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Photo of five young girls in Colonial costumes
Children's Colonial Costume Contest, June 4, 1995

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Gaspee Days
A Local Legacy

The Boston Tea Party, which took place on December 16, 1773, is the best known of the early protests by U.S. Colonists against British rule. But it actually followed another conflict that some people refer to as the "first real blow for freedom." Have you heard of it?

The incident occurred in Narragansett Bay, Rhode Island, in June 1772, when American Colonists burned the British ship HMS Gaspee. The Americans were tired of the unfairness of King George III, who placed taxes on everything from glass to stamps to tea. King George had sent the Gaspee to Naragansett Bay to enforce his orders and prevent smuggling.

The HMS Gaspee. was under the command of Lieutenant William Dudingston, who required that all other ships lower their flags as a sign of respect to his ship. As a result, Dudingston was not well liked. When the American vessel Hannah refused to lower its flag, the Gaspee chased it and the captain of the Hannah deliberately lured the Gaspee across shallow waters and left the British ship stranded on a sandbar, unable to move. Late that night, 64 Rhode Islanders rowed out to the Gaspee, boarded the ship, took the crew prisoners, shot Dudingston, and set the vessel on fire.

The citizens of Warwick, Rhode Island, celebrate this event every June. The events include a ball, a children's Colonial costume contest (like the one the girls in the photo are wearing), Colonial dinners, and a staging, or re-enactment, of the event.

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