New Song, Called the Gaspee, A
DESCRIPTION: "'Twas in the reign of George the third, Our public peace was much disturbed." The Americans are much provoked by regulations about smuggling. When the Gaspee goes aground while chasing the Hannah, they burn it. No one will reveal the attackers
EARLIEST DATE: 1930 (WInslow)
KEYWORDS: ship fire crime
Jun 8, 1772 - Burning of the Gaspee
REFERENCES (1 citation):
Cohen-AFS1, pp. 59-60, "A New Song, Called the Gaspee" (1 text)
NOTES: The Gaspee affair was one of those clear tokens that revolution was coming to the Americas. As well as of the fact that Americans just didn't like obeying rules.
The Gaspee itself was a two-masted schooler of 102 tons, designed for a crew of 30. The British Navy bought the ship in 1764 and assigned it to guard against smugglers in the Gulf of St. Lawrence (Paine, p. 199).
"The Rhode Island merchants conducted a lively trade, most of it legal though their reputation for illegality was formidable. The Royal Navy believed the reputation conformed to the facts and, after losing two small vessels in Narragansett waters, assigned the Gaspee there in late March 1772. Her skipper, Lieutenant William Dudington, seized several craft engaged in trade only to find himself threatened with arrest by the local sheriff" (Middlekauff, p. 213).
"In June, a zealous, arrogant Royal Navy lieutenant, William Dudington, who commanded a small patrol vessel, the Gaspee, assisting the English customs service, ran his ship aground not far from Providence, Rhode Island At the time, he was pursuing an American packet that he suspected was attempting to smuggle in tea from Holland" (Cook, p. 160).
"News of the stranded vessel quickly reached Providence and that night eight boatloads of colonists, led by the merchant brothers John and Nicolas Brown, moved to seize the vessel. As the colonists approached, they were ordered to identify themselves, but the only reply was 'God damn your blood, we have you now'" (Paine, p. 199).
"It suddenly found itself the hunted, not the hunter, and was boarded, captured, and burned to the water's edge" (Lancaster, p. 65). "Dudington tried to resist and received a bullet in the groin for his trouble" (Middlekauff, p. 215).
"But the investigation soon lost all headway, blanketed by what seemed to be a total loss of memory on the part of Rhode Islanders. At last, in apoplectic frustration, the commissioners reported that they could find no suspects, and hence could forward no prisoners for trial -- and probable hanging -- in London" (Lancaster, p. 65)
"After that Montague decided that Lieutenant Dudington had outlived his usefulness and sent him back to England to explain to a court-martial the loss of the Gaspee" (Middlekauff, p. 215).
"[A]lthough the Gaspee affair cooled, it had provided the impetus for organizing the thirteen Committees of Correspondence" (Cook, p. 165), helping the colonies organize for the coming struggle. - RBW
Last updated in version 2.7
- Cook: Don Cook, The Long Fuse: How England Lost the American colonies 1760-1785, Atlantic Monthly Press, 1995
- Lancaster: Bruce Lancaster (with a chapter by J. H. Plumb), The American Revolution (originally published as The American Heritage Book of the Revolution, 1971), Houghton Mifflin, 1987
- Middlekauff: Robert Middlekauff, The Glorious Cause: The American Revolution 1763-1789, being part of the Oxford History of the United States, Oxford, 1982
- Paine: Lincoln P. Paine, Ships of the World: An Historical Encylopedia, Houghton Mifflin, 1997
Go to the Ballad Search form
Go to the Ballad Index Song List
Go to the Ballad Index Instructions
Go to the Ballad Index Bibliography or Discography
The Ballad Index Copyright 2017 by Robert B. Waltz and David G. Engle.