The Battle of Rhode Island began on 29 August 1778. Under the Treaty of Alliance, signed in February 1778, the French were fighting on behalf of America. Their combined land and naval forces laid siege to Rhode Island in August 1778, with a view to forcing the British out of Newport. On 9 August, Commander D’Estaing’s fleet of twelve warships forced General Howe to divert British ships from Newport. The French and British fleets skirmished, causing damage to both fleets. The French retreated to Newport to repair their vessels, while the British sheltered in New York harbour. The Americans, denied French naval support, prepared to retreat, but were blocked, and defeated, by the British, under General Pigot. The American General Sullivan, who had led the American army at Rhode Island, blamed D’Estaing for their defeat. In 1779, the Americans beat the British on the New York mainland at Stony Point and Paulus Hook.
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