Revolutionary War Historical Article

The Original Sons of Liberty
and the Boston Tea Party

The Eyewitness Account of Samuel Cooper

By Donald N. Moran

The Sons of Liberty, the original organization, and not our Chapter, was formed in 1765 to combat the famed Stamp Act. It was a SECRET organization, of which we surprisingly know very little. Considering that the actions they were taking were, in the eyes of the King, treason, carrying the death penalty, it is no wonder they kept few records, and certainly no membership rolls.

It is generally believed that the membership was quite restricted, for security reasons, with most members being also known as members of the various Committees of Correspondence.

The many actions attributed to the "Sons" or "Liberty Boys," by which name they were also known, were probably instigated by the "Sons," but those participating were sympathetic supporters, and not necessarily members.

This was true of the most famous event December 16th, 1773 sponsored by the Sons of Liberty – "The Boston Tea Party."

The following is a first hand written account of the "Tea Party," written by participant Samuel Cooper. We do not know when Cooper wrote this account, but in all probability, many years after. Of interest to us as members of the SAR, Cooper was also a veteran of the Revolutionary War, having served at battles of Lexington-Concord, Bunker Hill, Trenton, and Brandywine. At the end of the war he held a Major’s Commission. He settled in New York City, served as City Tax Collector, married and had several children.

Also of interest is his son, Samuel Cooper, Jr., (1798-1876) who was the highest-ranking officer in the Confederate Army, serving as Adjutant and Inspector General. He was one of the few West Point Graduates that sided with the Confederacy.

Samuel Cooper’s Eyewitness Account of the Boston Tea Party

"The duty on tea gave great umbrage to the colonists generally and in Boston an association was formed in 1770 to drink no tea until the duty was repealed. This course was persisted in 1773 the arrival of 3 ships from England laden with tea caused great disgust."

"No little excitement prevailed among the inhabitants of Boston, on account of the arrival of the ships laden with tea from England. Every effort was made to send these ships back but without success and it was soon evident that the tea would be landed unless some active measures were adopted by the citizens to prevent it. A town meeting was called on the afternoon of December 16, 1773 to devise measures for getting rid of this annoyance. At this meeting, which was held in the Old South Meeting House corner of Main and Milk Street, Jno. Hancock presided. A little before sundown an alarm was created among the assembled citizens by the cry of fire, which was suppose to be given by some of the British officers who had attended the meeting in citizen dress and had given the alarm for the purpose of breaking up the assembly. They had nearly effected this object when the town clerk, Wm. Cooper rose and in a loud voice told the citizens that there was no fire to be apprehended but the fire of the British and begged them to keep their plaices. Immediately after a detach’t of about 20 men disguised as Indians was seen to approach in single file by the west door of the Church. They marched with silent steps down the isle and so passed by the south door brandishing their tommahaws [sic – tomahawks] in that direction. The appearance of these men created some sensation. No one appeared to expect their arrival and the object of their visit seemed wholly inexplicable. On leaving the church, they proceeded in the same order in which they entered it, down Milk Street through that part of town which led to Gray’s and Tiletson’s wharves where the tea ships lay. Arrived at the wharves they divided into three troops each with a leader gained possession of the ships quietly and proceeded to lighten them of their cargo by hoisting out the boxes and emptying their contents into the dock. No noise was heard except the occasional clink of the hatchet in opening the boxes and the whole business was performed with so much expedition that before 10 o’clock that night the entire cargo of the three vessels were deposited in the docks. Many a wishful eye was directed to the piles of tea which lay in the docks and one poor fellow (5) who could not resist the temptation had filled the lining of his cloak with about a bushel of the plants. He was soon observed by the crowd and the process of lightening him of his burden was short. He was dragged a little distance on the wharf to a barrel and was soon furnished with a coat of tar and shavings."

(Editor's Note: the following was contributed by Dr. Catherine N. Ball, Ph.D., Georgetown University, in April, 2006, who found Samuel Cooper's obituary in Marriage and Death Notices from Alexandria, Virginia Newspapers, vol. 2: 1838-1852, Wesley Pippenger, 2005, p. 68.)

01 SEP 1840, Tues, p. 3. Another Revolutionary Hero Gone! Died, on the 29th Aug.  [i.e. 29 Aug 1840], at the residence of his son, Maj. S. Cooper of the U.S. Army, near Alexandria, D.C. Maj. SAMUEL COOPER, Sr., in the 84th year of his age, after several years of suffering which he bore with Christian resignation and fortitude. The deceased was an officer in our memorable struggle for Independence, and was an active participator in the trials as well as the glories of that eventful period. He was a witness at the famous Tea Affair in Boston, his native place -- was at the battles of Bunker Hill, Monmouth, and Brandywine, and most of the other important ones of the Revolutionary War. No greater [praise] could be offered to his memory, in this brief notice than that of his having possessed the friendship and confidence of his adored Chiefs, Washington and Lafayette.

Known Participants in the Boston Tea Party

Benjamin Thatcher, of Boston, compiled a list of fifty-eight known participants in the Boston Tea Party. This was accomplished in 1835, with seven of the participants still living who helped him prepare it.

In 1884 Francis S. Drake, also of Boston, added fifty more names gleaned from family documents and oral traditions. Drake also tried to identify these men with their occupations and ages.

