Boston MassacreJohn Hancock stated ?Let this sad tale of death never be told without a tear; let not the heaving bosom cease to burn with a manly indignation at the barbarous story . . .? during his oration of the massacre on 5 March 1774. The ?Boston Massacre? as it was called, was really not a massacre in the sense that a lot of people were slaughtered, it was a massacre in the sense that British government’s authority was not to be tolerated. During the next eighteen months, tensions between the Colonists and the British would increase.
On a cold morning in February 1770, eleven-year old Christopher Seider was one of several hundred adults and youths surrounding the house of ebenezer Richardson. Richardson was a known Tory informer for the British customs commissioners. Mob demonstrations protesting the Townshend Acts were common, some spontaneous and some organized. At Richardson’s house the crowd was becoming unruly and started breaking windows and one stone thrown hit Richardson’s wife. Richardson grabbed an unloaded musket and shoved it through one of the broken windows. Seeing the musket just seemed to add fuel to the fire and the crowd knocked down the front door. Richardson loaded and fired into the mob fatally wounding Seider who died that evening.
Four days after Sieder’s funeral, a British soldier named Thomas Walker of the 29th Regiment inquired about a job at John Gray’s Ropewalk. It was common for a British soldier to moonlight while off duty to supplement their incomes. Ropemaker William Green told Walker ?to go clean the outhouse?. In response to the insult, a fistfight broke out between Walker and Green . Walker was beaten very badly and when he had the chance ran and enlisted some of his British peers into the fight. The fray was renewed and the soldiers were bested again. The only advantaged to either side gained from the altercation was a few aches and pains.
On Monday 5 March 1770, Private Hugh White of the 29th Regiment was on guard duty at the sentry box on King Street near the Custom House. Being that the King’s taxes and gold were secured at the Custom House made this sentry duty all the more high risk to the British. Captain Goldfinch, an officer of the 29th Regiment, was being taunted by several citizens for not paying his bills to local merchants. Private White recovering from the skirmish the previous night was not going to let the hooligans bother Captain Goldfinch. In response to the insults, Private White butt-stroked a teenager by the name of Edward Garrick. Over fifty townspeople started to gather and challenge both White and Goldfinch to fight. As the crowd began to get larger, the British soldiers realized that the situation was about to explode.
Captain Thomas Preston’s account of the massacre is the only official report on the events of the fifth of March 1770.
Captain Preston, Officer of the Guard, heard that a crowd had formed in front of the Custom Hose and that the guards were hollering for help. According to his account of the incident Preston stated ?That he immediately rushed to the Custom House and formed his men in formation to prevent any harm to the guards and or destruction to the guard post.? Captain and his men then fixed bayonets and began to poke and prod the mob away from the post. He then tried to march his men back to the security of their barracks, but the crowd would not allow them to do so.
Tory supporters yelled from all around the street for the soldiers to fire their weapons. Preston tried to disperse the crowd while cat calls such as ? Fire and be damned? were yelled at the British soldiers. In the mean time, Captain Preston was ordering his soldiers ?Don’t fire, Don’t fire? The fuse was lit when a stick flew from the crowd and hit Private Montgomery in the face.
Montgomery enraged leveled his musket and fired into the crowd. All was quiet for a moment, and then the crowd surged forward into the column of soldiers. It is not clear on how long the firing continued. Eyewitness’ have said anywhere from 15 seconds to twenty minutes.
Private Kilroy pointed his weapon at Edward Langford and fired dropping Langford with his hands still in his pockets. A black man named Cripus Attuck fell dead with several bullets lodge in his chest and head. Other colonists who died in the volley of fire were Patrick Carr, Samuel Maverick, and James Caldwell.
In the aftermath, Captain Preston and six of his men were brought to trial. John Adams and Robert Auchmuty defended the British soldiers at their trial. Captain Preston and four of his men were acquitted. Private’s Kilroy and Montgomery were found guilty of manslaughter and sent back to England.
Revolutionaries such as Paul Revere and Samuel Adams took the events of 5 March 1770 and exaggerated the battle. News of the fight quickly spread and ignited the flame the colonists would need to cut the ties of England. The Boston Massacre was the first step to the inevitable Revolutionary war where the colonists would gain their independence from Britain. Little did these antagonist know that the were the cornerstone of the building of the greatest nation in the world.
Dickson, Alice, Boston Massacre: (New York, New York: Franklin Watts, 1968) 36.
Hancock, John, Boston Massacre Oration, 5 March 1774, http://douglass.speech.nwu.edu/hanc_a49.htm; Internet, accessed 18 September 1999.
Wilson, Susan, Boston Massacre, http://www.iboston.org/building%20resources/massacre.htm; Internet, accessed 21 September 1999.
American History Essays