Disguise of Sons of Liberty

In an effort to hide their true identities, many of the Sons of Liberty attempted to pass themselves off as Mohawk Indians because if caught for their actions they would have faced severe punishment. Reports from the time describe the participants as dressed as Mohawks or Narragansett Indians. The disguise was mostly symbolic in nature; they knew they would be recognized as non-Indians. The act of wearing “Indian dress” was to express to the world that the American colonists identified themselves as “Americans” and no longer considered themselves British subjects. They were not dressed as Indians in the classic sense with headdresses and full authentic regalia; rather they wore wool blankets matchcoat style, painted their faces with soot, and employed other modes of dress commonly known at the time as “Indian dress”, which had been adopted by soldiers during the French and Indian War. An observer of the Boston Tea Party, John Andrews wrote the following in 1773: “They say the actors were Indians… Whether they were or not to a transient observer they appear’d as such, being cloth’d in blankets with the heads muffled and copper color’d countenances, each being arm’d with a hatchet or ax, and pair pistols, nor was their dialect different from what I conceive these geniusses to speak, as their jargon was unintelligible to all but themselves.” Boston Tea Party participant George Hewes recorded the following: “It was now evening, and I immediately dressed myself in the costume of an Indian, equipped with a small hatchet, which I and my associates denominated the tomahawk, with which, and a club, after having painted my face and hands with coal dust in the shop of a blacksmith, I repaired to Griffin’s wharf, where the ships lay that contained the tea. When I first appeared in the street after being thus disguised, I fell in with many who were dressed, equipped and painted as I was, and who fell in with me and marched in order to the place of our destination.”