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CHAPTER VII
NAVAL OPERATIONS IN 1777
Owing to various causes the thirteen frigates provided for by Congress in 1775 were much delayed in fitting out and going into commission, and some of them never got to sea. The Warren and Providence were perhaps the first to be completed, but the difficulty of manning them and the occupation of Newport and the lower bay by the British kept them in port. Commodore Hopkins hoisted his pennant on the Warren early in December, 1776, perhaps before, and anchored her in the Providence River. He had with him also the frigate Providence, the ship Columbus, the brig Hampden, and the sloop Providence. January 2, 1777, Hopkins, having been informed that the British frigate Diamond was aground near Warwick Neck below the mouth of the river, went down to the vicinity in the sloop Providence. The Diamond managed to get off during the night; for allowing her to escape Hopkins was much criticized. Writing, March 13, to William Ellery, the commodore says in self-defense that as it was blowing very hard it was thought best not to try to get the frigates down the river. When he arrived on the scene in the Providence he " found the Diamond ashore on a shoal which runs off 8. W. from Patience, about half a mile from that Island and a little more S. E. from Warwick Neck, and as there is about eleven feet of water on that shoal at low water and not a very hard bottom and the tide about half down, she did not careen. There lay about one mile and a half " away " a fifty gun ship with her top-sails loose and her anchor apeak, who, as the wind was, could have fetch'd within pistol shot of the Diamond, but the wind blowing so hard was I think the reason of her not coming to sail. The truth is the ships could not have got down, and if the wind had not blow'd so hard and they could, it would not in my judgment have been prudent, neither should I have ordered them down, as the enemy's ships could have come to sail with any wind that our ships could and a great deal better, as they lay in a wide channel and we in a narrow and very crooked one. ... I went ashore at Warwick and saw Colonel Bowen, who told me he had sent for two eighteen pounders, and in less than half an hour they came. I went on board the sloop and we dropp'd down under the ship's stern a little more than musket shott off, it being then a little after sun sett. We fired a number of shott, which she returned from her stern chacers. The ship careen'd at dusk about as much as she would have done had she been under sail. After they had fired about twenty-six shott from the shore, they ceased and soon after hail'd the sloop and said they wanted to speak with me. I went ashore and was informed they were out of ammunition. I offer'd them powder and stuff for wads, but we had no shott that would do. They sent to Providence for powder and shott and I went on board the sloop and sent some junk ashore for wads. Soon after they hail'd again from the shore and I went to see what they wanted and gave Capt. Whipple orders not to fire much more, as I thought it would do but little execution, it being night and could not take good aim with the guns. When I got on shore, the officer that commanded there desir'd I would let them have some bread out of the sloop, which I sent the boat off for, but the people not making the boat well fast, while they were getting the bread she drifted away and I could not get aboard again. The ship by lightening got off about 2 o'clock the same night, and on the whole, as the ship was on a shoal almost under cover of a 50 gun ship and got off again before it was possible to have done anything with our frigates, I thought it of no moment."1 Another ship took the Diamond's station and soon after this an abortive attempt was made to destroy her with a fireship.2 Commodore Parker, commanding the British fleet at Newport, wrote to the Admiralty, January 7: "The Continental Fleet is in Providence River, beyond our reach at present."s


Hopkins was ordered by the Marine Committee, January 21, to get the Warren and Providence to sea as soon as possible, to cruise from Rhode Island to Virginia. But the commodore's active sea service in the navy had already come to an end. As the result of a petition signed by some of the Warren's officers and of the Marine Committee's examination of one of them, Captain John Grannis of the marines, Congress resolved, March 26, that " Esek Hopkins be immediately and he is hereby suspended from his command in the American Navy." After passing the remainder of the year under suspension, the commodore was formally dismissed from the service January 2, 1778. April 4,1777, Captains John B. Hopkins, Abraham Whipple, and Dudley Saltonstall were instructed to make every effort to get to sea with the frigates Warren, Providence, and Trumbull, in search of British transports and merchantmen; but these vessels were doomed to idle away the entire year in their native rivers.1

i B. I. Hist. Mag., October, 1886; Hopkins, 167-177.

* B.I. Hist. Mag., January, 1886, journal of Lieutenant Trevett.
* Brit. Adm. Bec., A.D.486. Seealao.Ziiy.,Decemberll, 1776.