Gaspee Days CommitteeHistory Files


Rosetta Desrosiers
106 Almy Street
Warwick, RI 02886



TIME AND TIDE is a play in three acts, using as its theme the destruction of the British revenue schooner Gaspee. Act I deals with the harassment of colonists; Act II with decisions by prominent men to use force against British oppression; Act III depicts the midnight raid on the Gaspee and some of the results.

All individuals and events are based on historical research with only minor embellishments.

Rosetta M. Desrosiers
December 14, 1974
Revised June, 2004

Webmaster's comments: Due to the kindness of the author, this play is considered public domain, and may be downloaded and produced free of charge provided credit is given to the author.  If produced, out of courtesy please contact the Gaspee Days Committee at

We are appreciative to the Rhode Island Supreme Court Historical Society Trust Fund, as administered by the Rhode Island Foundation, for grant funding to make this play both more stagable and more historically accurate.


Rhode Islanders <All with Rhode Island Accents>

  • Rufus Greene, 24, a Colonial coastal trader & farmer, Patriot <educated accent>
  • Margaret (Maggie) Greene, 27, wife of Rufus Greene
  • John Brown, 36, a leading Providence merchant, Patriot, commander of the attack on the Gaspee <educated accent>
  • Captain Benjamin Lindsey, 27, Captain of the Hannah, employed by John Brown, Patriot <nautical accent>
  •  John Mawney, 21, Student physician and Patriot <educated accent>
  • Ephraim Bowen, Patriot, 19
  • Joseph Bucklin, 18, Patriot <nautical accent>
  • Captain Samuel Dunn, Patriot <nautical accent>
  • Simeon Olney, 18, Patriot
  • John Howland, 14, would-be Patriot
  • Servant in John Brown's home <educated accent>
  • Meg Buckout, sister-in-law of Margaret Greene
  • Phylotte Lindsay Greene: Infant daughter of Rufus & Margaret Greene (use doll that can cry loudly)
  • Drummer (later recycled as one of unnamed Patriot attackers)
  • Town crier (later recycled as one of unnamed Patriot attackers)
  • 2 other Captains of longboats
  • Up to 50 other Patriots

British <All with British Accents>
  • Lieutenant William Dudingston, Captain of the Gaspee <educated Scottish accent>
  • Mr. Dundass, aide to Lt. Dudingston <Cockney, Scottish sniveling accent>
  • Bartholomew Cheever, English sentry on Gaspee <Cockney>
  • William Dickinson, an English midshipman on Gaspee <Cockney>
  • John Johnson, Boatswain on the Gaspee <Cockney>
  • Additional Gaspee crew represented by 5-10 extras in simulated hand-fighting

Notes on the stage:

It is envisioned that all scenes involving a boat or ship will have a cabin and partial deck with rails.  There is a helm with ship's wheel prominent to the left.  This scenery can be quickly adapted to portray either the Fortune or the Gaspee as the scene dictates with simple backdrop and prop changes. Alternatively, Time and Tide can easily be adapted into a <radio drama>
ACT I:   Scene I     The Harassment of the Colonists

Times: Early morning during last week in February, 1772, an usually warm day, however
Place: Deckhouse of the Fortune just underway from North Kingstown, Rhode Island in  Greenwich Cove.
Essential Props:

  • Packet sloop, Fortune, in the deck cabin
  • Wooden trunk, packages, baskets, and stewpot
  • Pillow or other pregnancy simulation for Maggie
  • Rufus Greene's pipe
<VOICEOVER:  In June of 1772, the brave citizens of the Colony of Rhode Island took a stand against oppressive British taxation laws in what has become known as America's first blow for freedom -- the burning of the Gaspee.  This is their story as presented in our play -- Time and Tide -- written by Rosetta Desrosiers.>

<Sounds: Gentle surf, occasional bell buoy, and sea-gull caw>

(Rufus Greene, a farmer about 24 years old is at the helm to the LEFT, thin frame with brown hair.)

(A pretty, pregnant young woman about 27, is sitting at RIGHT  She is Margaret (Maggie) Greene, wife of Rufus Greene. She is sitting on and among several baskets, wooden chests, a large ceramic pot with lid, and other containers)

<Sound: packages sliding and dropping>

RUFUS: (grumbling good-naturedly) There now, my dear Margaret Greene, do you think you'll have enough provisions for your long sea voyage? (laughs) It must be all of one mile to your brother's house across the cove!

MAGGIE: (pouts a little) Well, Excuse me! I'm only bringing my clothes, Rufus, and a big pot of my famous chicken stew. Meg and John have a lot of mouths to feed, and I don't want to add to their burden.  Besides, they've been caring for our two older children for over a week now.

RUFUS: (fondly) A burden! -- you? It's a burden I would welcome! (he walks over, stands near her and strokes her hair) How I'm ever to manage without you, Maggie, I can't say. Our home will seem deserted without the lively chatter of you and the kids -- I wish your sister-in-law could come over here to help with the birth. (A look of concern crosses his face) Do you think you'll feel a little queasy crossing the water? (he returns to the helm)

MAGGIE: (blithely) Oh, no, all that sickness left me months ago.  I'll have no difficulty -- unless we tip over or something. You know I never did learn to swim. And, anyway, I'm not sure if a woman who is with child can swim.

RUFUS: (reassuringly) 'Tis not likely you'll have to, Maggie. This sloop, Fortune, is very seaworthy and I've never had any trouble with her. On a beautiful day like this, we'll have a pleasant trip -- unless we are unlucky enough to be challenged by the crew of the Gaspee.

MAGGIE: (appearing to be more excited than dismayed) Oooh, Rufus, do think that's possible?

RUFUS: (a trifle grimly) Yes, unfortunately, it's possible. For there she is now, off of our port bow

MAGGIE: But you are not doing business on this trip; this is -- er (groping for a word) --- It's just a family affair.

RUFUS: Don't forget about the barrels of rum stored below that belong to my Uncle Nathaniel. The commander of the Gaspee is over-eager. They say that since the Gaspee arrived two weeks ago, they arrest every ship or boat that they lie eyes on.

MAGGIE: (still more excited than upset) What would he do, Rufus, if he stopped us?

