In 1772, armed resistance to the King of England's troops in the colonies was growing. Rhode Island was an especially interesting place: the citizens of Newport fiercely supported the King while those who lived in Providence generally wanted no part of the King or his representatives.
According to Wikipedia.org, the HMS Gaspée, a British revenue schooner under the command of Lieutenant William Dudingston, sailed into Rhode Island’s Narragansett Bay to aid in the enforcement of customs collection and inspection of cargo. Rhode Island had a reputation for smuggling and trading with the enemy during wartime, and Dudingston and his officers quickly antagonized powerful merchant interests in the small colony. On June 9, 1772, when the Gaspée lay hard aground, a band of Providence members of the Sons of Liberty rowed out to confront the officers and crew before the rising tide allowed the ship to free herself.
At the break of dawn on June 10, American patriots led by Abraham Whipple boarded the ship. The crew put up a feeble resistance, Lieutenant Dudingston was shot and wounded, and the vessel burned to the waterline. The man who shot Dudingston was Joseph Bucklin.
Whipple, Bucklin, and the others were never prosecuted. Authorities in Rhode Island colony made little attempt, if any, to bring any of the offenders to justice.
The British Admiralty would not ignore the destruction of one of its military vessels on station. This attack can be considered the first shot of the American Revolution. The British government formed a special commission to authorize and direct an inquiry into the affair and to grant the necessary powers for that purpose. The governor of the colony, though elected annually by the people, was named to head the commission.
The commissioners met, but little was accomplished, other than detailing the events of that burning. Those records survive and provide a fascinating glimpse into an otherwise little-known event in American history. Those documents and others are available online in the Gaspée Virtual Archives.
The Gaspée Virtual Archives names names. If your ancestor lived in Providence, Rhode Island, or nearby towns in 1772, you may find him listed. Even if you do not have ancestors involved in the Gaspée affair, you will still find a fascinating insight into American history at http://www.gaspee.org.