Today, back in 1945.

Raising the 1st flag over Mt Suribachi

Raising the 2nd flag.

File:Raising the Flag on Iwo Jima, larger - edit1.jpg

Lowering the 1st flag as the 2nd is raised.

February 23 marks the day the United States Marines raised America’s flag over Mount Suribachi in Japan during the Battle of Iwo Jima almost 80 years ago.

The moment has been immortalized in a famous photograph taken by Associated Press photographer Joe Rosenthal.

Take a look back at the history of the iconic photo, the lesser known first flag and the battle of Iwo Jima.

Battle of Iwo Jima


American soldiers fighting against the Japanese in Iwo Jima on March 1945. (Photo by Keystone-France/Gamma-Keystone via Getty Images)

The Battle of Iwo Jima began after American forces invaded the island on Feb. 19, 1945.

The battle lasted for five weeks and was considered one of the bloodiest military campaigns of World War II and in the history of the Marine Corps, according to The National WWII Museum.

It was estimated that almost 7,000 Marines lost their lives and all but roughly 200 of the 21,000 Japanese forces were killed, according to 

Following the capture of Iwo Jima, the longest and largest battle in the Pacific took place during the invasion of Okinawa, Japan.

Twenty-seven Medals of Honor were awarded to service members for their actions at Iwo Jima – the most in the history of the U.S., according to The National WWII Museum.

Flag raising on Iwo Jima

On Feb. 23, 1945, U.S. forces took Mount Suribachi and were photographed raising the American flag at the summit.

The iconic photo won Rosenthal, the photographer, a Pulitzer Prize.


Joe Rosenthal, a veteran AP cameraman, who took the famous picture of the flag raising at Iwo Jima, holding camera. (Bettmann via Getty Images)

That photo shows the second flag that was erected on the mountain. A photo of the first flag that was raised shows a completely different angle and a completely different flag.

As several Marines raised the first flag on Mount Suribachi, Marine Staff Sgt. Louis Lowrey from Leatherneck Magazine captured a photo. However, after that first flag was raised, Japanese forces began to shoot and Lowrey ended up dropping his camera while ducking for cover, according to 

As Lowrey descended the mountain to get new gear, AP photographer Rosenthal was ascending the mountain.

In response to seeing Japanese forces’ reaction to the flag being erected on the mountain, Marine Corps Lt. Col. Chandler Johnson ordered for a new and larger American flag to be raised, according to the Marines website.

This new flag raising was the moment Rosenthal captured and became one of the most famous photos in American history.

Who raised the Iwo Jima flags?

The service members who raised the first flag on Mount Suribachi were: 1st Lt. Harold G. Schrier, Plt. Sgt. Ernest I. Thomas, Jr., Sgt. Henry O. Hansen, Cpl. Charles W. Lindberg, Pharmacist Mate 2nd Class John H. Bradley and Pvt. Philip L. Ward, according to the Marine Corps website. 

Following Iwo Jima, Schrier fought in the Korean War and was promoted to Major in 1951. He would retire from the Marines as a lieutenant colonel, according to the Military Hall of Honor website. He died in 1971 in Florida.

Lindberg said that many did not believe him when he said he helped raise one of the two flags in Iwo Jima, according to a New York Times report. 

Lindberg spent his final years raising awareness about the first flag-raising and spoke at veterans groups and schools, The Times said.

He died in June of 2007.

Bradley, who was originally misidentified in the photo of the second (more famous) flag raising, passed away in 1994 and his son, James Bradley, later wrote a book titled “Flags of Our Fathers” in 2000. The book’s storyline centered around the flag-raising in Iwo Jima and the famous photograph that came from it.  A movie adaptation of the book directed by Clint Eastwood was released in 2006, according to IMDB.

Controversy surrounded the book after it was found that some of the Marines, including Bradley, in the second flag-raising photograph were misidentified.

The Marine Corps formally recognized the misidentification and in 2016, a corrected list of names for both the first flag-raising and second were released.

Ward was one of the Marines not identified as one of the original men who helped raise the first flag on Mount Suribachi and was part of the amended list of Marines released in 2016.

Ward was posthumously recognized for his part in the battle as he died on Dec. 28, 2005, according to We Are the Mighty.

Thomas and Hansen died in battle.

Those who were responsible for the second flag-raising were: Pfc. Harold Keller, Pfc. Harold Schultz, Cpl. Harlon Block, Pfc. Franklin Sousley, Sgt. Michael Strank and Pfc. Ira Hayes.