RUFUS: (he stops working for a moment and looks up) Chances are that one or two of his men would come aboard and they would open all those boxes that you have packed so neatly, Margaret Greene, and they would rummage around --

MAGGIE: (so annoyed that she stands up) For what reason? They would have some nerve going through my personal things -- my underclothes, the baby's blankets, and all that.  I don't have anything that belongs to them.

RUFUS: (patiently) They would be looking for contraband -- like Uncle Nathaniel's rum.  The Royal Navy thinks that all Rhode Islanders are pirates and smugglers.

MAGGIE: (in self-righteous tone) Well, Rufus, you have been to the Newport Customs House and declared that you carry only products from our farm to the market, haven't you? I would tell them that! (<she taps her foot lightly for emphasis>)

RUFUS: Usually the argument ends up in their favor anyway.

MAGGIE: (scornfully) A fine example of English justice!

RUFUS: (pleading) Maggie, be more careful in what you say! And, if they do board us for a search -- promise me that you won't give them any lip.

MAGGIE: (stubbornly) But -- you're always preachin' to me the Quaker line that a person should be completely honest when speakin' --

RUFUS: (interrupting, and speaking sternly) That's right -- when speaking, but you won't have to speak to the revenue men -- They'd consider any argument as resisting their laws and then would have an excuse to take this boat and everything on it!

MAGGIE: But that would be thievery!  They'd be no better than pirates!

RUFUS: You are right -- but they'd send everything up to Boston. I know they have done that to others, even though it's not legal under Rhode Island's charter.

MAGGIE: You said somethin' about con-tree-band. What 's that mean?

RUFUS: (proud to display his knowledge of current events) Parliament thinks we should be paying taxes on lots of things, like sugar or molasses, -- or Uncle Nathaniel's rum. (<puffs on pipe>) If a man did not declare that he was carrying taxable goods on his boat, he might get out of paying, but he would be a smuggler and could be punished and fined if caught. His cargo would be called 'contraband.'

MAGGIE: (tossing her head, disdainfully) Well, I think those men would be silly -- lookin' for sugar or molasses among my freshly-laundered petticoats. Oh, the very idea!

RUFUS: (playing Devil's advocate) Maggie -- Some smuggling has been going on in Narragansett Bay and Uncle Nathaniel Greene and Company are in the thick of it. (<puffs on pipe>) Men are paid well for the risk they take.

MAGGIE: But why would anyone want to pay them!?

RUFUS: Well men like Uncle Nathaniel.  Merchants are willing to pay for this kind of service. Take the Brown family of Providence -- they have about 80 ships which they send to far-away places -- like the West Indies--

MAGGIE: It sounds excitin' -- the West Indies!

RUFUS: It's all strictly business -- very hard-nosed and practical. The Browns do not take kindly to the new laws and taxes that Parliament keeps coming up with -- because it cuts down on their profits.

MAGGIE: (impressed, at last) My goodness! You really know a lot, Rufey!

RUFUS: (modestly, but pleased) A man has to know -- in these difficult times -- but I really know only what I hear.

MAGGIE: (obviously relishing a bit of gossip) And -- so the Greenes and the Browns are smugglers?

RUFUS: (warily) Who? Me? What are you talking about?

MAGGIE: I meant rich people like the Browns -- or Uncle Nathaniel. Did they get you into smuggling?

RUFUS: Ummm.

MAGGIE: Ru--fus! Remember, you're a Quaker and you always should tell the truth.

RUFUS: Mag--gie! I need -- we need -- to make money enough feed our family of four -- and one on the way.  Besides, it's a family business.

MAGGIE: (mockingly) My! But aren't we careful!

RUFUS: (defensively) Yes, I'm careful. I do my work and tend to my home, my boat, and my farm. I'm careful so that I can stay with my family and protect it.

MAGGIE: (in a conciliatory tone) Oh, now, don't take on so. I was only teasin' you. (She sits down again and becomes thoughtful) Rufus, I don't think it was like this when my father had his boat -- all the trouble about searchin' and payin' fines. He used to say that no one bothered them at all.

RUFUS: That's right, and I can remember those days. Rhode Islanders had a good thing going with all their ships. This was a lively place and the people were making a good living, This was the most loyal of all the colonies, too! But they need more money for wars with Spain, France, and the like. Then someone in Parliament got the idea that the crown should be enjoying more income from the New World.

MAGGIE: (nodding her head, wisely) They've gotten greedy.

RUFUS: That's one way of looking at it. Actually, they had this Sugar Act on the books for some time but didn't bother to enforce it -- until now. You might say it's like bringing up children -- if you let them do as they please while they are little, and then try to hold them down as they get older, you'll run into trouble.

MAGGIE: (teasing) Now then -- Rufus Greene -- You can give advice on bringin' up children -- You, who spends all your time on this boat!  (<Claps her hands together - -joyfully>) Remember how the men at Newport sank that revenue ship, the Liberty, a few years back?!

RUFUS: Who could ever forget it! Someone cut her lines during the night and she drifted into deep water. Then a raiding party went aboard and set her on fire.

MAGGIE: I hope that was after the crew had gone ashore.

RUFUS: Of course! Our people are not murderers. They just wanted to demonstrate how they felt about the unfair treatment they were receiving from the revenue ships.

MAGGIE: (eagerly) And after they scuttled the Liberty, they carried the longboats up to Newport Common and burned them. Oh, those were excitin' days!

RUFUS: (firmly) Well, unfortunately Maggie, it looks like this day will be exciting as well, for here they come.

<Music: brief interlude>

 <Sounds: Gentle surf, occasional bell buoy, and sea-gull caw>

(Rufus and Maggie stand looking out the window of their deck house on the Fortune apprehensively watching the approach of the Gaspee's longboat.)

MAGGIE: (impatiently) Rufus, do we have to stand here like ducks waitin' to be shot?  Why don't we try to escape?  You know this bay and all its hiding places much better than they do --

RUFUS: (firmly) They're along side us, Maggie, and if we make any sudden moves now, they will surely fire on us. With the Gaspee's cannons, they could blast us right out of the water.

MAGGIE: I don't believe they'd really shoot us, Rufus. They're not murderers either.

RUFUS: (with patience wearing thin) I'm telling you, Maggie, first they would fire a warning shot and then if we kept on going, they'd really open up. And we are no match for them in speed, or anything else.

MAGGIE: I still think you worry too much, Rufus. I'm sure if we explain why we are travelin', they'll let us pass. (laughs) All they have to do is to take one look at me to know our story is true.

