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

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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

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Simeon Potter was a retired pirate (but with a Rhode Island commission) who at the time of the Gaspee attack was head of the Bristol County, Rhode Island, military forces!

One participant in the Gaspee Affair was Simeon Potter. He was a Bristol, Rhode Island, seaman and merchant who was the captain of one of the attacking longboats. He had brought his own boatload of men from Bristol to meet the Providence boats.

Potter's Wealth.  Potter's wealth was built on his skill as a pirate or privateer (depending on your point of view about legalizing plunder on and near the sea).  Before 1770, Simon Potter of Bristol was often referred to a pirate by the British, but is more accurately described as a privateer who wildly exceed the bounds of his commission.    For example, he sailed out of Newport in 1744 in command of a Newport-registered sloop, with a privateer's commission signed by Governor William Greene of Rhode Island.  The commission authorized Potter to seize vessels belonging to the Kings of Spain and France.  Instead of attacking vessels Potter and crew raided a Jesuit mission in Guinea, stealing the church silver and vestments, pillaging the nearly houses and setting  fire to the church and settlement.  That was only a sample.  There was no doubt that he was an excellent captain with a well disciplined crew and used intelligent leadership directed toward capturing wealth to be brought back home as the result  of the privateer's commission. [Hawes. p 38]  His ethics (not his skill as a captain and organizing military ventures) may be questioned.

Potter amassed a fortune estimated at a quarter of a million dollars (a large fortune in that era) in his pirating / privateering and left the sea returning to Bristol to live permanently ashore just after the town had been transferred from Massachusetts to Rhode Island. He was first chosen to represent the town in the General Assembly in 1752, and from that time until the Revolution, when he had become an Assistant, an office corresponding to that of a State Senator today, he was continually in the colonial councils. His immense wealth was used by him to demand respect and leadership in Bristol and gain significant social  status in the Rhode Island colony.

The records of the Supreme Court of Judicature, Court of Assize and General Goal Delivery of Bristol County show Potter's  lawsuits on several occasions in 1770 to 1771 to recover loans in the range of 300 to 500 English pounds to various individuals, indicating both that he was setting up merchant shipping adventures, and also that Potter had a lot of ready cash.

After the war had really begun his civic zeal seems to have waned and he ceased to take an active part in the affairs of either town or State. Possibly the larger ability, the increasing influence and the more striking personality of his townsman, Governor William Bradford, may have had something to do with Potters retirement from participation in public life after the Revolution started, although it may have been also the instinct of self-preservation.  Many of the privateers of Bristol and nearby Newtown, which was occupied by the English for most of the war, decided the better part of valor was to buy a place in the interior countryside of Rhode Island, and live there instead of Newtown.  Some of the persons who had been active in the Revolution at an early stage did not do so, and found themselves arrested by the English and taken as prisoners to less than healthy prisons, so Potter may have taken the sensible route of leaving Bristol.

By 1770, Potter had long retired to a life of ease, only to have his native industry assert itself, so that he was active in a number of business enterprises.  He owned ships and sent them out on merchant voyages to his profit.  He was engaged in the rum trade, and the 1770 maps of Providence showed a still house owned by him in Providence.

Chief Field Officer of Bristol County. Among other things, from 1770 onward, until the Gaspee attack of 1772, Potter was the Bristol County Colonel. [Records of the Colony of Rhode Island]. That position had some civil legal significance, beyond being a title of authority in military matters.  The royal charter of the Rhode Island and Providence Plantations gave the Governor the title not only of "Governor" but also that of "Commander in Chief" of the Colony.  This legally meant that the King of England had authorized the Governor to control not only the military land forces of the colony but also to control the naval regulation of the  colony's waters.  Under English law,  a country's jurisdiction extended not only out to sea as far as a cannon of the day could shoot, but also extended over everything landside of a straight line drawn between two land points extending out from the coast.  In short,  Rhode Island lawyers asserted that the Rhode Island Governor, not the English Navy, controlled the waters of Narragansett Bay.   That legal doctrine lay at the heart of some of the legal maneuvering between Governor Wanton and Lt. Dudingston.   Governor Wanton had received a legal opinion from his Chief Justice that, in effect, an English ship had no authority to act in colony waters unless the Governor authorized it.  That was at the heart of Wanton's request to see the authority under which Dudingston was acting.

Now, how does that legal doctrine of Rhode Island's control of its coastal and bay waters apply to Simeon Potter's position as the appointed  Colonel of Bristol County?   The Governor, through the Rhode Island legislature, appointed field officers to exercise his military authority "in the field".  Potter was the chief field officer of Bristol County.  Bristol's territory extended half-way across the Bay in the area below Gaspee Point, until it meets the Kent County jurisdiction.  So the raiding force, attempting to board the Gaspee in June 1772, included the chief military officer of Bristol County (Simeon Potter) as well as the chief civil officer of Bristol County (John Brown, the Sheriff).

