The tasks and schedules to capture the Gaspee
The planning of the attack on the Gaspee appears to have been meticulous. There were a number of events which came together like clockwork, suggesting the events of the afternoon of June 9, 1772, and the night following were not a matter of mere chance circumstances. The Gaspee usually had a local pilot on board the ship, to prevent the ship from being grounded or damaged in the shallow parts of the Bay. Yet, on the afternoon of June 9, 1772, the local pilot was not aboard the Gaspee. This left Lieutenant Dudingston, commanding the Gaspee, enforcing his Majesty’s customs law without the benefit of a pilot on board.
Captain Lindsay, commanding a coastal packet sloop, the Hannah, seems somehow to have know of the Gaspee’s lack of a local pilot that afternoon. The Hannah regularly passed through Narragansett Bay in a scheduled daily trip from Newport at the south end of the Bay to Providence at the north end of the Bay. Normally Capt. Lindsay lowered his flag to acknowledge and salute a Royal Navy ship and, if ordered, stop his packet ship to allow inspection of it’s cargo. However on this day of June 9, 1772 Captain Lindsay, deliberately passed near the Gaspee, without lowering his flag in salute. When signaled to stop his ship for the Gaspee crew to board it and inspect it, Lindsay conspicuously hoisted full sails and turned up the Bay toward Providence. Thereafter, Lindsay sailed in a pattern to deliberately lure the Gaspee onto a sandbar, hidden under water but well known to local ship pilots (such as the one not on board the Gaspee that particular day)..
The Gaspee was grounded on the sandbar at the exact place, at the exact tide conditions, and at the exact lunar conditions on which merchant John Brown had been grounded and had to stay overnight on board on a ship several years before. The tide at the time of the Gaspee’s grounding was not only just exactly right to ground the ship, bit also was such an unusual variation between high and low tide that it would be impossible to remove a grounded ship until 3:00 a.m. the next morning. Furthermore it was one of those instances when the lunar conditions were such that it would absolutely totally black at midnight, with no moon whatsoever. (This is a point on which the Joseph Bucklin Society received extremely high level research from an eminent tide expert and an eminent astronomer – It was an exact match of circumstances with John Brown’s experience, and occurs only occasionally in a period of years.)
Within a few hours after the grounding of the Gaspee longboats, each commanded by an experienced sea captains, were loaded with men equipped and ready to fight to board the Gaspee. Eight long boats set out from Providence, one long boat set out from Bristol, and another boat set out from Warren. These boats all had different distances to go, some rowing against the tide, some were rowing with the tide. In spite of differences of start times and rowing times needed, all the boats arrived at the same spot at the time the moon was going down, leaving complete blackness, shortly after 12:00 midnight. There they met, in total darkness, without lights, without shouting, in silence, with muffled oars, near the Gaspee. In silence, they formed a line of boats, commanded in military style into two squadrons, and rowed silently toward the fore and aft corners of the grounded Gaspee, so that the cannons on the sides of the Gaspee could not be aimed at the boats.
The planning of the attack was well done.
It was in the execution of the attack, that an unexpected event occurred, the event that turned the probable plan of a legally possible arrest of the English ship captain into an act of war and treason! The event was the First Shot of the American Revolution.