RUFUS: (shakes his head in hopeless resignation) I wish I had your way of looking at things. It would be great -- never to worry. (Excited stage whisper) And you forget that we're carrying that load of Uncle Nate's rum in the hold.

MAGGIE: (shields her eyes with her hand as she looks out over the water) Such a glare from the sunlight on waves! It looks like the Captain is in the longboat -- and he has another man with him.

RUFUS: (showing nervous irritation) Now, hush, Maggie. Don't talk so loud. They are coming closer all the time, and every word a person says can be heard so much clearer on the water than on land.

(a shout is heard from the Captain's aide, Mr. Dundass, STAGE RIGHT)

DUNDASS: (sniveling, Cockney accent) HEAVE TO! STAND BY TO BR SOICHED!

(Rufus and Maggie are silent. They turn and look at each other, helplessly)

<Sound from Stage Right: oars reaching, then being stowed>

(another shout -- this time, closer from STAGE RIGHT)


RUFUS: (in stage whisper) They're here! Now, remember what I told you!

(ENTER, STAGE RIGHT: Dudingston and his aide, Mr. Dundass, have come aboard Greene's boat.)

<Sound: footsteps on deck>

DUDINGSTON: (low mumbling): Dundass, inspect those packages.

(Dudingston is swaggering about, and from time to time points to a package for the aide to open and inspect. He stops pacing and stands uncomfortably close to Rufus, in a challenging stance--eye to eye.)

<Sound: shuffling of packages being opened>

DUDINGSTON: (He 'barks' the question) Name and occupation!

RUFUS: Rufus Greene. I'm a farmer -- and a coastal trader.

(Dundass punches Rufus in the stomach)

<Sound: slapping punch>

DUNDASS: Say 'Sir' when you address an officah of Hees Majesty's Naavy.

RUFUS: Ugggh! (painfully)Yes, -- Sir.

MAGGIE: (short scream) Oh -- Rufey!

DUDINGSTON: Dundass, go search the cargo hold of this ship.


<Sound: Footsteps off to Stage Right>

DUDINGSTON: Now then, Greene, whose boat is this?

RUFUS: My uncle, Nathaniel Greene's, -- Sir.

DUDINGSTON: (imperiously) What is your destination?

RUFUS: The settlement of East Greenwich, -- Sir, on the north shore of this cove.

DUDINGSTON: (sarcastically) I know the location of East Greenwich -- State your purpose in going there. (He begins to walk slowly in large circles)

RUFUS: My wife, -- Sir, -- is about with our third child and is going to her brother's house where she will be attended.

DUDINGSTON: (stops walking and looks up) Hum. Then you have relatives in the East Greenwich settlement?

RUFUS: Only the John Buckout family, Sir.

<Sound: STAGE RIGHT, of hatch being broken open>

DUDINGSTON: (walks up to Rufus and looks him squarely in eyes again) Now answer me truthfully, Greene, because I have other ways to get the information, and I can make things extremely difficult for you if you lie. -- Do you have knowledge of anyone in Rhode Island engaged in smuggling and other illegal acts?

RUFUS: (quietly emphatic) Oh no, Sir!

(Dudingston, meanwhile continues to poke among the bundles. He tosses some of the packages around and the pot of stew becomes loose and almost tips over). <Sound: packages shuffling, ceramic pot on wood>

MAGGIE: (gasps) Oh, do be careful! Don't spill my stew!

DUDINGSTON:  (Lt. Dudingston turns around and eyes her sternly) WOMAN!  DO you DARE speak?  No one has addressed you.

MAGGIE: (more deferential than usual) I worked hard all day yesterday, makin' my special chicken and vegetable stew for my brother's family -- please don't spill it.

DUDINGSTON: Well, let me see this -- stew. (Dudingston lifts the lid and takes a deep sniff.)

<Sound: ceramic potlid being opened, sniffed, then closed>

DUDINGSTON: (Then smiling, and speaking in such a pleasant tone that Maggie and Rufus are surprised) I compliment you, Mistress.  Your stew smells delicious!

MAGGIE: (casting a triumphant look at Rufus) Umm -- Thankee, Sir.

DUDINGSTON:  I'll put this evidence aside, to take in the boat.  It's been a long time since my crew enjoyed home-cooked food.

<Sound: ceramic pot on wood>

MAGGIE: (stunned) But, SIR!

DUDINGSTON:  Silence, Woman!

(Rufus grimaces, turns the corners of his mouth downward.  His arms are at his side, but he makes a downward move with both hands in a frustrated attempt to gain his wife's attention and to squelch her further comments.)

MAGGIE:  (growing progressively agitated as she speaks) But this FOOD is not evidence!  It belongs to me.  I did this cookin' and bakin' for my dear brother and his family -- not for your crew of ruffians!

DUDINGSTON:  Be still, wench, or I'll put you in irons! (Dudingston reaches out and pushes Maggie, who falls to the deck)

<Sound: push, fall to deck>

MAGGIE: (short scream, fading out from below)

RUFUS: (enraged) I'll kill you, Dudingston! (Rufus lunges at the Lieutenant who flails his arms to ward him off)

<Sound: scuffling on deck, then footsteps enteringfrom Stage Right>



(Dundass manages to hold Rufus with his arms pinned back)

DUNDASS: Cap'n, I dun found what must be twelve hogshead o' rum down in der hold.

<Sound: shuffling on deck>

RUFUS: (struggling) Let -- me go!

(Dundass, a man considerably bigger than Rufus Green, proceeds to beat up Rufus with three or four well aimed punches)

<Sound: three or four punches being thrown>

RUFUS: (gutteral, after each punch) Uggh!

MAGGIE: (gasps and rolls slowly from side to side) Uggh! Stop it! STOP!!

DUDINGSTON: (with bravado) She's not hurt. She merely lost her balance, didn't you, girl? (He laughs, uneasily) -- These farm girls do not bruise as easily as their stew. (He turns to Rufus, with a sterner tone) But you, Greene, have threatened an officer of the British Navy and have been found out as a smuggler.

RUFUS: (shouting, with pain) I doubt that the King has ordered you to attack innocent women!

DUDINGSTON: (in a supercilious tone) And I doubt you'll be believed. Mister Dundass here will testify that you attacked an officer of His Majesty's Navy. We'll be seizing this boat and its illegal cargo of rum, bring her to Boston, where she will be sold off to pay the taxes owed to His Majesty.

