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  EST 1638 = 369 years old  

 

The Burning of the Gaspee near Pawtuxet Cove

 

Burning the Gaspee in Pawtuxet Cove

Painting by Brownell, Courtesy RI Historical Society

 

 

 

HMS Gaspee and her hated commander, Lt. William Dudingston, were sent by King George III to Rhode Island waters in March of 1772 to enforce the Stamp Act and prevent smuggling. They made no friends amongst the colonists in harassing shipping and delaying, often unjustly, ships that had properly passed custom inspection in Newport.

The latter was the case on June 9, 1772, when the packet sloop Hannah left Newport for Providence. When the HMS Gaspee gave chase, Hannah's Captain Lindsey deliberately lured her across the shallows off Namquid Point (now Gaspee Point) and left the British ship hard aground on a sandbar, unable to move until the flood tide of the following day.

Upon arrival in Providence, Captain Lindsey reported the event to John Brown, one of the most prominent and respected merchants in Rhode Island, who sent out a town crier inviting all interested parties to meet at Sabin's Tavern to plan the HMS Gaspee's destruction. Under the leadership of Abraham Whipple, the small band of patriots rowed eight longboats with muffled oars to the stranded ship.
Lt. Dudingston and his crew were taken prisoner and removed to Pawtuxet Village.

Near daylight on June 10th, the Rhode Islanders set fire to the HMS Gaspee, burning her to the waterline whereupon her powder magazine exploded. Efforts of the Crown to learn the names of the culprits were unsuccessful, although a sizable reward had been offered. Public sentiment was in accord with the venture; this spirit of unity soon spread to the other colonies with the formation of the Committees of Correspondence to prevent further threats. It was but a short step from here to the First Continental Congress and eventually the Declaration of Independence.

Burning the Gaspee in Pawtuxet Cove

 


Gaspee Prisoners Monument at the bottom of Peck Lane

PECK STREET, was laid out in 1734 as Peck Lane. At the foot of this narrow street, the captured crewmen from the Gaspee were brought ashore on the night of June 10, 1772 and marched to a nearby farmhouse where they spent the night in the cellar. (The house was demolished in 1962). Benjamin Smith had a shipyard at the shoreline. Here Pawtuxet ships large
and small to be manned by Pawtuxet men were built for the West Indies and southern coastal trade from the early 1700's until 1850. There was no room here for cordage to be made for the rigging of the vessels. The rope walk was from the back of the Carr property and ran 600 feet down South Atlantic Avenue.

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