The year was 1770, Boston was full of English soldiers trying to clamp down on any form of smuggling and fraud against the Crown by the locals. Any threat to the Crown should be nipped in the bud quickly, so that the English could express their dominance over the new world. Something happened on the night of March 5th, which could be described as kick-starting the American Revolution.
The night was unusually cold and foggy, as British soldier Hugh White, guarded the customs house. The customs house was very important to the Crown, details of all imports and exports went through there. The reason it was being guarded was because of all the illegal activity that was occurring in the port.
Friend and colleague of White, Lieutenant Goldfinch was being berated by a young wigmakers apprentice, Edward Garrick. Garrick took his insults one step too far and caused White to move from his post and hit Garrick around the head with the butt of his musket. A friend of Garrick’s saw the commotion and a crowd started to gather around White. Church bells rang, driving more out of their homes to investigate the trouble. Over fifty people crowded White, throwing objects at him and challenging him to fire his weapon. Aid came to White in the form of Captain Thomas Preston and seven officers with bayonets. When they arrived, the crowd was nearly 400. The soldiers stood on the steps of the customs house and aimed into the crowd. The crowd were taunting the officers to fire. One crowd member knocked over a private on the steps with a rock and smacked Preston with a bat. Here is where accounts of the night differ…
Some say the privates mistakenly heard Preston say fire, but it was someone in the crowd. Others say that the private who was knocked down said “fire” out of anger and the others misheard, causing a barrage of fire into the crowd. Either way, after a short pause while Preston got back up, shots were fired into the crowd.
Eleven men were hit and three died instantly. This included Crispus Attucks who became the martyr for the patriotism of America. He was the first to die in the massacre, with the death toll rising to five in total (and a further one of his injuries a few years later). Attucks’ body laid in state outside of Fanueil Hall and buried with the other victims in the granary burial ground. Some even say his ghost haunts where he was shot and can be seen on foggy nights in Boston.
The soldiers who shot into the crowds were put on trial, with six of them being acquitted and two being charged with manslaughter (defended by future founding father and president John Adams, to demonstrate Boston’s fair legal system). Their punishment was a branding on their hand so everywhere they went, people would know of their past. There was no escaping it.
Paul Revere used the Boston Massacre to help start a propaganda war which was incredibly useful for fuelling the anti-British movement. He created an engraving of the Massacre showing the colonists being mercilessly attacked by the British,
which resonated well with the New Englanders. Politician Samuel Adams was the one who named it Boston Massacre and used its happening to further strengthen the cause of an independent colony away from British rule. Adams resistance to any form of British rule led to the 1773 Boston Tea Party and subsequent American Revolution. Next to the grave of Adams lie the victims of the Boston Massacre, showing the importance of the event on the history of the City.