RUFUS: (meekly) Under the Charter granted Rhode Island by King Charles any such dispute is to be handled by our local courts.  You can't bring this ship to Boston.

DUDINGSTON: That CHARTER is a worthless excuse for Rhode Island pirates like you to continue smuggling. Any further comments from you and I'll put the lot of you in irons!

(Rufus ignores the speech. He is busy, still on his knees, helping his wife. Some murmuring goes on as he examines her arms and legs carefully for broken bones)

RUFUS: Are you hurt, honey?

DUDINGSTON: (to Dundass) Blast it, Dundass! You were not much help in holding that man. Didn't you see the crazed look in his eyes?  That bastard really was ready to kill me!


<Music: Fast tempo, builds up>

ACT II       Scene 1     Force Against Oppression

Time: About 4 pm, June 9, 1772
Place: The study in John Brown's house in Providence
Essential Props:

  • Small serving table, small servant call bell
  • Colonial desk, quill pen, papers
  • Silver tray, Crystal decanter and two wine glasses
(The quality of the colonial furnishings in the room indicate the affluence and refined taste of the owner. John Brown, 36, is seated at a desk, writing. He is well dressed as befits his station as a wealthy merchant.  A <brisk knock> is heard on the door, which is then opened by a servant who announces:)

<Sound: light single footsteps, then opening of a sliding wood door>

SERVANT: Captain Lindsey of the Hannah is here to see you, Mr. Brown.

(John Brown rises, walks forward and extends his right hand. He is smiling as he shakes hands with the captain)

BROWN: (slyly) Something pleases you immensely, Captain; you've a smirk on your face a mile wide.

LINDSEY: (laughing, now) This has been a great day on the Hannah -- I've been exceedin'ly happy in our work, John Brown!

BROWN: It's been a long time since I've seen you so elated; I had no idea working on the packet boats was so exhilarating.

LINDSEY: (growing more excited) I must tell ya, John Brown. I can't keep still any longer.  We've trapped that damned Gaspee, high 'n dry, on a sand bar at Namquid Point -- (pauses) -- just as we planned!

BROWN: (also growing excited) Well done, Lindsey! The Gaspee has caused me so much annoyance recently that it delights me to hear of its present fix. (He rubs his hands together thoughtfully) -- Namquid Point -- Having run aground on that treacherous point myself a few years back I'm even more delighted.

LINDSEY: Aye. That's where she be beached -- and her crew won't be able to get her afloat until at least 3 o'clock tomorrow mornin', which is the next high tide.

BROWN: (laughing) How I would like to see or hear Dudingston right now! The air must be ringing with his curses, I think we should drink a toast to this very special event and to your skill in bringing it about.

(He <rings a little bell> to summon his servant, then gestures toward a chair)

BROWN: Please sit down, Lindsey. I must hear more!

(Lindsey paces to fireplace -- then to windows as though his boundless energy cannot easily be contained)

LINDSEY: Thankee, but I'm too excited ter sit.

(ENTER servant <footsteps>)


BROWN: (to servant) Choose a bottle of the finest Madeira from our cellars and bring it here with two glasses.

SERVANT: Yes, Sir. (The servant nods and exits <footsteps>)

BROWN: (turning to Lindsey, politely) I find it hard to talk to you, striding back and forth as though you're still on the ship, Lindsey. Do sit down. I really want to hear all the details.

LINDSEY: (sits reluctantly on edge of settee and leans forward eagerly) I apoleegize for me poor manners. It's true that I'm more at home on the bridge than in the drawin' room. (smiles graciously)  I've not had John Brown's advantages of livin' as a fine genteelman in addition ter a thorough trainin' at sea -- an' I am so overjoyed at gettin' the best of that bully that I could explode!

BROWN:  It's an emotion I can share with you.

LINDSEY: (speaking earnestly) Dudingston has been terrorizin' everyone up 'n down Narragansett Bay. Nate Greene's nephew, Rufus, got badly beaten up a little while back 'n Nate's packet ship was seized. We had a warrant issued to arrest the Capt'n of the Gaspee, but that sly bastard won't get off his ship onto land. Since then, we know he's stopped 'n searched nearly every ship 'n boat on the Bay 'n disrupteed all sea-trade in the colony. He even stole sheep 'n hogs ferm local farmers.

BROWN: I know. Our Governor has received a multitude of complaints. The conditions are getting worse for our people.  How's Rufus doing?

LINDSEY: Oh, he's much better now, as is his wife who also got beaten up by that bastard.  I heard she almost lost the baby. -- But. she just gave birth ter their third child. They all be doing well, but the little girl be born a bit early -- and has yet to be Christened.

BROWN:  We'll all pray for them.

LINDSEY: What action is the Guvanah takin' on all der complaints he be receivin'?

BROWN: Well, for one thing, he wrote to Lieutenant Dudingston, asking him to produce his official orders for verification. Governor Wanton believes, and many of us agree with him, that the Lieutenant is exceeding his authority. We suspect he may be using invalid or outmoded credentials.

LINDSEY: You'd think he'd want to silence the suspicion that surrounds him.

BROWN: Well, so far Dudingston has refused to show his papers.

LINDSEY: (incredulously) You mean he is defying the Guvanah -- the highest official in this colony?

BROWN: The Lieutenant's arrogance is almost beyond belief. He insists that as Commander of a British naval vessel his authority is at least as high as that of the governor of a colony.

LINDSEY: (shaking his head, disgustedly) But his rank be only Lieutenant. The British Navy didn't think the Gaspee important enough to put a higher-rankin' officah in charge. Doesn't Dudingston have to account to his higher ups in Massychusetts?

BROWN: Yes, and when Governor Wanton received a sarcastic reply to his letter to Dudingston, he followed it up with a letter to Admiral Montagu in Boston.

LINDSEY: What did the Admiral say?

BROWN:  He was even more insolent than Dudingston. In the Admiral's opinion, all Rhode Islanders are lawless pirates and he denied the Governor's right to inspect Dudingston's orders. What is more, -- (Brown's voice grows very serious) -- he threatened to "hang as pirates anyone caught trying to rescue any vessel from the King's schooner."-- So, you see, your actions today may have extremely serious consequences.

LINDSEY: I just come up from New York yesterday 'n barely had time to unload me cargo before startin' out again fer Providence. But -- we made sure the Hannah be made light 'n fast so we could trap the Gaspee.

