Washington, D.C. — U.S. Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse [D-RI] continued his annual tradition of recounting the burning of the HMS Gaspee on Tuesday, June 9, the eighth year he has taken to the floor of the Senate to commemorate the Colonial uprising against the British.
This year also marks the 50th Gaspee Days celebration, a fact Whitehosue noted as he added: “Over the years, we celebrate by marching in the annual parade as we recall the courage of the men who fired the first shots and drew the first blood in the quest for American independence.”
As part of his speech, Whitehouse recalled the night of July 9, 1772, when a group of Rhode Islanders rowed from Providence to Pawtuxet in the dead of night to set fire to the grounded Gaspee.
Captain Benjamin Lindsey of the Hannah, which had lured the Gaspee to the sand bar at Namquid Point, recruited John Brown and other Colonials to help destroy the British ship, which had harassed local shipping for several months.
“That night in the waters of Warwick, Rhode Island, the very first blood in the conflict that was to become the American Revolution, was drawn by American arms,” Whitehouse said.
And although Rhode Islanders know about the Gaspee incident — “We will never forget,” Whitehouse noted — the story of how a small group of Rhode Islanders outmaneuvered the powerful British Navy “has largely been lost to history outside our little state,” he added.
By delivering his address on the Gaspee every year — this time, amid a Senate debate on the National Defense Authorization Act of 2016 — Whitehouse said he “hope[s] my speeches will help a new generation to learn about this important event.”
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