Today, the Rhode Island State Quarter Coin remembers the bravery and ingenuity of the Continental soldiers that removed the British schooner Pigot from blockading the Seaconet.
Silas Talbot commanding the sloop Hawk successfully captured the Pigot without loss of life on either side.
From the Battles of the United States: By Sea and Land, published in 1858, edited by Henry Barton Dawson:
October 28, 1778
The Capture of the Pigot
The operations on Rhode Island, and the destruction of the enemy’s vessels, have been already referred to; and the command of the ferries, and other lines of communication, between the island and the main, were secured to the inhabitants, much to the annoyance of the royal authorities.
To close one of these points,—the east passage,—a fine stout schooner, of about two hundred tons, was procured; her upper deck removed; her lower deck pierced for twelve eight-pounders, which had been removed from the Flora; strong boarding-netting carried around her bulwarks; and forty-five men, under Lieutenant Dunlap, of the Royal Navy, placed on board.
She was named the Pigot, in honor of the royal commander on Rhode Island, and, anchored near Howland’s Ferry, at the mouth of the Seaconet, “she completely barred its entrance, and, for a long period, kept a sullen and undisturbed watch, greatly to the detriment of the island and the American army.”
Against this vessel, on the twenty-fifth of October, Major Talbot, with forty-five men, and two three-pounders, left Providence, on board a small coasting-sloop called the Hawk.
Soon after he left the town, the wind died away, and he was compelled to anchor and remain there during that and the following days.
On the night of the twenty-sixth, the wind again favored the expedition, and it proceeded as far as the Taunton River, receiving, on its way, the fire of the enemy’s battery at the Bristol Ferry.
The wind being unfavorable for the new course which the sloop had to take, on the following morning (Oct. 27th) Major Talbot went on shore, and, on horseback, proceeded to reconnoiter the enemy.
He rode down until he came opposite the Pigot, when her position, equipments, &c., were carefully examined and noted, after which he returned to his vessel, and prepared for action.
Fearing that his force was insufficient to accomplish his object, he applied to General Cornell for a reinforcement; and, about nine in the evening, after receiving an addition to his small party of fifteen men and Lieutenant Helms, from the Rhode Island line, he weighed anchor, and sailed down the passage.
When he approached the Fogland Fort, he lowered his sails and drifted down, under bare poles, securing his passage through that part of the channel without being discovered.
Having lashed a kedge-anchor on his jib-boom, and hoisted his sail again, he speedily neared the Pigot, was hailed, and made no answer.
The sentries’ muskets were then discharged at the Hawk, but, such was her headway, at half-past one in the morning of the twenty-eighth, before a cannon could be discharged by the schooner, she was alongside the Pigot; the anchor on her jib-boom had torn the netting from the bulwarks of the schooner, and had grappled her fore-shrouds; and Lieutenant Helms, and his party of fifteen men, had gained her deck, sword in hand.
A brisk fire was immediately opened on the Pigot, and her crew, terrified at the audacity of her assailants, begged for quarters and ran below, leaving the deck unoccupied.
The crew of the Hawk immediately passed over the bowsprit of the sloop and boarded the schooner; while Lieutenant Dunlap, her commander, in his shirt and drawers, rushed from his berth, and gallantly defended his vessel, single-handed.
But his bravery availed nothing, and, in a few minutes, his crew was safely secured in the hold of the vessel, her anchor was weighed, and, with the Hawk, she was on her way down the Narraganset Bay, neither party having lost a man.
On the following day the vessels reached Stonington, in safety; whence the prisoners were marched, in triumph, to Providence.
“Congratulations, acknowledgments, and honors were proffered the bold leader in this enterprise The Assembly of Rhode Island presented him with a sword.”
“The Congress of the United States presented its thanks, and a Lieutenant-colonel’s commission;” but, perhaps, of all the compliments bestowed on the occasion, the one he received with the greatest relish, was the character awarded him in the British report of the loss of the Pigot–“One of the greatest arch-rebels in nature.”
The Rhode Island State Quarter Coin shows with an image of Silas Talbot, the hero of the “Pigot” affair.