Salisbury pays tribute to Gaspee raiders 

Earl Salisbury dressed in Revolutionary War attire on July 3 at CarmelFest. (Photo by Mark Ambrogi)

Earl Salisbury dressed in Revolutionary War attire on July 3 at CarmelFest. (Photo by Mark Ambrogi)

By Mark Ambrogi

Earl Salisbury has been playing dress-up for a long time.

Salisbury, a 75-year-old Indianapolis resident, began wearing Revolutionary War era attire in part to pay tribute to his great-great-great-great grandfather Nathan Salisbury, who fought in the war.

Salisbury visited CarmelFest in his attire on July 3 and drew a lot of attention. Some asked questions but most just wanted a picture, Salisbury said.

“They’re trying to figure out why the guy is wearing lace around his neck,” said Salisbury, noting lace used to signify the soldier was taken so other women would stay away.

The former Indianapolis city councilman also took part in a Conner Prairie march with his fellow Sons of the American Revolution members on July 2 and 4.

Another Salisbury relative, James Henry Salisbury, was a Civil War physician who invented the Salisbury steak. Research by James H. in the 1880s identified Nathan as a Gaspee raider. The HMS Gaspee, a British customs schooner, forced tariffs on colonial vessels in Providence and Newport harbors. In June 1772, an angry group 60-plus Rhode Island citizens stormed the schooner in Warwick, R.I., burning it to the waterline.

This happened 18 months before the Boston Tea Party, which Salisbury views as a minor event in comparison. Scholars like to point to the Gaspee attack as the first real battle line being drawn for the Revolutionary War.

These days Salisbury portrays Abraham Whipple, who led the Gaspee attack, after further family research showed Nathan likely did not taken part in the Gaspee raid.

Salisbury has also spoken to many schoolchildren about the war.

“Their questions are so much better (than adults) about why did this happen and why did that happen,” Salisbury said.


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