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There is a letter from James H. Salisbury to Steven Salisbury, {J.H.Salisbury, Feb. 1869:1-8} dated February 25, 1869, which appears to be a genuine document and indeed written by J. H. Salisbury. However, it seems only be a recording by James in 1869 of events in 1772 as related by the his grandmother to him" when I was just a boy.  It does claim Nathan was involved in the attack, but involved in an unlikely manner.

Our comments on this letter follow.  Click here to view the letter.(Requires Adobe PDF to view a typed copy and, following in the PDF, a photocopy of the original handwritten letter.)

Since James was born in 1823, in New York, and his grandmother was born ca. 1747, it means that when James grandmother died in 1836 (See 1885 Smith's History of Cortland County) James would only have been 13 years old.  This age ranges are not ideal years of age for exchange and recording of exact information. James does not claim any written record existed for what he recalls and recites in his 1869 letter. James only claims that his grandmother was a resident of Providence in 1772, married to Nathan, and not that she had any first hand knowledge of events.

Unfortunately, there are a number of statements of reported fact in James letter which do not seem to fit with the known facts.

Item: James letter claims that Nathan was in a company of artillery actually shooting at the Gaspee.  The letter claims cannon fire being directed at the Gaspee during daylight hours and till dark doing great damages to the frigate and the Gaspee replying with ineffective cannon fire (The fire from the frigate passed over their heads). None of the English sailors reported attack by cannon fire, which surely would have been mentioned by them in their defense at the court martial had such an attack occurred.

Given the nature of the surprise attack that was planned by John Brown, cannon fire from the land would be counterproductive. The raiders who rowed the boats to the attack were trying to be silent, and all eyewitness reports we have to date are unanimous in reporting that the Gaspee was not expecting any attack. Certainly therefore there was no artillery fire on the Gaspee before the raiders boarded the Gaspee. After the raiders boarded the Gaspee, none of them reported being fired upon by their own cannon. Certainly it would be working at cross purposes to put your own boarding party on board the ship and then have the shore batteries fire at the ship.

Item: It does not appear that the eastern extremity of Warwick Neck would be within a  "short distance of Gaspee." Possibly James means to report that the attacking Rhode Island men they hauled an 18-pounder cannon to the bluff overlooking the Gaspee rather than to what is now knows as Warwick Neck..

Item: James letter states that Captain Dudingston fired a pistol shot. Captain Dudingston does not report firing a pistol. Certainly he would have mentioned it in his court martial if he had done so. Rather Dudingston only reports his defense of the ship being limited to a sword.

Item: James reports the  military.... disguised, proceeded ... There is little sense in people with cannons disguising themselves as Indians and then firing the cannons only at a distance from the Gaspee.

Item: James reports that the attacking raiders were to be disguised as Indians, whereas Dudingston is quite definite that he observed men who were clearly merchants and masters of vessels and without disguise so that he hoped to be able to identify them. Likewise Dudingston reported that he had his midshipman come to the cabin with the hope that he could aid in later identification. Neither of these officers reported seeing any persons in disguise or made up like Indians.

Item: It is reported by James that the English Captain Dudingston was injured in the thigh and scrotum to the extent that Dudingston's testicles had to be removed. This does not fit with the report by the Dr. Mawney, who reported only an injury in the femoral artery. It is unlikely that the treating medical doctor would have omitted injury to the scrotum or removal of the testicles.

While the letter of James may have the germ of truth in it (i.e., that Salisbury was in the attacking party), it seems that the letter relies much on (1) the account of Cooper {Cooper 1839:81} and (2) on James's memory of what his grandmother told him as she understood the events to have been (and she was not an eyewitness, but rather only a residence of Providence of the time). I therefore tend not to rely on the letter of James as adding any new fact upon which I would want to place reliance.