GaspeeVirtual Archives
Ephraim Bowen's Account of the Burning of the Gaspee (Corrected)

Webmaster's note:  Ephraim Bowen was the last survivor of the crew that burned the Gaspee. He wrote the following account at the age of 86, two years before his death. The following text has been altered for internet use from the original written by Col. Bowen in that a.) Bowen wrongly fixed the date as being June 17th, 1772, b.) He misspelt Dudingston's name as Duddingston, c.) He misspelt Namquid Point as Namcut Point, and d.) He referred to Captain Benjamin Lindsey as Thomas Lindsey.  He also referred in his original account to one Benjamin Dunn, though this was, in all probability, actually Samuel Dunn (see State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations at the End of the Century, A History, edited by Edward Field, Boston, Mason Publishing Co., 1902 Vol. I, p. 467-468 for the discourse on Benjamin vs. Samuel Dunn).
In the year 1772, the British Government has stationed at Newport, Rhode Island a sloop-of-war, with her tender, the schooner called the Gaspee, of eight guns, commanded by William 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 Providence.

On the 9th day of June, 1772, Captain Benjamin Lindsey left Newport in his packet for Providence about noon, with the wind at the north, and soon after the Gaspee was under sail in pursuit of Lindsey and continued the chase as far as Namquid 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 Namquid Point and stood to the westward, and Dudingston, 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 longboats in the harbor, with five oars to each, to have the oars and rowlocks muffled to prevent noise and to place them at Fenner's Wharf, directly opposite 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 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 Namquid Point and would not float 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 even to Mr. James Sabin's house. About 9 o'clock, I took my father's gun and my powderhorn 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. Samuel 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 proceeded until about 60 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, God damn you. I have got a warrant to apprehend you, God damn you; so surrender, God damn you.''

I took a seat on the main thwart, near the starboard rowlock, with my gun by my right side facing forward. As soon as Dudingston began to hail, Joseph Bucklin, who was standing on the main thwart by my right side, said to me, "Eph, reach me your gun, I can kill that fellow." I reached it to him accordingly, when during Captain Whipple's replying, Bucklin fired and Dudingston fell and Bucklin exclaimed, "I have killed the rascal."

In less than a minute after Captain Whipple's answer the boats were along side of the Gaspee and she was 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 dressing the wound, and when finished orders were given to the schooner's company to collect their clothing and everything belonging to them and put 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 James 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: Mr. John Brown, Captain Abraham Whipple, John B. Hopkins, Samuel 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 86 years this 29th day of August, 1839.

                                -- Ephraim Bowen

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Originally Posted to Gaspee Virtual Archives 1997    Last Revised 04/2009    Bowen.html