December 4, 2023
Commodore Whaley's Tombstone

By Kellee Blake

On this very day, 250 years ago . . .


Abigail Smith Adams at last felt strong enough to leave her bedroom after a “severe fit of sickness.” A showdown was coming in Boston and Abigail feared for her little family, especially her husband John. His cousin Samuel Adams was making more than beer; he was Boston’s key organizer in the movement to set aside Crown government. Abigail knew Samuel’s plans demanded difficult decisions, especially since the ship Dartmouth arrived in Boston Harbor laden with 114 chests of tea. On December 5, Abigail messaged her friend Mercy Warren: 

The Tea that bainfull weed is arrived. Great and effectual opposition has been made to the landing of it. To the publick papers I must refer you for particulars. You will there find that the proceedings of our citizens have been united, spirited and firm. The flame is kindled and like lightening it catches from soul to soul. Great will be the devastation if not timely quenched or allayed by some more lenient measures.

The “flame” was irrevocably kindled once thousands of Bostonians gathered to issue their resolves in the great November 29-30 “Meeting of the Body of the People” at the Old South Meeting House. Sons of Liberty now stood guard at Griffin’s Wharf to prevent delivery of the tea while the King’s representative, Governor Thomas Hutchinson, insisted it be unloaded.

As these events cascaded in Boston, thirty-three-year-old Captain Zedekiah Whaley skimmed westward in the freezing Atlantic bound for Annapolis. His two masted vessel Susannah had likely delivered tobacco and/or flaxseed to England before landing in Cork, Ireland.  Whaley turned homeward with an unknown cargo, possibly linen, perhaps some Irish marble. By the time he arrived in the Chesapeake at December’s end, though, there was talk of only one import–tea. For both Abigail Adams and Zedekiah Whaley, the next decade would bring unimagined events.  By December 1784, the future first lady was a diplomat’s wife in glamorous Paris and Zedekiah Whaley lay dead in Onancock’s Scott Hall Cemetery. For both, a new era began in December 1773.

Join WESR on December 16 for a special installment of Revolutionary Shore as America 250 ( and organizations like the Boston Tea Party Ships and Museum ( commemorate one of the most catalyzing events of the American Revolution!

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