BROWN: Were you fire upon?

LINDSEY: Aye. But that was to be expected -- just as we expected the Gaspee to give chase. Rather, I should be sayin' we counted on her doing so. It was part of our plan 'n I'd be sorely disappointin' if she didn't pursue us -- for I was more than ready for her!

(<footsteps> ENTER servant with tray containing wine bottle and two glasses which he (or she) places on a small table.

SERVANT: Your wine, Sir

The servant looks questioningly at John Brown who checks the label on the bottle -- then nods. The servant <opens the bottle and pours wine into the glasses> -- then serves them from the tray -- first to Lindsey -- then to Brown. The servant returns the tray to the table, then EXITS <footsteps>)

BROWN: (lifting his glass to propose a toast) I commend you on your bravery, Captain!

LINDSEY: (raising his glass) To ye health, John Brown!

(They each take a <brief sip> of the wine and then return the glasses quickly to the table)

BROWN: I've admired your prowess at sea for a long time, Captain Lindsey.

LINDSEY: (cheerfully) Seafarers have an old motto, "A stern chase is a long one." I had all me sails ready to put on a burst o' speed as soon as we were sighted. (laughs)

BROWN: (smiling broadly) I concede that the Gaspee's commander was no match for you, Lindsey.

LINDSEY: And don't forget, John Brown, that I be navigatin' this bay long enough to know every cove, every inlet, every passage -- to say nothin' o' every sand bar 'n shoal -- I be not fer braggin', but I could sail the Hannah anywhere in these waters, even at midnight in the dark o' the moon!

BROWN: I am well aware of all this, Lindsey. And that's why I chose you to lure the Gaspee aground and to "fix her clock" for all time.

LINDSEY: Yup Yes 'n the tide calculations were perfect. Today was to be the best possible combynation o' time 'n tide to trap the Gaspee. And tonight the moon will set just after midnight, so it'll be dark, and the crew will be all asleep -- when we attack the Gaspee.

BROWN: Yes, and according to the moon and time tables we wouldn't have had another opportunity like this for at least another month.--  I wish I could have been on board with you -- and I can't wait for tonight. I've forwarned about six other local Captains about our little plan. So -- tell me more.

LINDSEY:  I tacked just north o' Namquid Point, 'n pretended to furl me sails as if by mistake. You should've seen the Gaspee! With all her sails crowded on, she chased us in a reckless way 'n grounded solidly. -- But I'm sure he didn't know about the sand bar. You'd taken great pains to discover that he hadn't any pilot aboard. The Gaspee be heavier 'n displacein' more water -- so the Gaspee got stuck in the sand!

BROWN: And remains trapped for a long time.

LINDSEY: Maybe even longer -- because the ebbin' tide be creatin' a suction that be draw'n' the Gaspee even deeper into the wet sand.

BROWN: Ever since the St. John sailed into Narragansett Bay in '64 there has been troubles. The harassment of our shipping has been of concern to me for a long time. As you know, my family and I make our living from our ships and we have often stated that it is unjust and unreasonable to tax men on goods they bought with their own money and shipped to their home ports on their own vessels. But now -- when private citizens cannot go forth without fearing for their lives -- then I say it is oppression. And oppression must be halted!

LINDSEY: (growing excited and springing to his feet) There not be a better time than right now! We should be strikin' while the Gaspee is helpless!

BROWN:  (puts his hand on Lindsey's shoulder) I would never allow the grave risk that you have taken today to be wasted. The advantage you have secured for us must be exploited.

LINDSEY: Is the rest of your plan be all set to go?

BROWN: Yes, we must alert our supporters and goad then into action, now.

LINDSEY: I'm ready to help gather up the men and boats.

BROWN: Good. Now you are aware, I am sure, of the need to be discreet. We cannot divulge our plans to unsympathetic ears.

LINDSEY: Aye. I be keepin' yer confidence.

BROWN: (looking up seriously at Lindsey) The adventure that we are about to embark upon this night would be viewed most seriously by agents for the Crown, and we could all hang for it!

<Music: dramatic cresendo>


ACT II - Scene 2
Time: About two hours before sundown, June 9, 1772
Place: Main Street, Providence, Rhode Island
Essential Props:
  • Drum, Drum sticks
<Sound: horsehoofs on cobblestone, fading out>

(A drummer is marching. He stops and <plays a roll on his drum>. He is accompanied by a town crier, who announces in a loud voice:)


(A crowd of followers and by-standers is present.  There are more men among then than women. Comments from by-standers -- can be somewhat muffled --)

JOHN MAWNEY: Are you going?

JOSEPH BUCKLIN: I'll need a gun.

3rd MAN: Not me! It's too risky! You'd be hung as pirates! (He exits <footsteps>)

EPHRAIM BOWEN: I -- I'll borrow my pa's gun.

RUFUS GREENE: Where's Sabin's Tavern?

SAMUEL DUNN: It be across ferm Fenner's Wharf.

RUFUS GREENE: Oh, I know now! At the corner of Main and Planet Street. (He exits)

<Sound: horsehoofs on cobblestone, fading in>

(The drummer and crier exit and repeat the <roll of drums> and the announcement from the wings -- a little less loudly, to give the impression of coming from further down the street, -- they <repeat the roll> and announcement -- even fainter. The stage lights are gradually dimmed)

<Music: dramatic cresendo>


ACT II - Scene 3

Time: 9 pm  June 9, 1772
Place: James Sabin's Tavern, Providence.
Essential Props:

  • Muskets, powder horns
  • Fireplace
  • Melting pot, ladle, bullet molds
  • Small table for podium
  • Table with drinks
<Sound: door repeatedly opening and closing with footsteps as more men enter the room.  There is a constant low chatter and mumbling, and periodic sounds of bottles being opened and poured>

(The long, low room of Sabin's Tavern is the scene of purposeful activity. The room is crowded with men, most well dressed in ruffled shirts with their hair is neatly tied and powdered. Some have pistols and guns, while others are melting lead in the large fireplace and pouring it into molds. John Brown is standing nearby watching this procedure. Two boys John Howland, 14 and Ephraim Bowen, 19 are standing just inside the doorway, watching the action)

JOHN HOWLAND: Gosh! Lookie there, Eph. (points to fireplace) What are they doin'?