In 2019, the Marine Corps, in collaboration with the Federal Bureau of Investigation and historian Brent Westmeyer, revealed that Keller was misidentified as Cop. Rene Gagnon in the famous photograph of the second flag-raising.

Keller survived the war and went back home to Iowa where he lived with his wife Ruby and three children until he died of a heart attack in 1979, according to the Des Moines Register. 

Hayes, who was a member of the Pima Indian Tribe, was dubbed a war hero by President Dwight D. Eisenhower when he returned to the U.S.

Hayes struggled with PTSD and survivor’s guilt, according to the Museum of Native American History. He died at the age of 32 near his home in Sacaton, Arizona.

Schultz returned to the U.S. and worked for the Postal Service until his retirement in 1981, according to We Are The Mighty.

He seldomly spoke of his time in the war and only revealed any details to his stepdaughter, Dezreen Macdowell. She would go on to be interviewed by Time Magazine and lauded her stepfather as a war hero.

Schultz died on May 16, 1955.

Block, Strank and Sousley were killed in action in Iwo Jima.

George Washington: Original American Badass

Today is “Presidents’ Day,” a rather lifeless midwinter holiday that gives some people a three-day holiday and retailers the chance to flog Chinese-made consumer goods at a discount. It wasn’t always so. Before 1970, it was Washington’s Birthday, in honor of our first president, and, if you’ll stick with me through this story, a genuine American badass.

Most (I hope) Americans know he was our first president. More probably know about his false teeth and, now that the destruction of American culture is the thing, that he owned slaves than know about his life. When most people think of George Washington, they think of a rather stiff figure in a wig. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Our first president was a badass in his own right.

At a time when Europeans born in America were about 5 feet 4 inches, George Washington stood 6 feet 3 inches. He was athletic and had a charisma that attracted the attention and admiration of men and women. The scion of minor Tidewater gentry, Washington could’ve led a comparatively easy life as a planter. But that wasn’t his style. He was called to an active life that bordered on the reckless.

At the age of seventeen, he was a licensed surveyor. Family connections got him an appointment as the official surveyor of Culpeper County, VA. In 1750, at age eighteen, he began surveying wilderness tracts across the Blue Ridge Mountains in the Shenandoah Valley. Surveying the Shenandoah Valley was not a trivial undertaking.

The Shenandoah was unexplored, and the people who settled there were mostly Irish borderers — or what we now call Scots-Irish to distinguish them from the Irish Catholics who began arriving in the first third of the 19th century — who were not known for docility or paying much attention to the law.

Thomas Jefferson lamented, “The wild Irish, who had gotten possession of the valley between the Blue Ridge and North Mountain, forming a barrier over which none ventured to leap, and would still less venture to settle among.” They gathered there by choice, flowing down the Cumberland Valley from Pennsylvania, as many of them had reason to prefer to be at a distance from authorities. The British Crown wasn’t displeased. They formed a useful barrier between the French and their Indian allies and British settlements east of the Blue Ridge.

While Washington worked under the supervision of more experienced surveyors, he led independent expeditions that required him to give orders to surveying crew members much older and more experienced than he. He had a commanding presence that made that easy for him. In 1752, family influence got him appointed as adjutant general of the Virginia militia, where he quickly made a name for himself. The following year, Virginia’s lieutenant governor, Robert Dinwiddie, gave him a special mission of traveling to Fort Le Boeuf, near Erie, PA, to tell the French to get the hell out of Dodge. If you haven’t read about this mission, you really owe it to yourself. In a 77-day journey in the dead of winter, Washington and his companion, famed frontiersman Christopher Gist, faced attempted murder by Indians loyal to France and nearly died of hypothermia on a snow-covered island after their raft dumped them in an ice-filled Allegheny River.

Later in life, he showed himself physically superior to much younger men. Artist Charles Willson Peale stayed at Mount Vernon for a period in 1773 when Washington was 41 and Peale 33. This is from Peale’s diary.

One afternoon several young gentlemen, visiters at Mount Vernon, and myself were engaged in pitching the bar, one of the athletic sports common in those days, when suddenly the colonel appeared among us.

He requested to be shown the pegs that marked the bounds of our efforts; then, smiling, and without putting off his coat, held out his hand for the missile.

No sooner . . . did the heavy iron bar feel the grasp of his mighty hand than it lost the power of gravitation, and whizzed through the air, striking the ground far, very far, beyond our utmost limits.

