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Charles DeWolf Brownell , 1892

The Burning of the
Gaspee by Charles DeWolf Brownell, 1892
Courtesy RI Historical Society

WaterFire Gaspee Poster

HMS Gaspee and her hated commander, Lt. William Dudingston, were sent by King George III to Rhode Island waters in March of 1772 to enforce the maritime trade laws and prevent smuggling. They made no friends amongst the colonists in harassing shipping and delaying, often unjustly, ships that had properly passed custom inspection in Newport.

The latter was the case on June 9, 1772, when the packet sloop Hannah left Newport for Providence. When the Gaspee gave chase, Hannah's Captain Lindsey deliberately lured her across the shallows off Namquid Point (now Gaspee Point) and left the British ship hard aground on a sandbar, unable to move until the flood tide of the following day.

Upon arrival in Providence, Captain Lindsey reported the event to John Brown, one of the most prominent and respected merchants in Rhode Island, who sent out a town crier inviting all interested parties to meet at Sabin's Tavern to plan the Gaspee's destruction. Under the leadership of Abraham Whipple, the small band of patriots rowed eight longboats with muffled oars to the stranded ship.  Lt. Dudingston and his crew were taken prisoner and removed to Pawtuxet Village.

Near daylight on June 10th, the Rhode Islanders set fire to the Gaspee, burning her to the waterline whereupon her powder magazine exploded. Efforts of the Crown to learn the names of the culprits were unsuccessful, although a sizable reward had been offered. Public sentiment was in accord with the venture; this spirit of unity soon spread to the other colonies with the formation of the Committees of Correspondence to prevent further threats. It was but a short step from here to the First Continental Congress and eventually the Declaration of Independence.       
But there's much more to the story--and you can explore all of it  below!
The Gaspee Virtual Archives contains a massive amount of collected information for serious historical researchers, and links to many off-site sources.  Current categories include:
Introduction to the Gaspee Virtual Archives Analysis of the Gaspee Event
Gaspee Testimony Reactions to the Burning of the Gaspee
Cast of Characters Gaspee Backgrounds
Gaspee Controversies Miscellanea Gaspee
Poetry About the Gaspee Affair Teachers' Room -- Curriculum aids
Gaspee for Kids! Support the Gaspee Days Committee and this site!
Gaspee Graphics Files Editorial Board Access Only
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Introduction to the Gaspee Virtual Archives
  • The Gaspee Virtual Archives is an ongoing presentation  (since 1997) of the Gaspee Days Committee , a civic-minded nonprofit organization that operates many community events in and around Pawtuxet Village, including the famous Gaspee Days Parade each June.  These events are all designed to commemorate the 1772 burning of the hated British revenue schooner, HMS Gaspee,
    by Rhode Island patriots as America's  'First Blow for Freedom' TM
  • If you've been researching a paper on the Burning of the HMS Gaspee, or you're just fascinated by the story, here's the website that is the Mother of all things Gaspee.
    • Reference us:  <http://www.gaspee.org > & date visited.
  • Caution students: Analysis articles may contain 'poison pills' to discourage plagiarism!  If you don't believe us, visit  http://www.plagiarism.org/
  • Note: Articles native to the Gaspee Virtual Archives are subject to frequent changes based on new information as it is developed.
  • If you have items of interest for our Gaspee Virtual Archives, please e-mail the Gaspee Virtual Archives webmaster. 
    No homework questions, please!
  • The Gaspee Virtual Archives contains many articles at off site links.... i.e., it's not our fault if they don't load.
  • All www.rootsweb.com references need to be reindexed at http://www.rootsweb.ancestry.comGEDCOM files have transitioned to Ancestry.com
  • The Gaspee Virtual Archives primarily serves as a repository of information regarding the Gaspee Affair, using both collected information found elsewhere, and as a think tank of new information.  Every effort has been made to present only material that is either beyond copyright, or to have obtained permission from the creators, where known.  THIS DOES NOT IMPLY THAT ALL ITEMS ARE PUBLIC DOMAIN.
Gaspee Days
                                Committee        The Gaspee Virtual Archives

is an ongoing presentation
(since 1997) of the
Gaspee Days Committee, a civic-minded nonprofit organization that operates many community events in and around Pawtuxet Village, including the famous Gaspee Days Parade each June.

These events are all designed to
commemorate the
1772
burning of the hated British revenue schooner, HMS Gaspee,
by Rhode Island patriots as
America's 'First Blow for Freedom' TM
TM, Gaspee Days CommitteeThe Gaspee seal, a two-masted schooner within a circle of 13 stars with 1772 at the bottom,
and the motto, America's "First Blow for Freedom" are both registered trademarks of the
Gaspee Days Committee, all rights reserved.

