Boston Massacre 1770

Five colonists were killed by British Troops in Boston on March 5th 1770. The event was precipitated by taunts against British soldiers in Boston. The British responded with force and fired their muskets at the Americans, killing 3 instantly and wounding 11. Two of the wounded soon died. The death of the colonists, in what became known as the Boston Massacre, inflamed American opinion against the British and was one of the most significant events leading up to the Revolution.


From the moment the British decided to send troops to Boston it was only a matter of time before British troops were likely to clash with the colonists. That day came on March 5th 1770. In that early evening a British sentry was guarding the custom house on King Street, (what is today "State Street" in downtown Boston.) Colonists began to taunt the sentry. Soon a crowd grew. With the crowd growing, the Officer of the Day, Captain Thomas Preston, ordered seven or eight soldiers under his command to support the sentry. Preston soon followed. By the time the additional troops arrived the crowd had grown to between 300 and 400 hundred men. The ever-growing crowd continued to taunt the British soldiers whose muskets were loaded. The crowd then began pelting the sentries with snowballs.

A colonist knocked one of the soldiers down. As the soldier got up, he fired his musket, and then yelled "Damm you, fire". There was a pause and then the British soldiers fired on the colonists. Three Americans-- rope maker Samuel Gray, mariner James Caldwell, and an African American sailor named Crispus Attucks died instantly. Samuel Maverick, struck by a ricocheting musket ball at the back of the crowd, died a few hours later in the early morning of the next day. Thirty-year-old Irish immigrant Patrick Carr died two weeks later.

This event quickly became known as "the Boston Massacre". Thanks to the efforts of Boston engraver, Paul Revere, who copied a drawing made by Henry Pelham, the illustration of the above events soon made its way throughout the colonies. The illustration stirred the anger of Americans towards the British. Captain Preston and four of his men were arrested and charged with manslaughter.

The soldiers were tried in open court, with John Adams acting as one of the Defense Attorneys. Preston was found "not guilty", as it became clear it was unlikely that he gave the order to fire. The other soldiers were found guilty of manslaughter and punished by having their thumbs branded.

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