This "raiders" division of the Gaspee. Info website is devoted to information about the Raiders as individuals.

In this section of
Gaspee Raiders
Paul Allen
Ephraim Bowen
Aaron Briggs
Abial Brown
John Brown
Joseph Brown
Joseph Bucklin
Abel Easterbrooks
Nath. Easterbrooks
Capt. Samuel Dunn
Capt. Rufus Greene
Capt. Greenwood
Benjamin Hammond
Joseph Harris
Capt. John Hopkins
Justin Jacobs
Joseph Jencks
Hezekiah Kinnicut
John Kilton
Abner Luther
John Mawney
Simeon Olney
Ezra Ormsbee
Benjamin Page
Capt. S. Potter
Barzilla Richmond
Nath. Salisbury
Capt. Chris. Sheldon
Capt. Shepard
James Smith
Turpin Smith
Capt Swan
Robert Sutton
Capt. Jos.Tillinghast
Capt. Abr.Whipple
Qualification for List
Boat Captains
Raider Connections

Go to
Gaspee History
for history, overall facts, background, results, and analysis of the  1772 attack itself.


Books: American Colonial and Revolutionary War history or the people involved. We have suggestions for you.




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Joseph Bucklin Society.

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Captains of the attacking boats --- Who were they?

For the attack on the English Navy ship Gaspee, John Brown appointed a  commander of the entire fleet of boats and a sea captain to be in charge of each individual boat.  Each captain we have identified was experienced and capable of knowing the ways to board and take over a ship like the Gaspee.

The attack was planned to use the force of overpowering numbers to board and capture the Gaspee. There were in excess of 100 men involved, in 10  boats. With the exception of 1 whaleboat involved, each of the longboats had 5 pairs of oars and were about 30 feet long, fully capable of holding at least a dozen men. This force was to overpower the crew of the Gaspee, which was expected to be about 20 sailors and an officer or two. 

The attacking force used a line formation which was typical of 18th century attack theory used by English and American captains. The line of ten  boats (eight from Providence, plus one boat each from Bristol and Warren) had on  the two extremities of the line boats which were commanded by sea captains employed by Brown.  Captain Whipple was in overall command of the flotilla, and so his military experience would have dictated his being first in the line, with his second in command being at a spot where he could lead half of the boats should occasion demand a splitting of the total force. Indeed, that is the formation described by Bowen:

 ....and a sea captain acted as steersman of each boat.  A line from right to left was soon formed, with Capt. Whipple on the right and Capt. Hopkins on the right of the left wing. [Bowen's statement.]

The following are those we know of as captains of the attacking boats.

Longboats from Providence.

Captain Abraham Whipple was in charge of the entire fleet of longboats. Whipple has been identified by several sources as being in general charge.  It is likely that he was also in command of one of the longboats.

Captain John B. Hopkins was named by Bowen as in charge of the longboat in which he and Joseph Bucklin 4th were passengers or rowers.  Captain John B. Hopkins was a son of Esek Hopkins, and a nephew of Stephen Hopkins. The middle initial was used during his lifetime --- to distinguish himself both from his uncle John Hopkins and also from his cousin John Hopkins, both substantial members within a prominent Rhode Island family.

Captain Samuel  Dunn was identified by Mawney as being on board the Gaspee.  Inasmuch as there would be little reason for the number of ship captains being multiplied in excess of one needed for each longboat, we assume that Captain Dunn commanded a longboat.

Captain Rufus Greene Jr. was in the raiding party. It would have been logical (on the same basis as specified regarding Dunn) to have Greene in charge of a longboat.

Captain Christopher Sheldon, a experienced privateer captain of Brown vessels, may have been in charge of a boat.  He probably was in the Gaspee raiding party, and it would have logical to have him in charge of a longboat.

Captain Joseph Tillinghast, was named by Mawney as in charge of the longboat in which Mawney was a passenger. Joseph Tillinghast was both an experienced ship captain for John Brown ships, and also was a member  one of the most prominent families of Rhode Island.

Boats not from Providence.

Captain Simeon Potter was named by Briggs as being in command of the  longboat from Bristol that joined the eight longboats from Providence.  Simeon Potter was perhaps the most wealthy person of the Bristol area, and an extremely aggressive former privateer/pirate.  The Rhode Island legislature had appointed him a Colonel to command the colonies military forces in Bristol County.

Captain John Greenwood was named by Ezra Ormsbee as being in a whaleboat from Bristol.

Just by thinking about relationships and experience of ship captains that John Brown had at his disposal, we can suggest Captain Esek Hopkins, an experienced privateer captain of Brown vessels, could well have been in charge of a longboat.  He had been Brown's captain on several privateering voyages to board and seize ships.  If Brown were making a list of desired ship captains to board and seize the Gaspee, Esek's experience in that activity would have put him near the top of the list.

We know there was at least one Joseph Bucklin in the attacking party, to wit Joseph Bucklin 5th. If Captain Joseph Bucklin 4th was also in the attacking party, Captain Bucklin would have been a logical choice to command a longboat. Captain Bucklin was an experienced ship captain. Both Captain John B. Hopkins and Captain Bucklin had served as captains of the brigantine Providence, and had ship ownership connections with the Browns. Like Captain Rufus Green, Captain Bucklin also had a ship of his seized for unpaid customs taxes in the months leading to the attack.. 

A "Captain Shepard" has been suggested as being on the raid, but there are no facts known at this time which could establish whether he was a ship captain at the time of the raid, was a military captain, or became a captain only later during the Revolutionary War.

For the full list of Gaspee Raiders <i>Gaspee</i> Raiders with other names