George Robert (Twelves) Hewes (b. August 25, 1742, Boston, Massachusetts Bay – d. November 5, 1840, Richfield Springs, New York) was a participant in the political protests in Boston at the onset of the American Revolution, and one of the last survivors of the Boston Tea Party and the Boston Massacre. Later, he fought in the American Revolutionary War as a militiaman and privateer.
In 1775 Boston was put under martial law. Like many Patriots, Hewes fled the city. He sent his family to Wrentham, his father’s hometown. He had to escape Boston by boat. For the majority of the war years, Hewes stayed with his family, providing for them. For a few months of each year, however, Hewes signed up to fight, sometimes in the militia and sometimes as a privateer. Hewes’ first period of military service began in the fall of 1776 when he sailed aboard the privateering ship Diamond. It was a successful three-month voyage, resulting in the capture of three enemy vessels. Hewes later recalled that when the voyage dragged on longer, and no additional prizes had been captured, he joined the crew in threatening to mutiny if the captain did not sail back to Providence.
Hewes served in the militia for one to three months of 1777. In 1778 he served for another month, seeing action at the Battle of Rhode Island. In 1779, he signed on with the Connecticut ship of war Defence for an eventful seven-and-a-half-month voyage. After capturing four ships and thousands of dollars in prize money, the ship’s captain, Samuel Smedley, refused to give Hewes his share. Hewes served in the militia twice more, in the autumn months of 1780 and 1781. Once, in the closing years of the war, Hewes hired a substitute to avoid the draft. The “extreme pressure of his circumstances” and the need to provide for his family precluded another tour with the militia.
Hewes’ most enduring memories of the war were of a temporary increase in the dignity of his position. The democratic style of leadership in the militia and aboard the privateers left its mark on Hewes, and he never forgot the respect he received from his social superiors during this time. He was a shoemaker by trade.
Hewes was injured in an accident on July 4, 1840, as he was boarding a carriage to go to the annual festivities. He died on November 5, 1840. He was 98 years old, although believed at the time to be 109.