It began late in 1773.
December 16 was a dark, dank night, the thin crescent moon having at first been obscured by showery overcast, only to pass below the horizon just as the drizzle tapered off completely.1 The waters in the harbor were calm as the rolling waves lapped softly against the sodden wharves. Except for the gentle wooden creaking of the various sail ships against their hemp moorings, all was quiet, eerily so. Peaceful it seemed that night, but all was not well in the little New England town of Boston. Events were unfolding that would plunge the town toward war.
Splash! The stillness of the night was shattered only for a moment, then instantly silent once more. Hack! Smack! The tranquility was broke once more, this time from the cracking of hatchets into hollow wooden crates. This hacking echoed across the harbor, followed by another heavy splash! Then more hatcheting. Splash!
These were the only sounds that came from Griffin’s Wharf on the southeast side of Boston. Docked there were two transports, the Dartmouth and the Eleanor, and each had 114 chests of detested East India Company tea onboard. Moored nearby was the brig Beaver with another 112 chests. Altogether, the Boston shipment was some 90,000 pounds of dutied tea, worth about £9000 then, over a million US dollars today.2
All along the wharf, a large but hushed crowd of spectators, perhaps just hundreds, maybe near a thousand, comprised of both Bostonians and curious folk in from the neighboring countryside, all watched with bated breath as the extraordinary event unfolded.3