Posted inHistory

This Day in RI History: June 10, 1772 – The burning of the HMS Gaspee

One of the most celebrated events in Rhode Island history happened on June 10th, 1772. The Gaspee Affair, which is still celebrated annually with festivals, a parade and a re-enactment, was a pivital moment in the lead-up to the American Revolution.

The story is widely known. In the weeks preceding the burning of the Gaspee, British patrols were harassing Rhode Island merchants in and around Narragansett Bay. (In fairness, some of those merchants, were violating British navigation laws, but we’ll let that one go for now.)

On the evening of June 9th, the British customs ship the HMS Gaspee ran aground near Warwick while pursuing the packet ship Hannah. A group of Providence merchants led by John Brown and Abraham Whipple led an attack on the ship and later burned it on the water.

Although British authorities investigated the incident, no one ever served prison time for the attack. These days, the event is fondly remembered as an expression of colonial rebellion, with the Gaspee Days Festival, a parade, and the annual re-enactment of the burning.