The Gaspee Affair: One Of The First Colonial Uprisings, Which Served As A Spark For The Revolution

the Gaspee Affair

One of the most important incidents that sparked the beginning of the American Revolution took place on June 10, 1772. The Gaspée Affair refers to the event that took place when members of the Sons of Liberty set fire to the schooner HMS Gaspée, which was a vessel belonging to the British Empire.

Although it was a relatively minor episode, the Gaspee affair of 1772 had repercussions that were cause for concern. A zealous lieutenant commanded the customs schooner Gaspee, which belonged to the British government.

It was infamous for capturing smugglers, confiscating their ships and goods, and bringing the crew of the smuggling vessels to justice. The zealous operations of the Gaspee incited both colonial merchants and colonial seamen to raise their hackles.

In June of 1772, as the Gaspee was in close pursuit of another smuggler in Rhode Island, the vessel ran aground. The locals boarded the schooner in their longboats and then physically dragged the captain and the crew ashore before setting sail again. The Gaspee was then torched all the way down to the waterline.

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The Story Of The Gaspee Affair

The Gaspee, a British navy ship, was tasked with guarding Rhode Island’s Narragansett Bay in 1772. Lt. William Dudingston, her captain, had been chosen by Admiral Montagu to oversee trade with Rhode Island and prevent the import of contraband goods.

Dudingston, however, often broke the law by stopping ships without a reason, delaying their progress, robbing them of their goods, and inflicting physical violence on the colonial seamen.

By June 9th, 1772, residents of Rhode Island had grown weary of Dudingston’s harassing. Captain Benjamin Lindsey, a local, refused to lower his ship’s flag in respect for HMS Gaspee as they approached Providence from the busy port of Newport.

A chase up the Bay resulted from this minor act of defiance infuriating Dudingston. Lindsey used his ship, the Hannah, to entice the Gaspee into shallow seas at Namquid Point (now known as Gaspee Point), where it stuck on a sandbar, in the hopes that Dudingston would not be aware of a danger off the coast of Warwick.

What happened in the Gaspee Affair?

Lindsey went into town to let people know that the Gaspee was being held hostage until the next day’s rising tide. At Sabin’s Tavern, a group of men from Providence met under the leadership of renowned businessman John Brown to formulate a strategy to put an end to the misery they had experienced under the Gaspee’s rule.

An 80-man raiding group rowed south from Providence toward the stranded Gaspee under cover of darkness and with their oarlocks muffled. Their aim was to detain Dudingston. An argument started as the raiders drew near.

Dudingston was on the deck of the Gaspee when a colonist pulled a gun from his row boat and shot him. The attackers boarded the Gaspee, took the crew hostage, injured the captain, looted his quarters, evacuated the crew to land, and then set fire to the ship. The ship was destroyed when her gunpowder exploded.

The Colonists rejected King George’s demands for a trial and a sizable prize in exchange for identifying the offenders. The colonies developed a sense of camaraderie that began in Rhode Island.

Sam Adams in Boston first raised the issue after King George ordered that the Gaspee raiders be punished in England rather than the colonies, and soon all the colonial leaders did as well. This led to the establishment of Committees of Correspondence among the colonies.

One of the colonials’ initial acts of resistance, the Gaspee Affair served as a spark for the revolution. On May 4, 1776, Rhode Island became the first colony to formally declare its independence; the national Declaration of Independence was ratified two months later.

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The Gaspee Affair: Burning Of The Gaspee

The Gaspee burned to the waterline

A group of guys gathered early the following morning while it was still dark and sailed out to the Gaspee in eight longboats. The expedition was directed by Abraham Whipple, who would later become a commander in the Continental Navy. There were roughly eight men in each boat, for a total of 64 men.

When the Gaspee’s crew observed the men approaching, they gave them the order to stop. Whipple and his soldiers disobeyed the command. Whipple claimed to be a sheriff and informed the British that they were come to arrest Dudingston.

Whipple issued an order for the British to leave the Gaspee. When Dudingston refused, the Gaspee’s crew and the Whipple’s men exchanged gunfire. Dudingston was injured severely and was shot twice.

After approaching the Gaspee, Whipple and his men boarded it and overwhelmed the crew. The Rhode Islanders forcibly removed the crew before setting fire to the ship. When the powder magazine blew up, the Gaspee’s waterline was completely destroyed and the rest of the ship was destroyed.

The Gaspee Affair: Boarded

William Dudingston heeded the Parliament’s orders at the beginning of 1772 by sailing the HMS Gaspée in the direction of Rhode Island. But regrettably not for the colonists- it was just another day of income collection for them.

The state’s reputation for engaging in commerce smuggling with adversaries is another item that is not particularly new in Rhode Island. Lieutenant William spotted another ship, the Hannah, and shortly after that he pursued the ship.

The Gaspee Affair: The Lieutenant Dudingston And His Team Boarded

The Sons of Liberty squad known as Providence unexpectedly boarded the British ship as the HMS Gaspée was ready to close in. As a result of the ship’s crew’s inability to successfully repel the rebels, Joseph Bucklin, a Providence member, shot down the lieutenant.

Immediately following the assault, the ship was pillaged and burnt. Nothing was done to stop the Sons of Liberty following the mayhem because no local officials were willing to do so.

Though Lieutenant Dudingston and his team made an effort to identify the offenders, they were unaware that the authorities were also upset with them. Ironically, they were accused of stealing things, which was the real offence.

The Parliament was promptly informed of these events, and they ordered that everyone who took part in the rebellion be restrained. There was zero information about arrests.

FAQs- People Also Ask

Why did the American Revolution consider the Gaspee Incident to be significant?

Because it promoted communication between the colonies, the Gaspee Incident, also known as the Gaspee Affair, was significant. Because Parliament could treat them the same no matter where they were, colonists from all over the world were interested in what was happening in Rhode Island.

What purpose did the quizlet on the Gaspee Incident serve?

The protest against the British government (anti-smuggling ships intercepting illicit market conduits) and the ensuing hostilities between the colonists and the British were both symbolised by it.

What do the Sons of Liberty represent now?

The Sons of the American Revolution’s Los Angeles chapter is known as the Sons of Liberty (SAR). We are a nonpartisan, historical, educational, and patriotic group that works to uphold and defend the foundational institutions of American freedom.

To Know More, Visit Our Website:


I'm a 4th Year student of Architecture Undergraduate programme at Priyadarshini Institute of Architecture And Design Studies, Nagpur. During my studies, I have worked on multiple projects and these assignments have helped me to become a great team player and how to function well in fast paced and deadline driven environments. Some of interests are Sketching, listening and exploring old music, watching documentaries and being an architectural student I like to explore the conceptual angle of every element.

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