The Burning of the Gaspee

The following is a guest post by RIHS intern Jessica Chandler.

1892 painting depicting the burning of His Majesty's Ship the Gaspee in 1772
“The Burning of the Gaspee, 1772” by Charles DeWolf Brownell, RI 1892. Rhode Island Historical Society Collections RHiX510

When the Gaspee, an armed British Navy ship, became grounded in the waters near Providence, John Brown called everyone to action. His plan? To attack and destroy. Many hated the ship, and after meeting in Sabin’s Tavern at nine o’clock on June 9, 1772, the group headed out to the long boats. As they set off, sailing silently into the waters, all held weapons and a hatred for the British. It was at midnight that the British noticed the long boats, and from there the attack begun. The 1856 painting above commemorates the event, which is considered one of the first acts of war in the American Revolution.

From there, two things happened. First, Joseph Wanton, Governor the Colony of Rhode Island at the time, released this proclamation on June 12, informing citizens of the burning while also putting out a one hundred pound reward for those involved with the act.

A Proclamation from Governor Joseph Wanton. Rhode Island Historical Society Collections RHiX172160

Second, also appearing in 1772, was this “New Song Called the Gaspee,” a rhyme that details what happened that night on June 9. One of the verses reads:

Then set the men upon the land,

And burnt her up we understand,

Which thing prokes the king so high,

He said those men shall surely die.

The purpose of the song might have been to spread the word so more men involved in the incident would be caught, due to the four verses at the end which detail the rewards set by the Proclamation.

RHiX17320. New Song Called the Gaspee.

These, along with many other items, are a part of the Rhode Island Historical Society’s collections, and serve as a reminder of this momentous event that occurred 242 years ago this June 9.

Works Cited

Bucklin, Leonard H. “The Story of the Gaspee Attack.” Gaspee Info. History. Joseph Bucklin Society. 2009. Web. 26 May 2014. <>

Bucklin, Leonard H. “Order of Events.” Gaspee Info. History. Joseph Bucklin Society. 2009. Web. 26 May 2014. <>

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