Not much is known about the life of Joseph Bucklin 5th outside his actions during the attack on the English Navy ship Gaspee on night of June 9-10, 1772. Only 18 at the time he shot the English ship captain, Joseph immediately went into hiding, and Rhode Island people successfully hid his identity from the English from that time until the end of the Revolutionary War. Unfortunately, he died, lost at sea probably on a privateer, shortly before the end of the War.

The few documented events of his life are:
Joseph Bucklin 5th was born 2 Mar 1754, the son of Joseph Bucklin the 4th. (Joseph Bucklin 4th was a wealthy and prominent ship captain, merchant, and civic leader in Providence, Rhode Island. A considerable amount of information is available regarding Joseph 4th.)

Joseph 4th and Joseph 5th, in 1772, lived in Providence, Rhode Island, about 3 houses west of the Great Bridge over the Providence River.

Joseph 5th was physically described 1772 by the Midshipman of the Gaspee, as follows:

“appeared to be about eighteen years of age, very much marked with the small pox, light brown hair tied behind, about five feet, five or six inches high”.

(Small pox was not unusual for the time. Although inoculation was known of, it was not used in Rhode Island, and a particularly wide spread epidemic of small pox occurred in Rhode Island in 1760, coinciding with the return of a number of soldiers from duty in the French and Indian War.)

Joseph’s place in Revolutionary War history is assured because of his shot in the attack of the Gaspee in 1772.

“…Joseph Bucklin, who was standing on the main thwart by my right side, said to me, ‘Ephe, reach me your gun and I can kill that fellow.’

I reached it to him accordingly, when, during Capt. Whipple’s replying, Bucklin fired and Dudingston fell, and Bucklin exclaimed, ‘I have killed the rascal.’…”

After Dudingston fell back on the deck of the Gaspee, thinking himself mortally wounded, Dudingston surrendered the ship to the attacking Rhode Island men. It is this shot which Rhode Island celebrates each year, in their Gaspee Days Celebration, as the “First Shot of the Revolutionary War”

The Rhode Island Assembly records of 1777 show that they paid more than 40 pounds for Joseph to make a trip to Baltimore. The amount is substantial, and unusual. Payments to others for going to other colonies on business of Rhode Island were usually less than 10 pounds, and states on what business they were engaged for the colony of Rhode Island. The amount paid to Joseph is recorded simply as:

“Joseph Bucklin, Jr., for his time and expenses in going to, and returning
from Baltimore……………………………40 19 10”

Death Record of Joseph Bucklin 5th

Joseph 5th died, lost at sea, in 1781. His death is documented in the handwritten record (shown above) in the family bible of Joseph Bucklin 4th. [Original page is preserved in Manuscript room of the Rhode Island Historical Society.] See also the contemporary newspaper clipping in the “Bucklin” file folders of the Elizabeth Johnson Research Library in Pawtucket, RI. See also, Edwin Peck, “Descent of the Buckland” Private presentation to Harris Howard Bucklin of Providence, Jun 1943, 35, “Joseph b-Mar 2 1754-Lost at Sea 1781, age 27 Prob – Gaspee Joseph “Apr [sic] 10 1772”. Joseph 5th is not named in his father’s will, which was dated 1789, confirming Joseph 5th died before his father.

Read why Joseph Bucklin 5th was probably the Bucklin that fired the important shot in the capture of the Gaspee (and not Joseph Bucklin 4th).