GaspeeVirtual Archives

Burn the Gaspee

By Samuel S. Kretman

From: Gaspee Days Parade Program
Wednesday, June 6, 1973

'Twas fast approaching evening
When the Main Street shops would close
As plans were made in Providence
For one of freedom's blows.

A drummer spread the news about,
"The Gaspee's gone aground.
We're seeking able bodied men.
How many can be found?

There's a meeting at James Sabin's house
To destroy Gaspee while she's dry.
No word of this must get about,
Else many brave men die!"

With whispers and with muffled words
Soon the whole town knew
And memories of past injustices
Were retold as tempers grew.

Badgered by our neighbors
Who sought our land as theirs,
We had been chartered by the crown,
Granted futures for our heirs.

But kings are oft forgetful
Of their loyal subjects' right.
When repression is excessive,
All men will join the fight!

Early laws became outmoded,
Were ignored by agents of the king
Until our world-wide trade exploded
And sailing ships became our thing!

A hundred years and more they waited.
Then their ships patrolled our shore,
Seized our cargoes, thumbed their noses,
Bade us bow forevermore.

In Newport first In '64
We displayed our public ire,
Seized the long boats of the frigate Maidstone
And set them all afire.

In '69 the Liberty --
An ill-named ship at that --
Was separated from her crew
Who were shown no welcome mat!

Thus It was in '72
That the Gaspee hove In sight
Commanded by one Dudingston,
A terror of the night.

His zeal for royal service
Made no friendships for the crown.
Instead increased rebellion
At his acts of ill renown.

All legal rights they denied;
Demeaned our heads of state;
Jailed our seamen -- seized our ships;
Fostered our great hate!

Every school child can recall
The Stamp Act and its mates --
Taxes on tea and sugar.
Do you know the dates?

We hung Johnson here in effigy --
Forced his aides to bow their heads;
Burned their tea in Market Square
While they wet their beds!

Free men can be aroused to wrath
When their treatment is unjust
And fire tempers men of steel
Who do the things they must!

Remember then the ninth day of June
Seventeen hundred and seventy-two
Then it was that revenge grew sweet
And George had cause to rue.

The packet Hannah left Newport
And proceeded up the bay.
She'd hardly gotten started
When the Gaspee started play.

A shot went screeching o'er Hannah's bow
A signal to heave-to,
But Captain Lindsey kept his cool
Then told his men to leave, too!

Twenty-five miles to Namquid Point
The Hannah led the way
Then cut sharply to the Pawtuxet
As if to make a stay.

The Gaspee raced to follow,
But soon she was aground.
High tide was many hours off --
Lindsey's mind profound!

Lindsey sailed to Providence.
There met one John Brown.
Instantly it was agreed
That the Gaspee must stay down!

Time was of the essence.
High tide would float her off.
Eight large dories were assembled
And tied to Fenner's Wharf.

It was no mob of hooligans
That met that very night,
But the leaders of the town itself.
All ready for a fight!

With holstered pistols -- muskets, too,
A. Whipple led the team
And soon the British tormentors
Would hear our eagles scream!

First a stop at Fox Point
To load on staves and paving stone.
Then straight ahead to the Gaspee
Whose misdeeds they'd atone!

The night was dark -- the moon unseen
As the eight boats reached her bow.
Suddenly a cry rang out.
"Who comes there? -- Stand off -- now!"

Captain Whipple identified himself
As the sheriff of Kent County.
He'd come to take her
He'd come to take her captain in
For misdeeds worth a bounty!,

But Dudingston held fast his deck
With cutlass In his hand.
He fired several shots in vain.
He could not stop this band.

A brace of shots soon floored him.
He crumpled to the deck
With shattered forearm and punctured groin --
A so-called instant wreck!

One Dr. Mawney treated him --
I regret to tell!
In several weeks he was himself --
Not quartered In deep Hell!

The lieutenant and his beaten crew
Were rowed to Warwick shore.
The patriots set fire to the Gaspee --
Blew her up, but nothing more!

"These men are all now pirates."
The king's men soon declared.
"Five thousand dollars for their leader
And no others will be spared."

The penalty they faced was death,
But no one breathed a word.
Fortunes for a hidden traitor --
Not a voice was heard!

Hundreds knew their names, of course;
Little children stared,
But unity and pride prevailed
And every man was spared.

'T was a noble victory.
The first to set us free.
It preceded that at Lexington
Or Concord yet to be!

It proved to free men everywhere
That those who want it -- fight!
These are the heroes of all times
And favored In God's sight!

Posted to Gaspee Virtual Archives 1997    Kretman.html