A General of the Revolution: John Sullivan of New Hampshire

By Charles P. Whittemore | Go to book overview

VI: PREPARATION FOR CONFLICT
APRIL-AUGUST, 1778

His new assignment delighted Sullivan. Late in March, 1778, he informed Rhode Island's Governor Nicholas Cook that he hoped to take over the command in a fortnight, but that first he was going to visit his family in New Hampshire. 1 The Britisher, Frederick Mackenzie, upon hearing that Sullivan was assuming the command at Rhode Island, noted, "he is an enterprizing spirited fellow." 2 Enterprise and spirit would be needed, for John Sullivan knew he had to collect an army. On April 17, after his trip to Durham, he arrived in Providence where an escort met him and led him to the State House. There the Governor and Council received him before he moved on to his headquarters. On the next day the Rhode Island Council of War placed all troops within the state under his command. 3

Eager for action, Sullivan was ready for anything and even threatened Thomas Burke, his old adversary, with a duel. But that fight could wait, he said. 4 Soon he received from General Robert Pigot, British commander at Newport, the Parliamentary plan for reconciliation which had come before the House of Commons in February. Pigot trusted that Sullivan would distribute the copies throughout Rhode Island. 5 Sullivan's answer was blunt. The proposals had been printed in the Providence Gazette, he told Pigot; but he said in no uncertain terms that they had come too late. 6 Positive word that France had allied herself with the United States brought to an end the attempt at reconciliation. Therefore the task facing him was obvious: he must build up the strength of the army under his command. He

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