EPHRAIM BOWEN: (scornfully) Haven't you ever seen anyone makin' bullets?

HOWLAND: Well, no --

EPHRAIM: Go 'n watch 'em then. But don't get in der way, or they'll send you packin'. It's time you learned how it's done. How old are you, anyway?

HOWLAND: 14, goin' on 15.

EPHRAIM: Well, go watch 'em. See, (he points to the men working at fireplace) they're melting the lead, 'n then they are gonna pour it into them molds (he points again). When it cools, they'll have bullets.

HOWLAND: Will they use 'em tonight?

EPHRAIM: Of course!

HOWLAND: I hope they let us go with 'em

EPHRAIM: (boasting) They'll have to take me 'cause they need m'gun -- but I don't know if they'll take any young squirts, like you.

HOWLAND: (indignantly) Hey, I'm almost fifteen, 'n you ain't much older'n that!

EPHRAIM: Maybe I ain't -- but I'm a lot taller and I look older -- which is important. 'N if anyone asks you my age -- say that I'm 22.

HOWLAND: (agrees, grudgingly) Aw, all right. But it ain't your gun.  It's ya Pa's.

EPHRAIM: What of it? He said I could borrow it.

(Howland walks over to the fireplace but the men stop working and look up to the doorway where Captain Abraham Whipple is entering. Whipple who is about 39 years old, ruggedly built, removes his hat and places it on a small table nearby.  <The crowd noise lowers>)

WHIPPLE: Ahem, May I have your attention fer a brief period, gentlemen?  Most of you know me. For these who do not -- I am Captain Abraham Whipple, and I've been placed in command of tonight's action by a well known person -- who shall for the present be anonymous. (everyone glances at John Brown. Whipple, however looks around the room and continues his remarks) I'm glad to see such a good turn out. There must be over sixty men here. Now gentlemen, it's important that even though many of us know each other -- Hell, most of us are related to each other -- I need you all to remain nameless. (He gestures to Rufus Greene in the crowd) You there!


WHIPPLE: Will you take a head count while I finish my remarks?

RUFUS: Certainly, Sir! (Rufus goes through motions of counting -- low murmur) One, two, three...

WHIPPLE: To continue, then, -- seven of the largest longboats to be had in Providence are now tied up at Fenner's Wharf -- just directly across the street -- Before we shove off, if you have no arms, it will be a good idea to pick up some barrel staves, pavin' stones or whatever you feel will serve you as a weapon. Afterwards we will proceed down-river, past Fox Point and around Field's Point to Pawtuxet. (<he pounds his fist on the table for emphasis>)  -- I want complete and utter silence after that! The success of this venture depends on the element of surprise. (His voice grows softer, but very earnest) Let us warn each of you -- This is a dangerous time. There are some of us who may not come back alive from it. If any of you feel faint-hearted, this is the time to turn back. There will be no hard feelin's. A change of heart in the midst of this undertakin' could cost a companion his life! (he waits -- no one leaves) -- And none of you will ever say anythin' about who did what tonight, -- or we may all be hung. (pauses) -- Very well -- We'll be rowin' down to Pawtuxet Village where we'll be joined up by another boat and crew sent up from Bristol. I've assigned a captain in each boat. All of these men have had considerable sea duty. If you would, Captains, step aside -- over here to my right. (gestures to right)

(Captains John Brown, Benjamin Lindsey, John B. Hopkins, Samuel Dunn, Joseph Tillinghast, and Joseph Brown at the right of Captain Whipple)

WHIPPLE: (he turns to Rufus) How many?

RUFUS: Fifty-five.

WHIPPLE: (noting Ephraim with the gun) Did you count that lad?

RUFUS: No, sir, I didn't.

WHIPPLE: Count him, He's armed, you see.

RUFUS: Aye, Sir. What about the other boy?

WHIPPLE: (to Rufus) No. We've only so much room in the boats and cannot take any others -- tonight. (He turns to Howland and says in a kind tone--) You'd best go home, son.

(Howland exits, reluctantly <footsteps>)

WHIPPLE: (to Brown) Sir, you're in the second boat. Pick your crew of seven, and while you are about it, select seven brave 'n rugged men to go with me in the first boat.

BROWN: Aye. (he walks through the crowd and chooses fourteen men. They stand to one side in a group, faintly:) You, you, -- and you....

WHIPPLE: (to Lindsey). Take the third boat. Choose your crew.

LINDSEY: Aye, Sir. Seven, Sir?

WHIPPLE: (to Hopkins) Aye, seven.

LINDSEY: (Lindsey begins selecting seven men, faintly:) You, you, -- and you.....

WHIPPLE: (to the crowd) As soon as you have been assigned to boats and crews, take your places outside -- but don't shove off until I give the final order. We'll be rowin' against the tide for some six miles

(The crews selected by John Brown and Captain Lindsey exit <many footsteps, door squeaking>)

WHIPPLE: (to Bucklin) Go with Captain Hopkins -- (stumbling for words as he didn't mean to call out a name) -- er, just go with him. Take that gun-toting lad with you. (he pats Ephraim on the head, then speaks to Hopkins) Choose another five men from that group over there (points) and take your places in the fourth boat. Then, if you would, have the remaining Captains choose their men.

HOPKINS: Aye, Sir (he chooses three men and they follow him as he softly dicusses with the three remaining Captains. <group footsteps, door openings>)

(Whipple takes up his hat and follows with the rest of the remaining men, EXITS)

WHIPPLE: (from wings in a loud voice) Every man will have been assigned to a place. By the grace of God we shall prevail. Now let's get underway!

<Music: dramatic crescendo>


ACT III, Scene 1

Time: 1 am, June 10, 1772
Place: On board the schooner Gaspee aground at Namquid Point, Narragansett Bay, Rhode Island

Essential Props:

  • Barrel stave (balsa wood sticks painted grey)
  • Paving stones (large sponges painted grey)
  • Musket (2)
  • British pistol
  • Bosun's whistle
  • Oil lantern
  • Stage fog
  • Rope ties (10)
  • Ladder
<Sounds: Gentle surf, occasional bell buoy, and sea-gull caw>

(The stage is completely dark. The <sound of muffled oars moving in water> can be heard from the wings. An oil lantern shines an the deck of the Gaspee, where the sentry, Bartholomew Cheever is seen peering over the rail into the darkness beyond, stage fog surrounds the scene)

CHEEVER: (to himself) Damned night air carries sound so far, I can't tell if I'm hearin' things. It's a bloody dark night.