We were indeed amazed, as we stood around, all stripped to the buff, with shirt sleeves rolled up, and having thought ourselves very clever fellows, while the colonel, on retiring, pleasantly observed, “When you beat my pitch, young gentlemen, I’ll try again”

At Jumonville Glen, he became the only individual other than Gavrilo Princip to kick off a world war singlehandedly. In the words of Sir Horace Walpole, “A volley fired by a young Virginian in the backwoods of America set the world on fire.” At Braddock’s defeat on the Monongahela, Washington had two horses shot from under him, and four musket balls passed through his clothing.

There’s a lot more to his life, but what marks George Washington as a true badass rather than just a heroic adventurer is an encounter with John Law.

Justice in colonial Virginia and Great Britain in the 18th century was very much a personal matter. If you wanted someone arrested, you had to do the leg work of getting a warrant issued. The local authorities may or may not help you apprehend the villain. When it came to trial, you had to hire a prosecutor.

This saga starts in Frederick County, Virginia, in May 1753. The exact cause is unknown, but this is what we can guess from connecting the dots. Adjutant of the Virginia Militia had prestige and brought Washington into contact with Virginia’s political elite, but it didn’t pay the rather substantial bills associated with running a couple of large farms. Washington seems to have kept his surveying business. We know he was engaged in surveying work in Frederick County in the summer of 1753. He may have been surveying, and he may have been mooning over the love of his life, Sally Fairfax, but that’s a different story.

In May 1753, a local man named John Harrow swore out a writ of capias, a type of bench warrant, against George Washington. The warrant ordered the county sheriff “to take George Washington, Gent. And hold him in your safe custody.” Washington was to answer the charge that he had trespassed on Harrow’s property and caused damages valued at £100. The sheriff attempted to find Washington, but he’d probably passed out of the area. In September 1753, Washington was again surveying the area around Winchester, VA, and the sheriff made another attempt to serve it. But Washington was out of the county before the sheriff’s deputies could find him.

The law’s luck changed for the better the following year. On April 13, 1754, the warrant was issued for a third time. This time, though, the 22-year-old Washington was not a surveyor. He was second-in-command of the Virginia regiment under Colonel Joshua Fry, sent by Lieutenant Governor Dinwiddie to capture Fort Duquesne at what is now Pittsburgh.

Washington departed Alexandria on April 2 with about 120 Virginia militia. He arrived in Winchester on April 10 and waited for the arrival of a local militia company under the command of a company of men raised by a local doctor, Adam Stephen. They were delayed for a week, gathering wagons and supplies. (Side note: wagons were in short supply on the frontier, and farmers were very reluctant to rent them to the army because they were vital to farm work, and the chances of them ever returning from military service were zero. Benjamin Franklin “convinced” Germans in Pennsylvania to lease their wagons to Braddock’s expedition by insinuating if they didn’t give them up, the British would use the tactics of armies in Central Europe. That is, they’d take the wagons and burn the farms. Read his epic broadside to Pennsylvania farmers).

At some point while Washington’s column was encamped at Winchester, Deputy Sheriff William Green arrived and informed Lieutenant Colonel Washington that he was under arrest and would be held in the county lockup until the court met in October. The note on the warrant Green returned to the county court lets us know how that encounter went.

The within named George Washington would not be taken. He kept me off by force of arms.

“By force of arms” means that Washington used either a sword or pistol to convince Deputy Green that he wasn’t interested in cooperating.

At this point, the County Sheriff put the warrant in the “too hard” box. In October, in the aftermath of Fort Necessity and as war with the French loomed, the case was dismissed.

John Harrow appears briefly once again. In the regimental account book of the First Virginia Regiment, John Harrow, a blacksmith, is paid for seven days of work at Fort Loudoun. The commander at the fort was George Washington.

The warrant is viewable on the Library of Virginia website, as is this brief history of the affair.

We’ve had all kinds of men as president, but only one of them started a world war, prevented a military coup against the government of the United States, and used either a sword or pistol to convince a deputy sheriff that he had urgent business back at the office; that was George Washington, the original American badass.

Iwo Jima warriors should never be forgotten

February 19, 1944.

Of the 82 Medals of Honor awarded to Marines in WW2, 22 of them were awarded for this one battle. Another 4 were awarded to Navy Hospital Corpsmen (medics) attached to the Marine Corps. This was the first battle where the defending Japanese inflicted more casualties than they suffered although more Japanese died than U.S. 6,821 killed and 19,217 wounded.

Happy Saint Valentine’s Day.

