« PreviousContinue »
From this crowd sixty-four men were selected. They chose as their commander, so tradition asserts, Abraham Whipple, who, later on, became one of the first-made captains of the American navy, and then all embarked in eight long-boats gathered from the different vessels lying at the wharves, and pulled away for the Gaspé.
That was a most remarkable expedition in the matter of armament, for, although there were a few firearms in the boats, the crews depended for the most part on a liberal supply of round paving-stones that they carried for weapons of offense.
It was at two o'clock in the morning when this galley-fleet arrived in sight of the stranded Gaspé. The tide had turned by this time, and the schooner had begun to right herself somewhat. A sentinel, pacing to and fro with some difficulty, saw the approaching boats and hailed them. A shower of paving-stones was the most effective if not the only reply he received, and he tumbled down below precipitately. The rattle and crash of the pavingstones on the deck routed the crew from their berths, and, running hastily on deck, the captain of the Gaspé fired a pistol point-blank at
At that a single musket was fired from the boats, by whom will never be told, and the
captain dropped with a bullet in his thigh. Then the boats closed about the stranded vessel and their crews swarmed over the rails. The sailors of the Gaspé strove to resist the onslaught, but they were quickly knocked down and secured.
As soon as this was done the schooner was effectually fired, and her captors, with their prisoners, pulled away; but they remained within sight until the early dawn appeared, when the schooner blew up, and the boats were rowed hastily home with the tide.
The indignation of the British officials over this assault on a naval vessel was so great that a reward of £1,000 was offered for the leader of the expedition, with £500 more and a free pardon to any one of the offenders who would turn informer. But, "notwithstanding a Commission of Inquiry, under the great seal of England, sat with that object, from January to June, during the year 1773," not enough evidence was obtained to warrant the arrest of a single man.
Although it was not an affair of the sea, strictly speaking, it is worth recalling here that within six months after this Commission of Inquiry had failed to learn the names of the men, disguised as Indians, who had burned the Gaspé, another party of men in another colony disguised themselves as Indians, and helped amazingly in making the history of the times. It was on the night of Friday, the 17th of December, 1773, as the reader will remember. The ship Dartmouth, laden with tea, was lying at her wharf in Boston. She had been lying there since the 28th of the preceding month, and during all those days the people of Boston had labored unceasingly to get her away to sea without discharging her cargo. It is even recorded that "the urgency of the business in hand overcame the sabbatarian scruples of the people," and that in Bos
ton! Meetings too great for "the Cradle of Liberty" (Faneuil Hall) were adjourned to the Old South Meeting-House. The people were "determined not to act (in offense) until the last legal method of relief should have been tried and found wanting." But at last, on the night of this 17th day of December, as. the great throng of more than seven thousand people waited in and about "the church that was dimly lighted with candles," a messenger arrived from the British Governor to say that the last legal resource had failed. The Governor had refused to allow the ship to go. And "then, amid profound stillness, Samuel Adams arose and said, quietly but distinctly, 'this meeting can do nothing more to save the country."
A war-whoop was heard a moment later without the church, and fifty men, disguised as Indians, just as Captain Whipple's men were when they fired the Gaspé-disguised as Indians because Captain Whipple's men had successfully eluded the British detectivesthese fifty citizens of Boston ran away to the wharf where the Dartmouth lay.
One John Rowe had asked during the meeting earlier in the evening, "Who knows how tea will mingle with salt water?" He had now his opportunity to learn, for when the Indians reached the ship they quickly brought