Action in Narragansett Bay

27th August 1777
Part of : The American War of Independence (1775/04/19 - 1784/01/14)
Previous action : American Tartar vs Pole 12.7.1777
Next action : Action of 1777-09-04 4.9.1777


United States of America

Ship NameCommanderNotes
Oliver Cromwell (22) Samuel Chace Burnt

Great Britain

Ship NameCommanderNotes
Kingfisher (14) Alexander Graeme (1741-1818)

Notes on Action

Description of the actionW027

The Oliver Cromwell and the Continental Navy Brigantine Hampden both attempted to breakout past the British blockade in Narragansett Bay on the morning of 27 August. It was a very dark night, with a heavy fog. The chosen route was out of the Taunton River and down the Sakonnet River, guarded only by HM Sloop Kingsfisher.

At 0400 the British battery at Fogland Ferry discerned a brig passing by. She was almost past the battery before any shots were fired. The gunners managed to fire at her twice before she made off. The gunfire awakened the sleeping Kingsfisher, which discovered a large ship near her, with a full press of sail set. Kingsfisher slipped her anchor and got under way, firing her bow chaser at the Oliver Cromwell. Chace, with no men aboard to fight back, altered course and ran the ship hard ashore to the north of Sakonnet Point. Kingsfisher hustled up and anchored nearby. Kingsfisher then began firing into the ship, which forced the Americans to abandon ship and row ashore in their boats.

Kingsfisher sent her boats to the Oliver Cromwell. Ashore the American crew rallied and kept up a “continual” but ineffective fire on the British boarding party. The British intended to refloat the ship. However it was ebb tide, she was driven hard ashore and all her sail was set. The boarding party found a light burning in the light room of the magazine. Unable to float their prize, the British set her on fire and she blew up about 0500. Not a single shot had been fired from the Oliver Cromwell.

The fight with the Oliver Cromwell effectively covered the Hampden, which got away. The British thought that "The want of spirit on the part of the Rebels was very conspicuous. It is probable she had not less than 150 or 200 men on board; and for a vessel of that force to run ashore from a Sloop of War of 14 Guns and about 90 men, without firing a shot, was perfectly scandalous."


W027American War of Independence at SeaKen Kellow, Web Site

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