Flowers, candy, red hearts and romance. That’s what Valentine’s day is all about, right? Well, maybe not.

The origin of this holiday for the expression of love really isn’t romantic at all—at least not in the traditional sense. Father Frank O’Gara of Whitefriars Street Church in Dublin, Ireland, tells the real story of the man behind the holiday—St. Valentine.

“He was a Roman Priest at a time when there was an emperor called Claudias who persecuted the church at that particular time,” Father O’Gara explains. ” He also had an edict that prohibited the marriage of young people. This was based on the hypothesis that unmarried soldiers fought better than married soldiers because married soldiers might be afraid of what might happen to them or their wives or families if they died.”

“I think we must bear in mind that it was a very permissive society in which Valentine lived,” says Father O’Gara. “Polygamy would have been much more popular than just one woman and one man living together. And yet some of them seemed to be attracted to Christian faith. But obviously the church thought that marriage was very sacred between one man and one woman for their life and that it was to be encouraged. And so it immediately presented the problem to the Christian church of what to do about this.”

“The idea of encouraging them to marry within the Christian church was what Valentine was about. And he secretly married them because of the edict.”

Valentine was eventually caught, imprisoned and tortured for performing marriage ceremonies against command of Emperor Claudius the second. There are legends surrounding Valentine’s actions while in prison.

“One of the men who was to judge him in line with the Roman law at the time was a man called Asterius, whose daughter was blind. He was supposed to have prayed with and healed the young girl with such astonishing effect that Asterius himself became Christian as a result.”

In the year 269 AD, Valentine was sentenced to a three part execution of a beating, stoning, and finally decapitation all because of his stand for Christian marriage. The story goes that the last words he wrote were in a note to Asterius’ daughter. He inspired today’s romantic missives by signing it, “from your Valentine.”

“What Valentine means to me as a priest,” explains Father O’Gara, “is that there comes a time where you have to lay your life upon the line for what you believe. And with the power of the Holy Spirit we can do that —even to the point of death.”

Valentine’s martyrdom has not gone unnoticed by the general public. In fact, Whitefriars Street Church is one of three churches that claim to house the remains of Valentine. Today, many people make the pilgrimage to the church to honor the courage and memory of this Christian saint.

“Valentine has come to be known as the patron saint of lovers. Before you enter into a Christian marriage you want some sense of God in your life—some great need of God in your life. And we know, particularly in the modern world, many people are meeting God through his Son, Jesus Christ.”

“If Valentine were here today, he would say to married couples that there comes a time where you’re going to have to suffer. It’s not going to be easy to maintain your commitment and your vows in marriage. Don’t be surprised if the ‘gushing’ love that you have for someone changes to something less “gushing” but maybe much more mature. And the question is, is that young person ready for that?”

“So on the day of the marriage they have to take that into context,” Father O’Gara says. “Love—human love and sexuality is wonderful, and blessed by God—but also the shadow of the cross. That’s what Valentine means to me.”


February, comes directly from the name of the Roman month Februarius, named after the Latin term Februum, which means “purification”, by the purification ritual Februa held on the full moon in the month.

Sunday is derived from Old English Sunnandæg “sun’s day”, which came from Old Saxon sunnundag.
Germans changed that but little, using Sonntag
The Greek word, Κυριακή, is derived from Κύριος (Kyrios, Lord), thus The Lord’s Day, which has influenced variations on other European languages, Italian, domenica, French, dimanche, Romanian duminică, and Spanish and Portuguese, domingo.

Thus endeth the lesson.

Saturday was named by the Romans diēs Sāturnī “Saturn’s Day” for their god of time and wealth,
Depending on the area, Germans use two different names, Samstag, derived from Old High German sambaztac which comes down a winding linguistic road from Hebrew Shabbat, and Sonnabend, which literally means “Sun eve”, the day before Sunday.
Many European countries use variations on the Sabbath theme; French, samedi, Portuguese & Spanish Sábado, Italian, Sabato, Hungarian, Szombat 


Friday is derived from the Old English frīġedæġ, meaning the “day of Frig”,  the Norse goddess of the hearth, home and fertility and wife of Odin, Frigg

Again, as in other modern countries that were part of the Roman empire, variations in the Latin dies Veneris or “day of Venus” is found in vendredi in French, venerdì in Italian, vineri in Romanian, and viernes in Spanish.