Potter's Boat Load. In 1770, Potter also had a large dwelling house, a distillery, a store, and a wharf in Providence (on the west side of Main Street and north of Power's Lane) [Chace Papers, box 1, f 18].  Potter's Providence distillery was a few houses south of the Sabin Tavern.  Potter may or may not have been in Providence when John Brown laid his plans to attack the Gaspee.  At any rate; Potter left from Bristol -- not from Providence -- on the night in question with a boatload of men from Bristol, with the expressed purpose of meeting the boats from Providence to join together in the attack.

Persons we place in the Bristol boat captained by Simeon Potter are:

Aaron Briggs. Aaron Briggs was a slave on Prudence Island, considered part of the town of Bristol. Briggs said he was rowing a small boat by himself, encountered  Potter on the bay, and Potter  pressed him into involuntary participation.  Briggs became the major witness for the English investigation.  More on Briggs.

Thomas Swan. Thomas Swan of Bristol, to whom some  attribute  a poem immortalizing the event, is said to have been a participant.   Because he was from Bristol, we assume he was in the Bristol boat, but that is only an assumption. More on Swan.

Nathan Salisbury.  Except for Briggs and Potter, we do not know by direct documentation the names of others from Bristol.  However, Nathan Salisbury from Bristol, was probably in Potter's boat.  More on Salisbury.

Robert Sutton.  Sutton's identification as a Gaspee raider and as being in the Bristol boat arises solely from  the History of Providence County, Vols. I & II Ed. by Richard M. Bayles; W.W. Preston & Co., NY. 1891 Biographical sketches, "Town of East Providence" Volume II, at p . 174.

Albert F. SUTTON, son of Captain William and Elizabeth (Mathews) Sutton, was born in 1839 in Seekonk, now East Providence, and was educated at Seekonk academy and Scholfield's commercial school, Providence. He built his present house about 1873. He has followed the gardening business, and has also turned his attention considerably to real estate. He followed the sea about ten years. He married first Phebe, daughter of George Rice of North Providence. His present wife is Elizabeth, daughter of William L. Williams of Providence. His father was a sea captain. His grandfather, Robert Sutton, was one of the twelve men who, disguised as Indians, helped to burn the "Gaspee", as Gaspee Point. His grandmother on his mother's side was a Lawrence, of a family of Tories, located at Rehoboth, Mass. [emphasis supplied].

More on Sutton.

Briggs in his statement said there were 11 men in the Bristol boat when he got in, and thus there would have been 12 men in the Bristol boat.  The only persons ever said to be disguised as Indians were the men in the Bristol boat.  This boat is the only one in which there is a count of the men in the boat, and there are two such counts, the one by the Sutton tradition, and the other by Briggs.

Indian Disguise? It is clear that the men from Providence did not attempt any disguise, and indeed boldly showed themselves to Lt. Dudingston in his cabin, in the lights where they were examining his papers.  However, the tradition in Bristol was that the men from Bristol set out disguised as Indians. In addition to the Sutton family of Bristol tradition, the Swan family of Bristol had a similar tradition.  See, Tales of an Old Sea Port by Wilfred Harold Munro, Princeton University Press, Princeton, 1917, at page 21 which sets out that 

" January, 1881, Bishop Smith of Kentucky, born in Bristol in 1794 and a graduate of Brown in 1816, wrote to me calling my attention to a slight difference between the "Swan Song," as I had given it in my History of Bristol, and a version pasted upon the back of a portrait of Thomas Swan's father by Thomas Swan himself. Capt. Swan was Bishop Smith's uncle. The Bishop wrote, "I should not have troubled you on so inconsiderable a point had not the tradition in our family been that the Bristol boat was manned by men in the disguise of Narragansett Indians."

The night was dark at the time of the attack.  Nevertheless, some of the Gaspee sailors reported that there may have been blacks or persons with blackened faces in the attackers.  These may be references to the Bristol boat persons, who may Not  have received instructions from John Brown to disguise themselves, but assumed that disguise would be prudent.  [E.g., Dickinson, at Staples, p24, reports a conversation between two Negroes. Darius Sessions, at Staples, p80, reported that in his examination of the English crew the next day they responded generally as follows:

Question.—Was the moon down?
Q.—Was it dark? .
Q.—Was there any light on board of the schooner when she was boarded by the boats?
A.—Yes; but it was immediately put out before we got on deck.
Q.—Was there no other light afterwards struck up?
A —Not that they saw, though they believe there was one lighted up in the cabin to dress the Lieutenant's wounds.
Q.—Were the people who came on board unmasked, or in disguise?
A.—Some of them were either blacked or negroes, but it was so dark we could not tell which.

Our conclusion is that the men from Bristol assumed Indian disguise, but the men from Providence did not.