the year 1772, the British government had stationed at Newport, Rhode Island, a
sloop-of war-, with her tender, the schooner called the Gaspee, of eight guns,
commanded by Wm.. Dudingston, a Lieutenant in the British Navy, for the purpose
of preventing the clandestine landing of articles, subject to the payment of
duty. The captain of this schooner made it his practice to stop and board all
vessels entering or leaving the ports of Rhode Island, or leaving Newport for
On the 10th day of June, 1772, Capt.
Thomas Lindsey left Newport in his packet for Providence, about noon, with the
wind at North; and soon after, the Gaspee was under sail, in pursuit of Lindsey,
and continued the chase as far as Namquit Point, which runs off from the farm in
Warwick about seven miles below Providence, now owned by Mr. John Brown Francis,
our late Governor. Lindsey was standing easterly, with the tide on ebb about two
hours, when he hove about, at the end of Namquit Point, and stood to the
westward, and Duddingston in close chase, changed his course and ran on the
Point, near its end, and grounded. Lindsey continued on his course up the river,
and arrived at Providence about sunset, when he immediately informed Mr. John
Brown, one of our first and most respectable merchants, of the situation of the
Gaspee. He immediately concluded that she would remain immovable until after
midnight, and that now an opportunity offered of putting an end to the trouble
and vexation she daily caused. Mr. Brown immediately resolved on her
destruction, and he forthwith directed one of his trusty shipmasters to collect
eight of the largest long-boats in the harbor, with five oars to each, to have
the oars and row-locks well muffled, to prevent noise, and to place them at
Fenner’s wharf, directly opposite to the dwelling of Mr. James Sabin, who kept
a house of board and entertainment for gentlemen, being the same house purchased
a few years after by the late Welcome Arnold, and is now owned by and is the
residence of Colonel Richard J. Arnold, his son.
About the time of the shutting up of
the shops soon after sunset, a man passed along the Main street beating a drum
and informing the inhabitants of the fact, that the Gaspee was aground on
Namquit Point, and would not float off until 3 o’clock the next
morning, and inviting those persons who felt a disposition to go and destroy
that troublesome vessel, to repair in the evening to Mr. James Sabin’s house.
About 9 o’clock, I took my father’s gun and my powder horn and bullets and
went to Mr. Sabin’s, and found the southeast room full of people, where I
loaded my gun, and all remained there till about 10 o’clock, some casting
bullets in the kitchen, and others making arrangements for departure, when
orders were given to cross the street to Fenner’s wharf and embark; which soon
took place, and a sea captain acted as steersman of each boat, of whom I
recollect Capt. Abraham Whipple, Capt. John B. Hopkins, (with whom I embarked,)
and Capt. Benjamin Dunn. A line from right to left was soon formed, with Capt.
Whipple on the right and Capt. Hopkins on the right of the left wing.
The party thus proceeded till within about sixty
yards of the Gaspee, when a sentinel hailed, "Who comes there?" No
answer. He hailed again and no answer.
In about a minute Dudingston mounted the
starboard gunwale in his shirt and hailed, "Who comes there?" No
answer. He hailed again, when Capt. Whipple answered as follows: "I
am the sheriff of the county of Kent, G... d ..n you. I have got a warrant to
apprehend you, G.. d..n you; so surrender, G.. d..n you."
I took my seat on the main thwart, near the
larboard row-lock, with my gun by my right side, facing forwards. As soon as
Dudingston began to hail, Joseph Bucklin, who was standing on the main thwart by
my right side, said to me, "Ephe, reach me your gun and I can kill that
I reached it to him accordingly, when, during
Capt. Whipple’s replying, Bucklin fired and Dudingston fell, and Bucklin
exclaimed, "I have killed the rascal."
In less than a minute after Capt. Whipple’s
answer the boats were alongside of the Gaspee, and boarded without opposition.
The men on deck retreated below as Dudingston entered the cabin.
As it was discovered that he was
wounded, John Mawney, who had for two or three years been studying physic and
surgery, was ordered to go into the cabin and dress Dudingston’s wound, and I
was directed to assist him. On examination, it was found the ball took effect
about five inches directly below the navel. Dudingston called for Mr. Dickinson
to produce bandages and other necessaries for the dressing of the wound, and
when finished, orders were given to the schooner’s company to collect their
clothing and every thing belonging to them and put them into their boats, as all
of them were to be sent on shore. All were soon collected and put on board of
the boats, including one of our boats. They departed and landed Dudingston at
the old still-house wharf, at Pawtuxet, and put the chief into the house of
Joseph Rhodes. Soon after, all the party were ordered to depart, leaving one
boat for the leaders of the expedition, who soon set the vessel on fire, which
consumed her to the waters’ edge.
The names of the most conspicuous
actors are as follows, viz: Mr. John Brown, Captains Abraham Whipple, John B.
Hopkins, Benjamin Dunn, and five others, whose names I have forgotten, and John
Mawney, Benjamin Page, Joseph Bucklin, and Turpin Smith, my youthful companions,
all of whom are dead, I believe, every man of the party, excepting myself, and
my age is eighty-six years this 29th day of August, eighteen hundred and
[signed] EPHRAIM BOWEN