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Analysis of the Gaspee Event
  • LONG: Buy the Book (Amazon.com link) -- The Documentary History of the Destruction of the Gaspee -- by William R. Staples
  •  Hypertext version of Staples' Gaspee , the 1990 republication as above. Not as warm around a fireplace as the real book, but it DOES allow text string searches! Total of ~200 pages. (Link courtesy of RI Publications Society, with permission)
    • Forward --by Dr. Patrick Conley. Includes Cover, Titles, and Contents. (Pages i -x)
    • Introduction -- by Professor Richard M. Deasy of Providence College. An analysis essay of Staples, and the Gaspee Affair. (Pages xi-liv)
    • Destruction of the Gaspee -- by William R. Staples. (298 Kb,  Pages 1-110).
    • Appendix A  -- Collected documents from Bartlett on the Gaspee. (Pages 111-128)
    • Appendix B --  Collected documents from the RI Historical Society on the Gaspee Affair. (Pages 129-138)
  • LONG: A History of the Destruction of His Britannic Majesty's Schooner Gaspee.... .-- by John R. Bartlett.  We dare you to quote the whole title!
  • LONGEST The Impact of the Gaspee Affair on the Coming of the Revolution, 1772-1773  --  Lawrence J. DeVaro. PhD dissertation, 1973 (754 Kb, 358 pages .doc)
  • MEDIUM: Revolutionary Fire: The Gaspee Incident  [50 Kb ~20 pages]. (Link courtesy of the RI Council for the Humanities.)
  • MEDIUM: Sparking the Revolution -- by Gerald M. Carbone
  • MEDIUM: The Gaspee Affair: A Study of Its Constttutional Significance -- (81 Kb) by William Lesl1e
  • MEDIUM SHORT: The Story of the Gaspee -- by Lewis Taft
  • MEDIUM SHORT: Gaspee: Prelude to the Revolution -- by Alex Gabbard
  • MEDIUM SHORT:  Conflicts That Led Up to the Burning of the Gaspee -- by Susan Danforth
  • MEDIUM SHORT:  Excerpt of the Gaspee Affair -- by Catherine Williams, 1839
  • SHORT: The Gaspee Affair -- by John Williams Haley
  • SHORT:  Clergy and Press Reaction to Gaspee's Burning -- by Frances Segerson
  • SHORTThe Destruction of the Gaspee and the Reasons Therefore -- by Mrs. B. O. Wilbour
  • SHORTER: The Gaspee Affair -- by Hubert H. Bancroft
  • ESSENTIAL: What's the Importance of the Gaspee Affair? -- by Dr. John Concannon
  • SHORTEST: The Burning of the Gaspee -- As short as we can get it!
  • Back to Contents
    Gaspee Testimony (More testimony to be found in Staples)
  • Ephraim Bowen's Account
  • Lieutenant Dudingston's Story       (see original)
  • Statement of Dr.  John Mawney
  • Deposition of Aaron Briggs
  • Deposition of Daniel Vaughan
  • An Unsigned Letter from a Spy to Admiral Montagu
  • Reactions to the Burning of the Gaspee:
  • Governor Wanton's Reward Offer      (see reconstructed)
  • King George III's Reward Offer       (see original)      (see reconstructed)
  • Instructions of King George III to the Gaspee Commissioners       (see original)
  • The Gaspee Commissioners Report to King George III       (see original)
  •  Letters from Massachusetts Governor Thomas Hutchinson
  • Chief Justice Horsmanden's Report to the Earl of Dartmouth       (see original)
  • Letters from Samuel Adams on the Gaspee Incident
  • Letter from John Adams on the Gaspee Incident
  • Reverend John Allen's Oratory on the Gaspee Incident
  • London newspaper, July 1772
  • Gentleman's Magazine, London, July 1773
  • Rescue Mission to Save John Brown
  • Letter from Charles Dudley to Admiral Montagu
  • Back to Contents
    Cast of Characters:
    Back to Contents
    Gaspee Backgrounds:
    Back to Contents
    Gaspee Controversies
    Back to Contents
    Miscellanea Gaspee:
    Back to Contents
    Collected Poetry about the Gaspee:
  • Burn the Gaspee -- by Samuel S. Kretman
  • Failures Make History Too -- by Jim Boren
  • Gaspee Song --Attributed to Capt. Thomas Swan
  • The Gaspee Affair -- by Rosetta Desrosiers
  • Ballad of the Gaspee Affair -- by Robert Archetto
  • The Last Cruise of the Gaspee -- by George L. Raymond
  • A Recipe for Revolution -- author unknown
  • First Blow for Freedom -- by Marjorie Clegg
  • Gaspee Days -- by Ed Holden
  • "Burn the Gaspee!" -- by Michael J. Moakler
  • "The Burning of the Gaspee" -- Anonymous, 1800
  • The Burning of the Gaspee -- by Karen Girouard, 2008
  • Yankee Privateer--Sea Chantey about Abraham Whipple, the leader of the attack on the Gaspee
  • Dialogue between Cuffee and his Master -- Colorful letter to the editor
  • Back to Contents
    Teachers' Room:
    • Curriculum Aids from the Sultana Project. The Sultana is a re-creation of a British revenue schooner c1768 that now serves as a sailing classroom in Chesapeake Bay.  It is very similar to the Gaspee.  (All links courtesy of Sultana Projects, Inc., all are .pdf  files)
      • Sultana’s Colonial History classroom unit, entitled “Sea of Change – Sultana, the Tea Taxes and the Dawn of the American Revolution,” is targeted towards 4-6th grade students. The unit examines the world of pre-Revolutionary America through the lens of the 1768 British Royal Navy tax collecting schooner Sultana. The unit can function as a stand alone curriculum as well as a pre-trip primer for students sailing on Sultana.
      • Guide to Sultana:  Written for an adult audience, this pocket guide contains all the information you would ever want to know about Sultana's history, construction, and educational mission.  The pocket guide contains copies of the original 1768 drawings of Sultana and a listing of all of the 101 crew members who served aboard her from 1768-1772.
    Back to Contents
    Gaspee for KIDS!
    Gaspee Graphics:
    Back to Contents