ALFRED-GLASGOW ENCOUNTER. 6 April 1776. A five-ship Continental navy squadron under Esek Hopkins, returning from its successful Nassau raid with several prizes, was on its way to New London, Connecticut. Meanwhile, H.M. Frigate Glasgow (twenty-four guns) had recently become separated from a small British squadron operating in Rhode Island. She stumbled into the midst of the Continental squadron near Block Island between midnight and 1 a.m. In a remarkable action lasting all night, Captain Tyringham Howe handled the old Glasgow with great skill and great luck. Hopkins failed to coordinate the actions of the American squadron of converted merchantmen, whose crews were debilitated by disease. Instead of massing and overpowering the frigate, Hopkins let Howe fight a singleship action against his flagship, the Alfred (twenty-four guns), which despite having the same number of guns was much lighter in construction. A lucky shot knocked out the Alfred's steering, letting the badly mauled Glasgow escape to Halifax.
Casualties were relatively light (the Americans lost twenty-four killed or wounded, the British admitted suffering only four), but both vessels needed major repairs. The fledgling Continental navy correctly interpreted the engagement as a failure and held a major investigation to affix blame, effectively destroying Hopkins's reputation.
SEE ALSO Hopkins, Esek; Nassau.
revised by Robert K. Wright Jr.