An exception is European Portuguese (Paul will have to tell us whether the Brazilians and Jim the Mozambicans do this), who use the word  sexta-feira, meaning “sixth day of liturgical celebration”,

Thursday is derived from Old English þunresdæg influenced by Old Norse Þórsdagr meaning “Thor’s Day”, named after the Norse god of thunder, lightning.
In Germany, Donnerstag ‘Thunder Day’ (Notice a trend of the Germans discarding their Norse history, even in the names of many of their days? That’s due to the influence of the Church when all the tribes were being converted to Christianity)
In many other European countries that were part of the Roman empire, variations in Iovis Dies, “Jupiter’s Day” are found in Italian giovedì , Spanish jueves , French jeudi , and Romanian  jo

Wednesday is derived from Old English Wōdnesdæg ‘day of Woden’  the English equivalent of the god Odin, the ruler of all the other gods in Norse mythology
In Germany, the day is called Mittwoch “Mid Week”
In French mercredi, Spanish miércoles or Italian mercoledì, the day’s name is derived from Latin dies Mercurii ‘day of Mercury’.

Luke 2

And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus, that all the world should be taxed. (And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria) And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city.

And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David:) to be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child.

And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered. And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.

And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.

And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.

And it came to pass, as the angels were gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds said one to another, Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us.

And they came with haste, and found Mary, and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger. And when they had seen it, they made known abroad the saying which was told them concerning this child. And all they that heard it wondered at those things which were told them by the shepherds.

But Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart.

And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told unto them.

Micah 5:2

But thou, Bethlehem Ephratah, though thou be little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of thee shall he come forth unto me that is to be ruler in Israel; whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting.

On Christmas Eve, 1968 while in orbit around the Moon, the crew of Apollo 8; Jim Lovell, Frank Borman and Bill Anders, on live TV, recited the opening verses of the King James Version of the book of Genesis.
It was, and is still the most watched TV broadcast in history.

Bill Anders
We are now approaching lunar sunrise, and for all the people back on Earth, the crew of Apollo 8 has a message that we would like to send to you.

In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.
And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.
And God said, Let there be light: and there was light.
And God saw the light, that it was good: and God divided the light from the darkness.

Jim Lovell

And God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And the evening and the morning were the first day.
And God said, Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters, and let it divide the waters from the waters.
And God made the firmament, and divided the waters which were under the firmament from the waters which were above the firmament: and it was so.
And God called the firmament Heaven. And the evening and the morning were the second day.

Frank Borman

And God said, Let the waters under the heaven be gathered together unto one place, and let the dry land appear: and it was so.
And God called the dry land Earth; and the gathering together of the waters called he Seas: and God saw that it was good.

And from the crew of Apollo 8, we close with good night, good luck, a Merry Christmas, and God bless all of you, all of you on the good Earth.

This was not done on the spur of the moment, as it was decided long before launch that a Christmas message would be sent to Earth from Lunar orbit. The message was actually included in the Mission Flight Plan and is now on display at the Adler Planetarium in Chicago.

Today in History, 22 December 1944, Bastogne Belgium

To the U.S.A. Commander of the encircled town of Bastogne.

The fortune of war is changing. This time the U.S.A. forces in and near Bastogne have been encircled by strong German armored units. More German armored units have crossed the river Our near Ortheuville, have taken Marche and reached St. Hubert by passing through Hompre-Sibret-Tillet. Libramont is in German hands.

There is only one possibility to save the encircled U.S.A. troops from total annihilation: that is the honourable surrender of the encircled town. In order to think it over a term of two hours will be granted beginning with the presentation of this note.

If this proposal should be rejected one German Artillery Corps and six heavy A. A. Battalions are ready to annihilate the U.S.A. troops in and near Bastogne. The order for firing will be given immediately after this two hours term.

All the serious civilian losses caused by this artillery fire would not correspond with the well-known American humanity.

The German Commander.


To the German Commander.


The American Commander.

How the Boston Tea Party’s ‘destruction of the tea’ changed American history

On the evening of Dec. 16, 1773, a crowd of armed men, some allegedly wearing costumes meant to disguise them as Native American warriors, boarded three ships docked at Griffin’s Wharf in Boston. In the vessels’ holds were 340 chests containing 92,000 pounds of tea, the most popular drink in America. With support from the patriot group known as the Sons of Liberty, the intruders methodically searched the ships and dumped their tea into Boston Harbor.

According to the British East India Company, whose proprietors owned the destroyed cargo, losses totaled more than a million dollars in today’s currency.

