William McCarty, comp. The American National Song Book. 1842.
The following prose account of the capture and destruction of the Gaspé tender, is from Coopers Naval History, and is given to explain the succeeding ballad, which is, as near as may be, a fac-simile of the handbill published in 1772.
One of the first overt acts of resistance that took place in this celebrated struggle, occurred in 1772, in the waters of Rhode Island. A vessel of war had been stationed on the coast to enforce the laws, and a small schooner, called the Gaspé, with a light armament, and twenty-seven men, was employed as a tender to run into the shallow waters of that coast. On the 17th of June, 1772, a Providence packet that plied between New York and Rhode Island, named the Hannah, and commanded by a Captain Linzee, hove in sight of the man-of-war in her passage up the bay. The Hannah was ordered to bring to, in order to be examined; but her master refused to comply; and being favoured by a fresh southerly breeze, that was fast sweeping him out of gunshot, the Gaspé was signalled to follow. The chase continued for five-and-twenty miles, under a press of sail, when the Hannah, coming up with a bar with which her master was familiar, and drawing less water than the schooner, Captain Linzee led the latter on a shoal, where she stuck. The tide falling, the Gaspé slewed, and was not in a condition to be removed for several hours.
The news of the chase was circulated on the arrival of the Hannah at Providence. A strong feeling was excited among the population, and towards evening the town-drummer appeared in the streets assembling the people. A crowd being collected, the drummer led his followers in front of a shed, when a man, disguised as an Indian, suddenly appeared on the roof, and proclaimed a secret expedition for that night, inviting all of stout hearts to assemble on the wharf, precisely at nine, disguised like himself. At the appointed hour, most of the men in the place collected in the place designated, when sixty-four were selected for the undertaking that was in view.
This party embarked in eight of the launches of the different vessels lying at the wharves, and taking with them a quantity of round paving-stones, they pulled down the river in a body.The commander is supposed to have been a Captain Whipple, who afterwards held a commission in the service of Congress, but none of the names were publicly mentioned at the time. On nearing the Gaspé, about two in the morning, the boats were hailed by a sentinel on deck. This man was driven below by a volley of stones. The commander of the Gaspé now appeared, and ordering the boats off, he fired a pistol at them. The discharge was returned from a musket, and the officer was shot through the thigh. By this time the crew of the Gaspé had assembled, and the party from Providence boarded. The conflict was short, the schooners people being knocked down and secured. All on board were put into the boats, and the Gaspé was set on fire. Towards morning she blew up.
This bold step naturally excited great indignation in the British officers, and all possible means were taken to discover the offenders. The government at home offered a reward of £1000 sterling for the leader, and £500 to any person who would discover the other parties, with the promise of a pardon, should the informer be an accomplice. But the feeling of the times was too high for the ordinary means of detection, no evidence having ever been obtained sufficient even to arraign a solitary individual, notwithstanding a commission of inquiry, under the great seal of England, sat with that object from January to June, during the year 1773.
Although this affair led to no immediate results, it doubtless had its influence in widening the breach between the opposing parties; and it is worthy of remark, that in it was shed the first blood that flowed in the struggle for American independence; the whole transaction being as direct a resistance to oppression as the subsequent and better-known fight at Lexington.