In 1772, Rufus commanded the sloop "Fortune" that was condemned by the "Gaspee", a British Revenue collecting ship. The ship's contents owned by Nathanael Greene of Rhode Island were confiscated and Rufus was physically beaten. This incensed the seafaring citizens of Rhode Island. The Gaspee crew was even ordered to take supplies from area farmers without permission or compensation. When news of these actions reached Rhode Island Governor Joseph Wanton, he called for a meeting with Lieutenant Dudingston to voice the residents' concerns.
Dudingston refused to attend and continued his strategy of disrupting commerce throughout Narragansett Bay. He pursued every ship from the large merchantmen to the small traders and fishermen, and continued to incite the colonists.
The packet sloop Hannah, under the command of Captain Benjamin Lindsay, had properly passed customs inspection at Newport. When Dudingston and his crew gave chase, Lindsay deliberately lured the Gaspee across the shallows off Namquid Point, and the British ship ran aground on a sandbar, and would be unable to move until the flood tide of the following day.
Upon arrival in Providence, Captain Lindsay alerted officials in Providence to the Gaspee 's mishap,
a town crier was sent out inviting all interested parties to a meeting at Sabin's Tavern to decide on a course of action.
Shortly before midnight on June 9, 1772, 64 armed Rhode Islanders in eight longboats with muffled oars rowed out to the stranded ship. John Brown, a leading Providence citizen, called for the surrender of the Gaspee and Lieutenant Dudingston. In response, Dudingston ordered the crew to fire upon anyone who attempted to board the ship.
The majority of these men, who comprised the social elite of Providence, were disguised with black-smeared faces or Indian headdresses. Led by John Brown, a wealthy merchant and member of one of Rhode Island's most prestigious families, their intentions were nothing less than the deliberate destruction of the government ship on duty in Narragansett Bay.
Shortly thereafter, the Rhode Islanders rushed the decks of the Gaspee and, in the melee, Dudingston was shot in the arm and fell to the deck – marking the first bloodshed for American independence. The remainder of the crew, most of whom were asleep below deck, were overcome by the raiding party, and the ship was forced to surrender.
The captured crew was bound, placed into the longboats, and put ashore at Pawtuxet Village nearby, and Dudingston was taken to the house of Joseph Rhodes. Lieutenant Governor Sessions visited Dudingston there the following day, but he refused to talk about his experiences. He was tended to for a few days by the well known local physician, Henry Sterling.
The colonists rowed away with their prisoners, leaving one boat and the leaders of the expedition – prominent men of Providence – who removed most of the documents aboard the ship, and ordered Gaspee to be burned, and the vessel burned to the waterline. At the break of dawn on June 10, 1772, the ship's powder magazine exploded, and the Gaspee sank, utterly destroyed.
I, Rufus Greene, Jr., of East Greenwich, in the colony of Rhode Island, mariner, depose and say; that some time in February last, I was on board of and commanded the sloop Fortune, lying at anchor in the Narragansett Bay, off North Kingstown, having a quantity of rum on board, belonging to Nathaniel Greene & Co., when one Dundass, an officer of the schooner Gaspee, under the command of Lieutenant Dudingston, came on board and asked this deponent if he would take any freight on board; to which this deponent answered no; he then ordered this deponent to unlay the hatches; and this deponent telling the said Dundass that said hatches were unlaid, he then ordered him into the cabin; and being demanded by what authority he thus did, replied, "If you do not go into the cabin I'll let you know," drawing his sword; he then caught this deponent by the collar, and pushed him into the cabin; this deponent then came out of said cabin, and went forward to prevent the anchor's being weighed; he then clenched upon this deponent again, thrust him into the cabin, jammed the companion leaf upon his head, knocked him down upon a chest in said cabin, and confined him there for a considerable time; after this deponent entreating the said Dundass to let him free, he did so, and made a seizure of the said vessel and cargo, (as he said,) and put the letter "R" upon her hatches; then towed said sloop to said schooner (it being calm) with three boats. This deponent being commanded aboard the schooner aforesaid, obeyed; went before said Lieutenant Dudingston, and after some conversation, was ordered from his presence and confined in the gangway; this deponent asked said Dudingston if he had a commission to seize, &c., to which said Dudingston answered that he had a good commission from his Majesty, but showed none. The next day this deponent was put on board another vessel, and further saith not. RUFUS GREENE, Jr.
For further details see: http://www.gaspee.info/raiders/Green_Rufus.htm
Margarita Bockhout Greene
1745–1831 (m. 1768)