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Dec 16th, 1773



December 16, 2009 – Comments (3) | RELATED TICKERS: E , IN.DL , DIA


When we arrived at the wharf, there were three of our number who assumed an authority to direct our operations, to which we readily submitted. They divided us into three parties, for the purpose of boarding the three ships which contained the tea at the same time. The name of him who commanded the division to which I was assigned was Leonard Pitt. The names of the other commanders I never knew.

"We were immediately ordered by the respective commanders to board all the ships at the same time, which we promptly obeyed. The commander of the division to which I belonged, as soon as we were on board the ship appointed me boatswain, and ordered me to go to the captain and demand of him the keys to the hatches and a dozen candles. I made the demand accordingly, and the captain promptly replied, and delivered the articles; but requested me at the same time to do no damage to the ship or rigging.

"We then were ordered by our commander to open the hatches and take out all the chests of tea and throw them overboard, and we immediately proceeded to execute his orders, first cutting and splitting the chests with our tomahawks, so as thoroughly to expose them to the effects of the water. 

In about three hours from the time we went on board, we had thus broken and thrown overboard every tea chest to be found in the ship, while those in the other ships were disposing of the tea in the same way, at the same time. We were surrounded by British armed ships, but no attempt was made to resist us.

"We then quietly retired to our several places of residence, without having any conversation with each other, or taking any measures to discover who were our associates; nor do I recollect of our having had the knowledge of the name of a single individual concerned in that affair, except that of Leonard Pitt, the commander of my division, whom I have mentioned. There appeared to be an understanding that each individual should volunteer his services, keep his own secret, and risk the consequence for himself. No disorder took place during that transaction, and it was observed at that time that the stillest night ensued that Boston had enjoyed for many months.

"During the time we were throwing the tea overboard, there were several attempts made by some of the citizens of Boston and its vicinity to carry off small quantities of it for their family use. To effect that object, they would watch their opportunity to snatch up a handful from the deck, where it became plentifully scattered, and put it into their pockets.

"One Captain O'Connor, whom I well knew, came on board for that purpose, and when he supposed he was not noticed, filled his pockets, and also the lining of his coat. But I had detected him and gave information to the captain of what he was doing. We were ordered to take him into custody, and just as he was stepping from the vessel, I seized him by the skirt of his coat, and in attempting to pull him back, I tore it off; but, springing forward, by a rapid effort he made his escape. He had, however, to run a gauntlet through the crowd upon the wharf nine each one, as he passed, giving him a kick or a stroke.

"Another attempt was made to save a little tea from the ruins of the cargo by a tall, aged man who wore a large cocked hat and white wig, which was fashionable at that time. He had sleightly slipped a little into his pocket, but being detected, they seized him and, taking his hat and wig from his head, threw them, together with the tea, of which they had emptied his pockets, into the water. In consideration of his advanced age, he was permitted to escape, with now and then a slight kick.

"The next morning, after we had cleared the ships of the tea, it was discovered that very considerable quantities of it were floating upon the surface of the water; and to prevent the possibility of any of its being saved for use, a number of small boats were manned by sailors and citizens, who rowed them into those parts of the harbor wherever the tea was visible, and by beating it with oars and paddles so thoroughly drenched it as to render its entire destruction inevitable."

 - George Hewes - participant

3 Comments – Post Your Own

#1) On December 16, 2009 at 11:08 PM, Mary953 (85.18) wrote:


Thank you for a most excellent blog.

Footnote:  Once the ships had entered and docked at the Boston Harbor, the captains were not allowed to return to sea without paying the duty taxes.  Even then, the ships were not allowed to depart without unloading the tea by declaration of Governor Thomas Hutchinson.  Thus, the ships could not leave the harbor and return as they had come.  They were only free to leave once they no longer had any cargo to off-load.  The colonists would not allow the tea to be unloaded.  Attempting to unload the tea would lead to the sort of action reported by Mr. Hewes. 

Once the ships had been at anchor in the harbor for a specific number of days, the contents of the holds were available to be seized by the British customs agents.  The Governor could then have the seized cargo sold with a large percentage of the sale price going to him personally.  In this case, the appointed recipients of the cargo for sale happened to be the sons of the governor.  The request of the captains that their ships not be damaged was reasonable.  They were probably grateful for the opportunity to get rid of the cargo that was endangering the ships that they owned.

In the morning, with holds empty, the ships were allowed to leave.  This same action was being repeated in each of the colonies.  Only Hutchinson chose to make it a battle of wills between himself and the colonists.

I appreciate this post.  It was worth much more than a rec.


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#2) On December 17, 2009 at 2:18 PM, JakilaTheHun (99.92) wrote:

You know ... I had never realized that the Boston Tea Party took place in mid-December before now.  Makes it all the more impressive; it's cold enough down here in DC; I can't imagine how cold it would be in Boston Harbor in mid-December. 

Great blog, in any case.  Don't think I've ever read a first person account of it before now :)

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#3) On December 19, 2009 at 7:17 PM, devoish (65.42) wrote:


The account is from "history matters" from George Mason University.

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