On This Day in History: Attack on New Providence

On this day in 1778, the Continental Navy sloop Providence (12 guns) sailed from the Bahamas after staging a successful attack on the island of New Providence. Formerly known as Katy while part of the Rhode Island state navy, the ship entered Continental service in December 1776. Captain John P. Rathbun, a native Rhode Islander, approached the capital of Nassau late on the night of the 27th with Providence disguised as a trading sloop. Under cover of darkness, twenty-six Marines commanded by Captain John Trevett landed outside Fort Nassau, scaled its walls, and quickly overpowered the two guards. The next morning they received the surrender of neighboring Fort Montague as well. With the harbor now safe to enter, Captain Rathbun brought Providence close in to Fort Nassau and loaded all the captured gunpowder and small arms he could carry. The British sloop Grayton appeared on the horizon around noon and began approaching cautiously, but sympathetic townspeople signaled her to be wary of the fort and its new occupants. She withdrew, encouraged by a few shots from the fort’s guns. Rathbun departed on the morning of the 30th with three captured ships and a group of about twenty American seamen who had been prisoners of the British.

Purchased by the Naval War College Foundation for the NWC Museum

The Naval War College Museum is home to this beautiful dockyard-style model of the Providence. Built by craftsmen at the Navy’s David Taylor Model Basin in Maryland, the model measures approximately four feet from gaff boom to bowsprit. It features an exposed hull beneath the waterline that allows the viewer to observe details of the ship’s frame.

Rob Doane
Curator, Naval War College Museum


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