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The Boston Massacre

The Boston Massacre begins In 1770 when tensions were high between Bostonians and Redcoats sent to Boston in the wake of the Stamp Act riots. Occasionally things would erupt into fist fights and angry confrontations. On March 5, Private White, on guard at the Custom’s house in King’s Street (now State Street) left his sentry box and struck young Edward Garrick in the face with the butt of his musket for insulting his commanding officer. White soon found himself surrounded by an angry mob that hurled taunts and snowballs at him - and launched the Boston Massacre.

Captain Preston of the 29th Regiment arrived with eight Redcoats to reinforce White. The troops forced their way through the increasingly hostile crowd, now swollen to several hundred people. Amidst a hail of snowballs and rocks, a club thrown from the crowd struck Private Montgomery in the face. Witnesses said Montgomery then fired the first shot. The crowd continued to press on the soldiers and more shots were fired. When the smoke cleared, five men lay dead or dying.

Samuel Adams held funerals for the victims and organized a vigorous propaganda effort, labeling the event a bloody massacre. His second-cousin John Adams defended the soldiers in court and all but two were acquitted of all charges. Today, a simple ring of stones on the Freedom Trail marks the site of the Boston Massacre and reenactments take place on the anniversary every year.

CRISPUS ATTUCKS Little is known about Crispus Attucks, and yet he is one of the most important figures in the Revolution, killed by two shots in the infamous Boston Massacre. He was identified as a Mulatto, child of a Black father and Native American mother. It is believed that Attucks was an escaped slave working on a whaling ship at the time of the Massacre. Attucks was given little attention after the trial, but in the years leading up to the Civil War the Abolitionist Movement declared him an African-American hero.

SPIN DOCTORS Samuel Adams skillfully used the deaths in King Street to sway public opinion in favor of the Sons of Liberty, publicly decrying the event as a Horrid and Bloody Massacre and holding rallies annually to commemorate the anniversary. Paul Revere’s famous engraving, copied from an illustration by Henry Pelham, was widely circulated, inciting further outrage. Adams’ calculated propaganda tactics heralded those of today’s spin doctors.

Freedom Trail Foundation tours that feature this site:
Walk Into History Tour
Historic Holiday Stroll
African-American Patriots Tour

Boston Massacre Marker
Corner of State & Congress Sts.

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