In 1774, unrest grew in response to British treatment of the colonies. It was during this year that the Peggy Stewart entered the port of Annapolis carrying a load of tea: a product explicitly banned by the county association. At a public meeting to decide the ship’s fate, citizens chose to burn the Peggy Stewart to set an example.
The remains of the Peggy Stewart now rest in the reclaimed land below Luce Hall at the U.S. Naval Academy.
It is interesting to note, that Anthony Stewart, the co-owner of the Peg showed the greatest concern for the human lives aboard. The ship could not return to England, for the Autumn gales would surely sink the already leaking ship, and all aboard would drown. The lives of the indentured servants meant more than the cargo aboard. He assured payment of the tax on the tea, and was able to get fifty-three servants ashore, but left the rest of the cargo aboard to await the Committee's decision. Once it was landed, the tea remained aboard, and Steward, along with his co-owners, torched the ship.
To learn more about this historical event go here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peggy_Stewart_%28ship%29
In my novel, The Everlasting Mountains, my hero and heroine, John and Rebecah Nash experience this event. Here is my fictional account of what they witnessed.
(Sampling from Chapter 16 )
Beneath a vivid blue sky, people were filling the street. Nash and Rebecah stepped out of the inn hoping to make it to the Postmaster’s before their coach arrived. A boy had gone ahead of them fifteen minutes before with their bags.
A cart, drawn by two white oxen came to a halt and the driver could not move the animals on due to the crowd. Across the street, three women emerged from a dress shop. Loops were upon their wrists to keep their skirts and petticoats out of the dirt. Unable to go out they turned back inside with startled faces.
Nash stopped a man nearing the inn’s door. “Excuse me, sir, but why is the street so crowded today?”
The man pressed his lips hard. “The Peggy Stewart, that’s why. It’s brought a cargo full of tea. I hope it sinks to the bottom of the bay.”
The man poked his head inside the inn and repeated the words with a shout. Everywhere men rose to their feet and headed out the door. Nash put his arm around his wife and kept her from being pushed by the mob. Once safe, they headed toward the Postmaster’s. But as they turned a corner, they were drawn into the crowd, and it became difficult to stay together as they were pushed and pulled along. Had the whole town gone mad? Nash held Rebecah’s hand. He felt her fingers slip away from his. He turned back and looked across the people.
The noise drowned his words to a whisper. Turning in a full circle Rebecah stretched her arms out to him. With his body, he shielded her against the press. She turned into his arms. The crowd parted for the Committee to pass through. As expected some men’s faces were scarlet with anger, while a few beckoned with their hands for the people to calm themselves.
“The matter will be dealt with in accordance with the law. Be calm, gentlemen.”
“Remember Boston! Don’t fail Boston!”
The crowd followed the Committee to Stewart’s house. A curtain moved in a lower window and someone demanded that Stewart come outside. The Committee advanced to the door and a man hammered upon it with his fist. A moment and it opened. Stewart pleaded with the people to be kind and reasonable. His wife was sick, and the riot outside their house would inflame her illness. He feared violence could be done to his family, and so he swore to do whatever the people asked of him.
“You swore by signing the agreement you would abide by our boycott,” a man in leather breeches shouted. “You’ve breached that vow!”
“Yes, you’ve broken the law, you Tory rogue!”
“No Tory am I.” cried Stewart.
“Then burn your ship or be hanged in front of your door.”
In the faces of these threats, Stewart stepped forward. Rebecah buried her face against Nash’s coat when she heard the threat made Stewart’s life.
“They cannot hang him, Jack,” she said. “Can they?”
“In cases like this, men lose their heads, Rebecah. The whole town is against him. He has broken the law and shown disloyalty.”
With her beside him, he plodded his way to a steppingstone. He pulled Rebecah up next to him. It was clear by the look on Stewart’s face he repented of his deed.
“Burn your ship, Stewart,” someone shouted. “Burn The Peggy Stewart and all the tea with her!”
With no other way out, and to spare his family, Stewart agreed and offered a public apology. He begged to be allowed to land the remaining cargo. A few levelheaded citizens agreed, but the mob leaders shouted loudest.
“Run the Peg aground then,” Stewart ordered, “and she shall be set afire.”
By the strain in his face his heart was breaking for his beautiful vessel, his mind filled self-condemnation for the unwise choice he had made. Stewart torched his own ship. The flames spread upon the decks and twisted like blazing vines up the rigging and masts. The sails caught, cinders floated like black snow through the breeze.
The Peggy Stewart burned in a cloud of pitchy vapor. Smoke poured out of every crack and opening, black serpents amid spouts of orange flame. Nash held Rebecah close, and lifting her in his arms, he carried her through the crowd. Soon they boarded their coach and rode out of Annapolis a little shaken by the event they beheld, out to the high road leading westward toward the everlasting mountains.
( Thorns In Eden & The Everlasting Mountains, 2-in1 collection)
Amazon Kindle: http://www.amazon.com/Thorns-Eden-Everlasting-Mountains-ebook/dp/B00CIV5IRO/ref=la_B00279KETE_1_8?ie=UTF8&qid=1367261375&sr=1-8
Coming in paperback in May