this city.

This stylised map of the harbour and city of Newport in 1780 when the French temporarily occupied the city includes an indication of sunken vessels between Goat Island and Blue Rock, labelled ’57’. This number in the legend of the upper right corner of the map translates to:

Hulks of ships sunk to the bottom by the English on the approach of the Comte d’Estaing’s squadron in 1778.

French Naval HQ Newport 1780More Brief History of Newport

Source: Library of Congress; view here