Case Study



Boston Tea Party Historical Society

Ebenezer Stevens

Ebenezer Stevens was a participant in the Boston Tea Party who later in life distinguished himself by rising to the ranks for Major General in the United States Army. His memories of the event about which he later spoke with his family debunked the popular myth that the participants were dressed as Indians.

Mr. Stevens was a Bostonian, born on August 11, 1751. This made him 22 at the time when the protest occurred, which was roughly the average age among those who joined to rebel against the British. Unlike many participants he was not an artisan or tradesman by profession. He was a professional artillerist and served in the company under the command of Adino Paddock, where some other participants also served – the most known of whom where Paul Revere and Thomas Crafts. The company had four small brass cannons, two of which can be seen today at the foot of the Bunker Hill Monument in Charlestown, MA. The cannons are named "Hancock" and "Adams."

We can only speculate how young Ebenezer became involved with the organizers of the Tea Party. Without doubt, Stevens was well acquainted with many patriots who also served in his militia unit – it was largely made of skilled craftsmen, tradesmen and artisans who where the time the core of anti-British movement in Boston. It is also known that Mr. Stevens was a member of the Sons of Liberty.

When the tea ships arrived to Boston and the standoff occurred between the British governor and the Bostonians organized by Samuel Adams, Paddocks Artillery militia was trusted by the protesters with the task of guarding the wharf to prevent unloading of the tea and Stevens was one of those who carried out the patrol.

Being one of the participants, Stevens had his own personal story about how the events were unfolding. Interestingly this account is almost unknown. Probably the main reason is that Stevens’s story was not recorded or told by him directly, instead he told it to one of his sons who then published it. This was important because during post-war years there were many claims about participation in the Tea Party many of which were completely false. Such claims were easy to make because there was no official list. However the account of Stevens’s son is believed to be accurate. It is backed up by some other testimonies and records; among those is the Steven’s name in the list of those who were present in the town meetings in the Old South Meeting House.

The most interesting part of the account is the description of how the participants were disguised. It turns out that at least according to Mr. Stevens’s knowledge none of the patriots dressed up as Indians. And yet again this claim has been confirmed by other sources. Here is how young Ebenezer saw the famous protest.

I left that vessel with some of my comrades, and went on board the other vessel which lay at the opposite side of the wharf… We commenced handing the boxes of tea on deck, and first commenced breaking them with axes, but found much difficulty, owing to the boxes of tea being covered with canvass—the mode that this article was then imported in. I think that all the tea was discharged in about two hours. We were careful to prevent any being taken away; none of the party were painted as Indians, nor, that I know of disguised, excepting that some of them stopped at a paint shop on the way and daubed their faces with paint.

After the tea party, most of the participants fled Boston and so did Stevens. He moved to Rhode Island where he started working as a house builder and contractor. In Providence, RI he later married his first wife, Rebecca Hodgden.

When the revolutionary war commenced, Stevens returned to Boston. The news of the Battle of Lexington was a call to action. With the training and experience he received in artillery he was able to form a new unit in Rhode Island and joined the patriots in the Battle of Bunker Hill.

After the revolutionary war he continued military service and rouse through the ranks and in 1812 reached the rank of Senior Major-General. Here are some highlights of his carrier in the army.

Lieutenant in the "Army of Observation," 1775

Recruited artillery for Quebec

Commanded artillery at Ticonderoga and Stillwater

Lieutenant Colonel in 1778

Served with Lafayette in Virginia in 1781, with rank of Colonel, and commanded artillery with Col. Lamb at Yorktown

After the peace, located at New York acting successively as Colonel, Brigadier and Major-General of Artillery, State of New York

Superintended the construction of the fortifications on Governor's Island, New York, in 1800

Helped defend the city in 1812

Senior Major-General until 1815

The military was not the only area when Ebenezer Steven excelled. He was also quite successful in overseas trade. Trading with East-India he managed to accumulate substantial fortune which he used to build a mansion on Long Island, NY. His grandson described it as a grand house decorated with marble imported from Italy.

Ebenezer Steven married for the second time on 4 May 1784 in New York City to Lucretia Ledyard. He died in Sept. 2, 1823 in Rockaway, New York, leaving a great legacy of a hero of American Revolution.

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