On the cold evening of December 16, 1773, a large band of patriots, disguised as Mohawk Indians, burst from the South Meeting House with the spirit of freedom burning in their eyes. The patriots headed towards Griffin's Wharf and the three ships. Quickly, quietly, and in an orderly manner, the Sons of Liberty boarded each of the tea ships. Once on board, the patriots went to work striking the chests with axes and hatchets. Thousands of spectators watched in silence. Only the sounds of ax blades splitting wood rang out from Boston Harbor. Once the crates are open, the patriots dumped the tea into the sea.
The silence was broken only by the cry of "East Indian" as patriots caught Charles O'Conner filling the lining of his coat with tea. George Hewes removed O'Connor's coat, threatened him with death if he revealed the identity of any man present, and sent him scurrying out of town. The patriots work feverishly, fearing an attack by Admiral Montague at any moment. By nine o'clock p.m., the Sons of Liberty had emptied a total of 342 crates of tea into Boston Harbor. Fearing any connection to their treasonous deed, the patriots took off their shoes and shook them overboard. They swept the ships' decks, and made each ship's first mate attest that only the tea was damaged.