June 9

This Day in History

General Interest

Jun 9, 1772:

British vessel burned off Rhode Island

In an incident that some regard as the first naval engagement of the American Revolution, colonists board the Gaspee, a British vessel that ran aground off the coast of Rhode Island, and set it aflame.

The Gaspee was pursuing the Hanna, an American smuggling ship, when it ran aground off Namquit Point in Providence's Narragansett Bay on June 9. That evening, John Brown, an American merchant angered by high British taxes on his goods, rowed out to the Gaspee with a number of other colonists and seized control of the ship. After leading away its crew, the Americans set the Gaspee afire.

When British officials attempted to prosecute the colonists involved in the so-called "Gaspee Affair," they found no Americans willing to testify against their countrymen. This renewed the tension in British-American relations and inspired the Boston Patriots to found the "Committee of Correspondence," a propaganda group that rallied Americans to their cause by publicizing all anti-British activity that occurred throughout the 13 colonies.

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