George Hewes was one of the last survivors of the American Revolution. He was a participant in not only the Boston Tea Party but many political protests, the Boston Massacre, enlisted in the Revolutionary Army as a militiaman and privateer, and authored two biographies about his experience. He was born August 25, 1742, in the South End of Boston. At the age of fourteen, Hewes was apprenticed to a shoemaker [Downing] that he immensely disliked. He tried to enlist in the British army but was rejected on the grounds that he was too short (a mere 5’1). Before any of his political or revolutionary career, Hewes lived a poverty stricken life as a shoemaker with his wife Sally Sumner; he was an average member of Boston’s lower class. His revolutionary participation began with, what is now known as, the Boston Massacre. He joined the mob of Bostonian apprentices and craftsmen, supporting some of the apprentices who were trying to collect debts from various British officers, such as British Captain John Goldfinch. He walked away bearing a bruised shoulder from a British officer’s rifle butt. Hewes joined the band of disguised Bostonians who protested the Tea Act by dumping tea into the Boston harbor. Reportedly, Hewes went to the captain of one of the ships and demanded the keys to the tea chests. A month later Hewes was at the center of the events surrounding the tarring and feathering of John Malcolm. Malcolm was a Bostonian who worked for the British customs service; he was a serious Loyalist and a staunch supporter of royal authority. Hewes detested Malcolm and frequently insulted him in the street. When Malcolm once tried to strike a small child with his cane, Hewes intervened, argued, and Malcolm ended up striking Hewes in the forehead with his cane. After seeing a doctor, Hewes went to a magistrate’s office to get a warrant for John Malcolm’s arrest. Later that night, January 25th 1774, a mob seized Malcolm from his home and dragged him into King Street. Despite the objections of Hewes, Malcolm was tarred and feathered. He was then taken to the liberty tree and was threatened with hanging unless he apologized for his behavior and renounced his customs commission; Malcolm relented. This event was reported internationally in the news press. In 1775, Boston was put under martial law and, like many other patriots, Hewes fled the city. His first period of military service began in the fall of 1776 when he boarded the privateering ship “Diamond”. The voyage was successful, resulting in the capture of three enemy vessels. He served in many other battles and sea voyages until 1781 when his military career ended. After the war of 1812 Hewes and his family moved to Richfield Springs in Ostego County, New York. For the rest of his life, he was well respected in the community for his contribution to the cause of the American Revolution and was always a desired participant in memorial ceremonies. He died on November 5th, 1840 at the age of 98 without a public commemoration in Richfield Springs. In 1896 he was reburied ceremoniously in the town’s Grand Army of the Republic Cemetery for Veterans.
Sign up to receive special offers, discounts and news on upcoming events.