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December 22, 2012

Restored ships bring Boston Tea Party to life

Reenactors from across New England last week retold the story of the Boston Tea Party and dramatized the events Dec. 16, 1773, that helped spark the American Revolution.

The evening consisted of three parts, as it did 239 years ago; it started at the Old South Meeting House followed by a procession to Boston Harbor and ended with a re-enactment of the destruction of the tea into the harbor at the new Boston Tea Party Ships & Museum.

Cape Ann helped provide backdrop for the re-creation: Two of the boats at the museum, the Beaver and the Eleanor, that took part in the re-enactment and the original event, were built in Essex and restored earlier in 2012 at the Glouceser Marine Railways in Rocky Neck under the supervision of shipwright Leon Poindexter.

The re-enactment included a spirited and theatrical colonial meeting at the Old South Meeting House to protest the colonial tax on tea, just as unprecedented numbers of colonists gathered in that very building 239 years ago. Samuel Adams, John Hancock, Paul Revere and other Patriot leaders joined in a fiery debate with Loyalists in this final attempt to peaceably resolve the crisis as the deadline to pay the tax approached. Participants were encouraged to join the debate, letting their voices be heard and joining in the vote.

Led by fife and drums, participants and re-enactors then marched together marched from the Old South Meeting House to Boston Harbor where Griffin’s Wharf once stood, to destroy the tea.

Then participants lined the shores of Boston Harbor and watched as the Sons of Liberty re-enactors stormed aboard the brig Beaver and destroyed chest after chest of East India tea, just as colonists did 239 years before. When the Sons of Liberty arrived, they had an exchange with a customs officer and Captain Coffin, the captain of the Beaver, before they boarded the ship, opened the hold and hoisted tea chests on deck.

The tea chests were broken open and the contents spilled into Boston Harbor — with viewersers yelling “Huzzah!” as each chest was dumped into the harbor.

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