The tensions that led to the Boston Massacre were the product of the occupation of Boston by Redcoats in 1768. Redcoats were sent to Boston to quell riots in the wake of the Townsend Duties and to protect customs officials. With 2,000 soldiers occupying a town with a population of about 16,000, friction was inevitable. This would occasionally produce fist fights and angry confrontations. The violent clash on March 5, 1770 began when Private White, on guard at the Customs house on King Street (now State Street) struck young Edward Garrick in the face with the butt of his musket for insulting White's commanding officer. White soon found himself surrounded by an angry mob of Bostonians that hurled taunts and snowballs at him.
Captain Preston of the 29th Regiment arrived with eight fellow Redcoats to extract White from the square. The troops forced their way through the increasingly hostile crowd. According to some witnesses, 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.
The Sons of Liberty held funerals for the victims and organized a vigorous propaganda effort, in order to turn public opinion against the Redcoats. What British officials called the "Unhappy Distrubance at Boston," Paul Revere labeled a "bloody massacre." His print of the event, based on an illustration by Henry Pelham, was widely circulated. The British soldiers were tried for murder and were defended by John Adams, a young Boston lawyer who was as loyal to the idea of justice as he was to the Patriot cause.
Today, a ring of stones on the Freedom Trail marks the site of the Boston Massacre and reenactments hosted by the Bostonian Society 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.
Boston Massacre Marker
Corner of State & Congress Sts.