The tea destroyed was contained in three ships, lying near each other
at what was called at that time Griffin's wharf, and were surrounded by
armed ships of war, the commanders of which had publicly declared that
if the rebels, as they were pleased to style the Bostonians, should not
withdraw their opposition to the landing of the tea before a certain day,
the 17th day of December, 1773, they should on that day force it on shore,
under the cover of their cannon's mouth.
On the day preceding the seventeenth, there was a meeting of the citizens
of the county of Suffolk, convened at one of the churches in Boston, for
the purpose of consulting on what measures might be considered expedient
to prevent the landing of the tea, or secure the people from the collection
of the duty. At that meeting a committee was appointed to wait on Governor
Hutchinson, and request him to inform them whether he would take any measures
to satisfy the people on the object of the meeting.
To the first application of this committee, the Governor told them he
would give them a definite answer by five o'clock in the afternoon. At
the hour appointed, the committee again repaired to the Governor's house,
and on inquiry found he had gone to his country seat at Milton, a distance
of about six miles. When the committee returned and informed the meeting
of the absence of the Governor, there was a confused murmur among the members,
and the meeting was immediately dissolved, many of them crying out, "Let
every man do his duty, and be true to his country"; and there was
a general huzza for Griffin's wharf.
It was now evening, and I immediately dressed myself in the costume
of an Indian, equipped with a small hatchet, which I and my associates
denominated the tomahawk, with which, and a club, after having painted
my face and hands with coal dust in the shop of a blacksmith, I repaired
to Griffin's wharf, where the ships lay that contained the tea. When I
first appeared in the street after being thus disguised, I fell in with
many who were dressed, equipped and painted as I was, and who fell in with
me and marched in order to the place of our destination.
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 bv 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