In 1772 the English schooner HMS Gaspee was sunk by disgruntled colonists in Narragansett Bay, Rhode Island. Some consider this rebellion a primary factor leading to the War of US Independence. The sinking predates the Boston Tea Party by a year and shows the continued dissatisfaction of colonists.
A party of colonists boarded the Gaspee under cover of night and killed the captain, Lt. William Dudingston, before leading the ship into shallow waters and lighting it on fire. The schooner sunk somewhere East of Warwick. No wreck has been found as of this writing although there have been many searches.
This July, The Rhode Island Archeology Society will try to find the Gaspee again. With the help of modern radar, the shipwreck hunters hope to uncover the keel and what treasures lie within the sunken vessel.
The Gaspee Affair is often overlooked, but US Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, and his consortium of historians believe that the Gaspee Affair is a precursor that foreshadows the Boston Tea Party. Philip Mead, Chief Historian and Curator of the Museum of American Revolution in PA, indicated that the Gaspee Affair took place at a pivotal moment, keeping the revolution alive when other regions had fallen into complacency.
The Gaspee was in the colonies to enforce trade laws decreed by King George III. Captian, Lt. Dudingston disrupted trade, and passage of ships through the bay, even seizing goods from local merchants. Rhode Islanders did not take kindly to these actions and put a stop to it.
News of the Gaspee Affair made its way to Boston, where it was printed and distributed widely, encouraging the populace to rebellion – and maybe inspiring the Tea Tippers a year later.
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