The Story of the Boston Tea Party Ships
The three ships that participated in the B.T.P. were named the Dartmouth, Eleanor and the Beaver.
Dartmouth - Captain Hall, carried 114 chests of tea; arrived on Sunday, November 28th
Eleanor - Captain Coffin, carried 114 chests of tea; arrived on Thursday, December 2nd
Beaver - Captain Bruce, carried 112 chests of tea, docked on Wednesday, December 15th
Apparently the Beaver was delayed for medical reasons. A case of smallpox broke out on the ship and it was quarantined in the outer harbor for two weeks.
There was also a fourth ship sent to Boston, the William. It was due to come in but the vessel was damaged by a storm and had to come ashore at Cape Cod with salvable payload but the ship was totally lost.
Sometimes the tea party ships are mistakenly called British. In fact only the tea belonged to East India Tea Company but the ships themselves were American. Nantucket was home port to two ships that were involved in the Boston Tea Party, the Beaver and the Dartmouth. The ships were owned by the Rotch family whose offices were located at the foot of Main Street in the brick building now called The Pacific Club.
Francis Rotch the son of the owner, Joseph Rotch was caught in between the Patriots who did not allow the ships to unload and the Governor Hutchinson who did not permit the ships to go back to Britain. Likely not without the Governor’s pull, the customs officers rushed the necessary paperwork for the import of the tea, after which the ship could not legally set sail for England with the tea still on board.
An armed guard of patriots was posted at the wharf to prevent the tea coming ashore, while a naval blockade of the harbor prevented the ships from leaving. As a result the owner of the ships risked them being confiscated by the navy or even sunk.
Mr. Rotch tried to negotiate but was not successful. In this situation perhaps even the patriots were sympathetic. This may explain the fact that the “Mohawks” who attacked the ship did not damage the ships themselves, only the tea. The ships’ crews later stated that nothing had been damaged or destroyed except the tea - and the protesters swept the decks clean afterwards
History of Dartmouth
HMS Dartmouth specifications W: 9.84 (3m). L: 79 (24m). Hull: wood. Built: <1773.
Dartmouth was the first tea party ship and has been stationed in the harbor for a while and it is therefore the most known. Even though the ship made history for carrying tea it was built for a different purpose offshore whaling. Its story begins in Bedford Village, MA where many residents were whalers and shipbuilders.
Around 1780, William Rotch, Jr., a Nantucket Quaker moved to Bedford Village. Rotch was a third-generation whaling merchant and banker. He immediately decided to use his capital to develop the whale fishery. Rotch gave whaling a substantial impetus, and it continued to be New Bedford's chief industry for more than a hundred years. Rotch was the owner of the first ship to be launched in Bedford Village, the Dartmouth, built in 1767. Her initial voyage was to London with a cargo of whale oil. After Dartmouth New Bedford's ship building industry started to grow and attracted many leading ship builders including George Claghorn.