(<The sound of muffled oars> is repeated)


(There is no answer, but the <sound of muffled oars> is heard intermittently. <Heavy, hurried footsteps> are heard and Lt. Dudingston bursts on deck. Minus his jacket, he appears to be hastily dressed, He rushes past the sentry and goes to the rail and looks in the same direction as Cheever -- )

CHEEVER: (excitedly) Cap'n! Many boats approachin' off the stahbud bow!

DUDINGSTON: (agitated) I see. WHO COMES THERE? -- (pause) -- WHO COMES THERE?




(The men in the boats <cheer once>, loudly and this is followed by the <sound of many oars plying the water>. Dudingston casts a despairing look around. He is still alone with the sentry. He turns to Cheever and says:)

DUDINGSTON: Sound the General Alarm. Waste no time!

CHEEVER: Aye, Sir. <footsteps running> Ooof (He rushes off and collides with Midshipman William Dickinson. who is hurrying on deck with a musket) -- I'm sorry. Sir. (Cheever exits <footsteps running>)


DUDINGSTON: (regaining his composure slightly) Midshipman Dickinson. I'm relieved to see you, and your musket. You had better fire a warning shot.

DICKINSON: Aye, aye, Sir (He takes aim and fires <gunshot>)

(Cheever can be heard from the wings, shouting)


DUDINGSTON: (to Dickinson) Fire again, Dickinson. Hurry!

(The midshipman takes another shot <gunshot>. John Johnson, boatswain, appears carrying a pistol)


DUDINGSTON: (incredulously) We're being attacked, Bosun Johnson. See that arms are distributed. Let Mr. Dickinson have your pistol to use if they come aboard --

BUCKLIN: (loudly, from wings) Eph, reach me your gun and I can kill that fellow!

(Several seconds later, the shot is heard from the wings <gunshot>)

DUDINGSTON: (Dudingston doubles over as though in great pain) I'm done for!

BUCKLIN: (triumphantly, from wings) I have killed the rascal!

(The midshipman and boatswain go to Dudingston's aid, each taking him by an arm and holding him up. Meanwhile, the Gaspee crew begins to assemble on deck)

DICKINSON: Blimey! Let's take 'im below, Johnson, where we can attend to his wound.

JOHNSON: Aye, Sir. Mind his arm, Sir. He was hit there, too.

(The American patriots are coming aboard. Dr. John Mawney is first -- Simeon Olney follows. Next comes Rufus Greene. They are quickly joined by the rest of the patriots we saw previously at Sabin's Tavern, plus two from Bristol we didn't see, dressed up with Indian headgear)

OLNEY: (Olney hands a long, narrow, sharp spike of wood - a barrel stave - to Mawney who is otherwise unarmed.) Here, use this!

(The crew of the Gaspee is joined on deck by other members, including Dundass. Patriots and Gaspee crewman are simulating hand-to-hand combat. About 10 men for each side of the conflict. Gaspee crewmen do not show much resistance. )

<Sound: hurried footsteps, fighting, yelling, whacks with barrel staves, intensity builds over 10 seconds, then decreases over 10 seconds>

(Two men are rolling deck -- struggling. Mawney rushes forward brandishing his stave. He is about to bring it down on one man, Captain Dunn, but the man calls out--)

DUNN: John! Don't strike!

MAWNEY: Oh, my God, Captain Dunn! Sorry. (Mawney rushes on toward the ladder to go below. The Providence men have subdued the crewmen and are holding their arms behind their backs)

MAWNEY: Hold them there, I'll get some rope.

DUNDASS: (struggling fiercely) They mean to hang us!

MAWNEY: (changes his mind about going below and walks over to the man and speaks do quietly to the newly taken prisoners) No, we are not violent men.  You'll come to no harm if you cooperate with us. You will be sent ashore to safety. But we mean business, and we need the rope to tie your hands and feet --

(John Brown appears at the head of the ladder)

BROWN: Come here, doctor.

MAWNEY: (goes over to Brown) What's wrong?

BROWN: Don't call names -- but go immediately into the cabin. There is one wounded who is in danger of bleeding to death.

<Music: crescendo>


ACT III, Scene 2

Time: A few minutes later
Place: Lt. Dudingston's cabin
Essential props:

  • Woolen blankets
  • Tear-able white fabric, representing linen
  • Musket ball
  • Box of compresses and other medical supplies
  • Oil lantern
  • Wooden trunk
  • Captain's chair
  • Ladder
  • Stage blood
  • Royal Navy flag or British flag
(A Royal Navy or British flag is pinned to the back wall of the cabin, as is an oil lantern. Dudingston is seated wrapped in a thin white woolen blanket. He is bleeding profusely. The midshipman, Dickinson, is still with him, but his hands are tied by a rope, and he is guarded by Joseph Bucklin. Dr. John Mawney enters, followed by Ephraim Bowen.)

MAWNEY: (to Dudingston) I'm a doctor. Let me have a look at your wounds.

DUDINGSTON: (desperately) Yes. Yes, Quickly!

MAWNEY: (to Ephraim Bowen and Joseph Bucklin) Help me place him on the bunk so that I can examine him. (He says quickly to Bucklin:) Bring this prisoner up on deck, then find the ship's stores and bring me whatever medical supplies are available.

DUDINGSTON:  (groans as he is moved)


MAWNEY: (He is carefully unwrapping the blankets and making short quick probing notions with his skillful, trained hands.)

DUDINGSTON: (groans) How bad is it?

MAWNEY: You were shot in the groin, about five inches below the navel.

DUDINGSTON: (anxiously) But, what about --

MAWNEY: They just missed it. (He takes off his shirt and begins to use it as a compress at the wound) I'll use my shirt as a compress. I have to staunch the flow of blood.

DUDINGSTON: Pray, Sir, don't ruin your clothes. There is linen in that trunk.

MAWNEY: (to Bowen) Get it. (Mawney is still probing the Lieutenant's abdomen.)

(Bowen tries unsuccessfully to open the trunk. <knocks at lock> It is locked.)

MAWNEY: (impatiently) Break it open

(Bowen takes a knife from his pocket and forces the trunk to open, by breaking the lock. <banging, lock breaking, trunk opening>)

MAWNEY: (still probing) Can you find the linen?