The “destruction of the tea” – as the Boston Tea Party was originally called – was the pivotal event in the coming of the American Revolution. Before Dec. 16, a peaceful resolution to American objections to Parliament’s repeated attempts to tax the Colonies without their consent seemed possible. Afterward, both British and American Colonial positions hardened. Within a year, Britain and America were at war.

An attack on private property

Because it was an attack on private property, the Tea Party offended many patriots in America. When George Washington learned what had happened, he made clear he disapproved of “destroying the tea.”

Benjamin Franklin so disliked the action that he offered to pay for the East India Company’s losses himself. Samuel Adams, assumed by both his peers and modern historians to be one of the Tea Party’s organizers, never admitted to being involved.

People dressed as colonists stand at a ship's rail and throw boxes overboard and empty tea into the water.
Reenactors, here in 2017, dump tea into Boston Harbor from a ship at the Boston Tea Party Museum during annual celebrations and commemorations of the event. Nicolaus Czarnecki, MediaNews Group/Boston Herald via Getty Images 

The original multinational conglomerate

Given the importance that Americans attached to property rights, why were Boston patriots willing to take such a calculated risk? The answer was the corrupt bargain that Lord North, the British prime minister, struck with the East India Company during the spring of 1773.

The East India Company was Britain’s wealthiest, most powerful corporation. The company had its own army, which was more than twice the size of the king’s regular forces. Political economist Adam Smith described the administration of its territorial empire in South Asia as “military and despotical.” Yet the company was on the verge of bankruptcy – a victim of a devastating famine in Bengal and its own corrupt administration.

North’s solution was the Tea Act. Hoping to fix Britain’s problems in both India and America, Parliament gave the East India Company a monopoly to sell 17 million pounds of tea in America at a reduced price – while keeping in place the Colonial tax on tea that Parliament had levied in the Townshend Acts of 1767. Even with the added cost of the tax, the company’s tea promised to be cheaper than tea sold by anyone else, including untaxed Dutch tea smuggled by merchants like John Hancock.

Parliament’s attempts to tax the Colonies since the Stamp Act of 1765 had largely failed. American patriots feared that the Tea Act would be a victory for British politicians who believed Parliament had the right to raise a revenue in the Colonies without the consent of Colonial representatives.

A person empties an envelope of dark powder into a plastic box holding even more of the same powder.
Every year, Americans send tea to the Boston Tea Party Museum to be dumped into the harbor during commemorative events. Here, Kristin Harris, research coordinator at the Boston Tea Party Ships & Museum, blends many packages of mailed tea into a container for dumping. Suzanne Kreiter/The Boston Globe via Getty Images 

A national response

Although the most violent resistance to the new measure occurred in Massachusetts, Boston was not alone. As opposition to the Tea Act spread, New York and Philadelphia patriots refused to allow ships with company tea to unload, forcing them to return to Britain.

Elsewhere, tea was unloaded and left on the docks to rot. After merchants in Charleston, South Carolina, paid for a shipment of tea, they were forced by local patriots to empty it into the harbor.

In Edenton, North Carolina, the resistance came from women, 51 of whom signed a petition pledging not to drink tea until the laws “to enslave this our Native Country” were repealed. Women in the port of Wilmington burned tea on the town green.

Parliamentary anger

When news of the destroyed tea reached London, even Britons who sympathized with the American cause were appalled, in part for the same reason many Colonists objected: It was an attack on private property.

Parliament responded with three punitive laws, limiting Massachusetts’ self-government, interfering with the Colony’s courts and stopping all trade through the port of Boston until its people compensated the East India Company for the losses. Historians today remember the statutes as the Coercive Acts. Colonists called them the “Intolerable Acts.” Both descriptions were accurate.

If Parliament had responded less harshly, Americans would have had to weigh their objections to paying Parliament’s tax on tea against the discomfort that many of them felt over the destruction of private property in Boston. Eventually, the men who boarded the ships on Griffin’s Wharf might have been brought to justice.

As it happened, though, Lord North claimed Parliament had no choice. “Whatever may be the consequence,” he told the House of Commons on April 22, 1774, “we must risk something: if we do not, all is over.”

Almost exactly a year later, the government’s coercive measures, which North hoped would settle the dispute on Britain’s terms, tipped 13 of George III’s Colonies into open rebellion. Whatever Americans thought of the events on Dec. 16, the punishment imposed on Massachusetts terrified them even more, raising fears that a similar fate awaited Colonists elsewhere.

If coercion was Britain’s only choice, then the Colonists began to see that perhaps they, too, had just one choice: armed resistance, followed on July 4, 1776, by a declaration of independence.