Go the section on
Gaspee Raiders
for biographical information on the Americans in the boats attacking the Royal Navy ship Gaspee.


Books: American Colonial and Revolutionary War history or the people involved. We have suggestions for you.


Copyrighted.    2005  to Oct.2009, Leonard H. Bucklin.   -----  The content of this site may not be reproduced except for brief excerpts for reviews or scholarly references..   
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This is a history education and research web site of the
Joseph Bucklin Society.

References in brackets [  ] or in curly brackets {  } on any page in this website are to books, or other materials, listed in the Joseph Bucklin Society Gaspee Bibliography, or to materials held by the Joseph Bucklin Society.

Attack of the Gaspee as the start of the American RevolutionThe American attack on the English Navy ship Gaspee was the start of the American Revolution.

In the American War of Independence ---- the attack on the Gaspee was the first planned use of force in any of the  colonies, and the first shot directed intentionally and specifically at an English military officer.  Thus, the Rhode Island colonists attack on the English Navy ship Gaspee was a significant event in American Colonial Revolutionary War history. Rhode Island and the Joseph Bucklin Society celebrate Joseph Bucklin's shot in the Gaspee Affair as the actual first shot of the Revolution.

The English Attorney General and Solicitor General issued legal opinions that the capture and burning of the His Majesty's ship Gaspee was "treason" and an  "act of war".  Legally it was treason because it was violence in expressing opposition to parliamentary enactments.  Legally it was an act of war because it was a planned use of military force against the military forces of England.  Although the Rhode Island colonists did not think of their actions as treason and war, as a matter of English law, the attack and capture of the Gaspee was treason and war! The English so recognized it and started to organize a fleet and army to go to New England.

The Gaspee story is one of the great stories of the American Revolution. The Gaspee Affair is of importance beyond and above that of an initial armed conflict between the American colonials and the English military forces. Understanding the Gaspee events involves you in the social, economic, and legal thought of colonial Rhode Island and Massachusetts. The men who attacked the English ship in 1772 were typical of the colonists of Rhode Island, Massachusetts, and Virginia.  The attack on the Gaspee was where the American Revolutionary War started!

And where you are now is the gateway to one of the two best places to find the history and the current research on the events of the Gaspee attack. Even the following short, short story of the attack on the Gaspee is full of suspense, action, and historical impact.

Attack tonight. Burn the Gaspee!

It was after midnight on the peaceful night of June 10, 1772.   There was no useful moonlight and dark cloaked the Narragansett Bay, where the Gaspee, an English Navy schooner, had run aground on Namquid Point. Nine large longboats, with about 100 Rhode Island men, had rowed silently almost to the schooner before the sentinel saw them.  As the English crew rushed on deck to fire muskets to prevent the ship being boarded, Joseph Bucklin could see the vessel's commander leaning over the starboard gunwale, swinging his sword and preventing the Rhode Island attacking force from boarding the Gaspee.

"Ephe," Bucklin said to his friend Ephraim Bowen, "reach me your gun, and I can kill that fellow."

Bucklin fired. The English captain fell, with wounds in his left arm and groin, from the one shot that pierced his forearm and then continued to the groin. The colonists swarmed aboard the schooner, overpowered the outnumbered crew, and took its crew prisoner. Joseph Mawney, a doctor among the raiders, together with Bucklin, tended to Dudingston's spurting femoral artery wound and saved his life.. The colonists rowed away with their prisoners, leaving one boat and the leaders of the expedition.  The leaders, prominent men of Providence, set the Gaspee on fire before themselves leaving.  As dawn broke, those on shore saw the Gaspee's powder magazine explode and the Gaspee sink, utterly destroyed. This was the beginning of a Revolution!

When the Rhode Island colonists supported the Gaspee raiders, and all the other American colonies joined in resisting the English attempt to punish those who attacked the English Navy's ship, the Gaspee Affair could be nothing other that the beginning of the end of Rhode Island's colonial status.  At the urging of Thomas Jefferson of the Virginia legislature, committees of correspondence were formed by the legislatures of the other colonies, to coordinate an American response to the English attempt to punish the Gaspee Raiders.  These committees were not only the beginning of a united end to English rule over colonial legislatures --- this was the start of a United States.


The Gaspee attack differed from the initial unplanned riots protesting English actions in three important points. 

(1) The Gaspee attack was planned.

(2) The attack involved the shooting of an English military officer.

(3) The Gaspee attack involved many of the most prominent and wealthy families of the area (Providence, Rehoboth, and Pawtucket).

The capture of the English ship, and the subsequent events that unfolded in Rhode Island, in the adjoining colonies, and in England, is what pushed the Americans into a war of revolution from the government of England..

The colonists of the seventeen and eighteenth centuries in the Massachusetts Bay Colony and in the Rhode Island and Providence Plantations Colony were influential settlers of North America, who set much of the character of the United States of America.  The colonial setting of those two colonies included radicals and reactionaries, aristocrats and republicans, pirates and sea captains,  ship builders, craftsmen of all sorts, indentured servants and slaves, lawyers who had studied law in the Inns of Court of London,  and farmers operating plantations with dozens of slaves.  Most Americans had grown rich beyond the dreams of their parents, and land was still available for those willing to start new farms and forest industries.  More ships were being built in America than in England, and the merchant class of Massachusetts and Rhode Island  was important not only to American society and also to the English importers and exporters in England. The poor and lower class people in the American colonies were richer than those in Europe. This is the American colonial setting which we explore in these pages.

Read about the Gaspee Affair! This Gaspee web site is extensive (over 100 pages of information are available to you, and growing every three months!). 

 Following below are some good starting points to learn about the Gaspee Raid.


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Copyrighted.    2005  to October 2009, Leonard H. Bucklin. The content of this site may not be reproduced, except for brief excerpts for reviews or scholarly references. Read Full Copyright Notices, Warnings & Disclaimers.


Citation. Suggested citation to materials viewed on this "Raiders" potion of this website:

Leonard H. Bucklin, "The Gaspee Raiders" 2009, Tempe, AZ.  Published online by Joseph Bucklin Society, Oct. 2009. Accessed [ _insert your date of viewing this site_ ] at [_insert the full and exact URL of the page you viewed].

Gaspee Scholars. The author of this site acknowledges the contributions of the Gaspee Scholars, an informal group of persons exchanging ideas and information for the purpose of furthering scholarly research about the Gaspee Affair, and those involved in the background, the attack itself, and the aftermath of the attack on the Gaspee.

Naval War College. The picture of the Gaspee attack shown on this page is courtesy of the Museum of the U.S. Naval War College, at its library in Newport, RI.  At one time what is now known as the Library of the Center for Naval Warfare Studies (Maritime History Department) had a website on which this picture was used with a caption acknowledging the Gaspee attack and the shot fired by Joseph Bucklin as part of U.S. Navy military history.  When our Society contacted the Naval War College Library we were given the above photo in jpeg format to use, and were told they could now longer locate the original oil painting, but knew this was a photo of the painting that once was on display.

"Left open for further thought and research." That phrase is one that Dr. William Worrall Mayo, father of the sons that started the famous Mayo Clinic, often used to end items in his journal in which he described a particular case of interest.   We think that is an apt phrase to use in the research on the persons in the American boats that attacked the English Navy ship Gaspee. The Joseph Bucklin Society will always be engaged in history research on the Gaspee Affair,  and working to find more names of the men involved and the historical facts about each of them. Our list of the Gaspee Raiders will always be "Left open for further thought and research."