The first shot of the Revolutionary War

Joseph Bucklin fired a musket and severely wounded British Royal Navy captain, in the first American intentional and planned attack on English military forces.

[From the account written by Epraim Bowen.] I took my seat on the main thwart, near the larboard row-lock, with my gun by my right side, facing forwards. As soon as Dudingston began to hail, 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.”

The English Navy captain thought he was going to die. He had been shot in the femoral artery, which was usually fatal in those days. As he lay bleeding on the deck, the Americans boarded the Gaspee, and quickly subdued (with clubs) the greatly outnumbered crew of the Gaspee. The captain, knowing that in his condition he could not longer fight and rally his crew, surrendered his ship and crew.

In short: Joseph fired the most important shot in the capture and burning of the boat “Gaspee”. Rhode Island celebrates Joseph’s shot in 1772 as the first shot in the American Revolution. The shots of the minutemen in 1775 at Lexington and Concord may have produced more carnage, but they did not include the first shot of the revolt by the Americans.

The Americans had brought a doctor brought with them on the attacking boats, Dr. Mawney. John Brown, the leader of the American attacking force, had the English ship captain taken to the captain’s cabin. Apparently, Joseph went to the persons taking the captain to the cabin, because he became involved in the successful actions that saved the life of the English captain.

[From the account written by Dr. John Mawney.] I then directed him [previously described by Mawney as "Joseph Bucklin, Jnr."] to place his hands as I had mine, which was, the ball of my left hand on the orifice of the wound, and giving him the word to slip his hand under mine and to press hard to prevent the effusion of blood; which being done, I …[prepared a bandage compress]… All being prepared, I told Bucklin to raise his hands, when I instantly placed the compresses on the orifice, and placing the bandage round the thigh over the wound and crossing it above, drew tight, so that the effusion of blood was stopped.

Read full account of the capture and destruction of the Gaspee.