BOWEN: (looking through contents of trunk) Yep, Dere's some white cloth here.

(Dudingston groans from time to time --)

(Bowen <tears the cloth> and makes a compress.)

MAWNEY: (still probing) Just a minute -- Christ! I've got it! (to Dudingston in a tone calculated to encourage his patient) Lieutenant, I've removed the musket ball! (He shows it to Dudingston, then lets it drop to the deck <sound of lead ball dropping, then rolling away>)

DUDINGSTON: (nods weakly) I'm obliged to you, Sir.

MAWNEY: (to Bowen) I need your help. Put that knife and cloth on the chest and come over here.

(Bowen places the cloth and knife on the chest and goes over to Mawney's side)

MAWNEY: See where my hand is?


MAWNEY: That is the opening of the wound. Place your hand on top of mine. (Bowen places his hand on Mawney's hand)  I am going to remove my hand and I want you to hold on, very firmly, keep pressing hard to stop the bleeding. Have you got it? Good. Keep holding it that way. (Mawney slides his hand out from under Bowen's and stands to make more compresses.)

(Bucklin re-enters with supplies)

BUCKLIN: These are all the medical supplies I could git.

MAWNEY: (brusquely) Do you have some bandages there?


MAWNEY: I'll make some compresses. (He points to the chests) Put the supplies down there. Then stand outside and see that no one disturbs me until I have completed the operation on the Captain.


<Music: decrescendo, then warm and peaceful>

ACT III, Scene 3

Time: A few days later, mid-afternoon
Place: Inside the home of Meg and John Buckout
Essential Props:

  • Table
  • Glass of water
  • Sitting chair
  • Baby doll

(Maggie Greene is sitting holding her new daughter. Rufus Greene is standing nearby, doting over the two. Maggie's sister-in-law, Meg Buckout, enters the room with a glass of water and places it on a table. She is plump and cheerful looking)

MEG: (pleasantly) Rufus -- the baby's now four weeks old, and although she came to us a bit early, I think she's out of danger.  You should Christen her now.

(Rufus takes the child, which he holds awkwardly, but proudly)

MEG: (teasing) She won't break, Rufus.

MAGGIE: I should say not! After all she's been through in her short life! She must really be strong now to be so hale and hearty.

MEG: God gives extra strength to the newborn to help them into this world. If he didn't, many of 'em wouldn't never see the light of day. And God was with you and Rufus when you were stopped by the Gaspee. I shudder to think you almost lost the baby that day.

RUFUS: Just think of all the things that have happened since that day --

MAGGIE: I really hated to miss all the excitement while I've been confined to bed for the past months.

MEG: It was either bedrest or loose the baby, Maggie. -- The men of Rhode Island were really brave to seize the Gaspee and capture the crew. That dreadful ship is gone now for good, isn't it, Rufus.

RUFUS: (nods affirmatively) She was blown to bits by her own powder when her arsenal caught fire. We took the captain and crew ashore. Then a few of them went back and put the torch to the ship.

MEG: And that horrid Lieutenant Dudingston was wounded, wasn't he?

RUFUS: Yes, but he'll survive. At first he lost a lot of blood -- our surgeon treated the lieutenant with expert care.

MEG: You were smart to bring a doctor along.

RUFUS: I heard that he wasn't too keen about going along, but his friend, Joe Tillinghast, convinced him to go. And after he got there, he acted with great bravery. He was the first man to board the Gaspee and he fought as hard as anyone -- until he was summoned to give first aid to the enemy.

MAGGIE: Isn't that strange -- A fighting doctor!

RUFUS: Not exactly. Although he's been trained in surgery, Mawney doesn't often practice. His family's loaded -- and he'd rather spend his time studying Latin and Greek -- and chasing the ladies.

MEG: But if he hadn't been along the Lieutenant would probably have died. I hope that man was properly grateful.

RUFUS: (smiling) I doubt it -- You know there's been a reward offered to find any of us out.  Over 100 pounds for a man, and even 500 pounds for one of our leaders, like John Brown or Abe Whipple.

MAGGIE: (eagerly) Who else took part in the action? Anyone we know?

RUFUS: People should not be discussing names. I feel for certain that the British will conduct an investigation.  They'd hang the lot of us if anyone talks.

MEG: I suppose so.  Rufey, I'm scared for you!

RUFUS: Not to worry, my dear Maggie.  Gosh, most everyone on the raid were either related or friends with each other.  None of us will talk.  And we'll all be okay so long as no one else around these parts talks.

MAGGIE: (sarcastically) Where is the "charming" Lieutenant now?

RUFUS: He's in Pawtuxet. Mawney turned the Lieutenant over to a doctor friend of his and he convinced the Joseph Rhodes family to shelter Dudingston until he is well.

MAGGIE: (skeptically) Well, he sounds almost harmless now -- but he was far from it the day we met. I just wish I could have been aboard the Hannah when she lured the Gaspee into the trap. What was that Captain's name again, Rufus?

RUFUS: Captain Benjamin Lindsey. His name is on everybody's lips. Lindsey -- He and John Brown and Abe Whipple plotted the perfect way to get rid of that damned, infernal Gaspee.

MEG: He has rescued our people from a pirate. If I ever bear another son, I do believe I'll call him Lindsey.

MAGGIE: (looks questioningly at Rufus, hesitantly) Well -- this one's a girl, and I'm naming her Phylotte -- (excitedly) but her middle name can be Lindsay -- with an 'A'!

MEG: Now, Maggie, shouldn't her middle name be Margaret after you?

RUFUS: (decisively) These are times of change and the old customs are changing.  The attack on the Gaspee was America's first blow for freedom. We will be living in a new world, and it is only fitting that children born here should be awarded new names. I can think of no greater honor for myself, or for my daughter, than to give her a middle name of this courageous captain who has appeared in our midst. (Rufus holds the child out to his wife) Maggie, I give you Phylotte Lindsay Greene. Together we shall raise her to be an American subject, not British. The people of Phylotte Lindsay Greene's generation must never bow down to tyrants -- or be cautious in the face of cruelty -- but must learn from the beginning to fight for freedom and for the rights of all countrymen!

(<The infant cries. It is loud and sustained, fading into Music crescendo ending theme>)


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Originally Posted to Gaspee Virtual Archives 12/2002   Rev. 7/2008  DerosiersGaspee.htm