Nathaniel Barber (3), 45, merchant

Samuel Barnard, 36, occupation unknown

Henry Bass (4), 34, merchant

Edward Bates, age and occupation unknown

Thomas Boulter, 38, housewright

David Bradlee (6), 31, occupation unknown

James Bradlee (6), 19, occupation unknown

Nathaniel Bradlee (6), 27, occupation unknown

Thomas Bradlee (6), 29, occupation unknown

James Brewer, age unknown, pump maker

Seth Ingersoll Brown, 23, house carpenter

Stephen Bruce, age unknown, merchant

Benjamin Burton, 24, occupation unknown

Nicholas Campbell, 41, sailor

George Carleton, age and occupation unknown

Thomas Chase (3), age unknown, distiller

Benjamin Clarke, 18, cooper’s apprentice

John Cochran, 23, occupation unknown

Gresham Collier, age and occupation unknown

Adam Colson (4), 35, leather dresser

James F. Condy (4), age unknown, bookseller

S. Coolidge, age and occupation unknown

Samuel Cooper, 18, cooper’s apprentice

John Crane, 29, house carpenter

Thomas Dana, age and occupation unknown

Robert Davis, 26, importer of groceries and liquors

Edward Dolbear, 18, cooper’s apprentice

Joseph Eaton, age unknown, hatter

Joseph Eayres, age unknown, housewright

- Eckley, age unknown, barber

Benjamin Edes (4), age unknown, printer

William Etheridge, age unknown, mason

Samuel Fenno, 28 ,housewright

Samuel Foster, age and occupation unknown

Nathaniel Frothingham, 27, coachmaker

John Fulton (7), 30, occupation unknown

John Gammell, 22, carpenter

Samuel Gore, 22, house painter

Moses Grant (4), 30, upholsterer

John Greenleaf (4), age and occupation unknown

Samuel Hammond, 24, farmer

William Hendley, 25, mason

George R. Hewes, 31, shoemaker

John Hicks, 48, occupation unknown

Samuel Hobbs, 25, tanner’s apprentice

John Hooton, 18, oarmaker’s apprentice

Samuel Howard, 21, shipwright

Edward C. Howe, 31, ropemaker

Jonathan Hunnewell, 14,(8)

Richard Hunnewell, age unknown, mason

Richard Hunnewell, Jr. ,16 (8)

Thomas Hunstable, 20, occupation unknown

Abraham Hunt, 25 ,wine merchant

David Ingersoll, 23, housewright

David Kennison, 37, farmer

Joseph Lee, 28, merchant

Amos Lincoln, 20, housewright apprentice

Mathew Loring, 23, leather worker

Joseph Lovering, 15, apprentice

Thomas Machin, 29, laborer

Ebenezer MacKintoch, 36, shoemaker

Archibald McNeil, 23, occupation unknown

John May, 25, occupation unknown

- Mead, age and occupation unknown

Thomas Melvill, 22, merchant’s clerk

William Molineux (3), 57, merchant

Thomas Moore, 20, operator of a wharf

Anthiny Morse, age and occupation unknown

Joseph Montford, 23, cooper

Eliphalet Newell, age and occupation unknown

Joseph P. Palmer, age unknown, hardware merchant

Johathan Parker, age unknown, farmer

Joseph Payson, 30, housewright

Samuel Peck, age unknown, cooper

John Peters, 41, occupation unknown

William Pierce, 29, barber

Lendall Pitts, 26, clerk of the market

Thomas Potter, age unknown, merchant

Henry Prentiss, 24, occupation unknown

John Prince, 20, occupation unknown

Edward Proctor (4), 40, importer

Henry Purkitt, 18, cooper’s apprentice

John Randall, 23, occupation unknown

Paul Revere, 38, silversmith

Joseph Roby, age and occupation unknown

John Russell, age unknown, mason

William Russell, 25, school teacher

Robert Sessions, 21, laborer

Joseph Shed, 41, carpenter

Benjamin Simpson, 17, bricklayer’s apprentice

Peter Slater, 14, ropemaker apprentice

Samuel Spraque, 19, mason’s apprentice

John Spurr, 25, occupation unknown

James Starr, 32, occupation unknown

Phineas Stearns, 37, farmer and blacksmith

Ebenezer Stevens, 22, carpenter

Elisha Story, 30, physician

James Swan, 19, counting house clerk

John Truman, age and occupation unknown

Thomas Urann, age unknown, ship joiner

Josiah Wheeler, 30, housewright

David Williams, age and occupation unknown

Ezekiel Williams, age 18, occupation unknown

Isaac Williams, age and occupation unknown

Jeremiah Williams, age unknown, blacksmith

Thomas Williams, 19, apprentice

Nathaniel Willis, 18, printer’s apprentice

Joshua Wyeth, 25, apprentice

Thomas Young, 41, physician



The five men depicted below are all that we have found who had anything to do with the Boston Tea Party. Of the five, Samuel Adams, John Hancock and Paul Revere are well known. The other two are David Kennison, who was born November 17th 1736, in Old Kingston, Maine. He served throughout the entire war, and was badly wounded at Sackett’s Harbor, New York, during the war of 1812. He was interviewed by Benson Lossing in 1848, while living in Chicago, age 112! The last man is George Hewes, whose son was interviewed by Lossing. He was born in Boston, September 5th, 1742, and died in Richfield, Otsego County, New York. He served as a privateer in the early part of the War and later in the Army. At age 101 he attended the dedication of the Bunker Hill Monument was honored by all attending on June 17th, 1843.



Back to Index of Revolutionary War Events

Back to Index of Articles on Original Sons of Liberty

Back to Historical Archives



link to aboutus