250th Anniversary of the Boston Massacre

Engraving by Paul Revere, shows British shooting into the crowd, smoke every where and buildings in background.
"The Bloody Massacre perpetuated in King Street Boston on March 5, 1770 by a part of the 29th REGT."

Paul Revere

March 5, 2020, commemorates the 250th anniversary of the “Bloody Massacre on King Street” or the Boston Massacre. On that frigid, snowy evening in 1770, Private Hugh White was the only British soldier guarding the King's money stored inside the Custom House on King Street. Private White came under threat of attack from Boston citizens after having an altercation with Edward Garrick. Soon the town’s church bells rang signaling for more local citizens to come and observe the commotion. Fearing for his life, White sent word to Captain Thomas Preston. Captain Preston soon arrived with six other armed men, Privates John Carroll, Mathew Kilroy, William McCauley, Hugh Montgomery, William Warren, and Corporal William Wemms.

As the crowd continued to grow, Captain Preston ordered his men to load their muskets and then proceeded to tell the mob to disperse. Having not went home, the crowd continued to taunt the soldiers daring them to fire their weapons and throwing snowballs, ice, and oyster shells. Private Montgomery was then struck by an object from the crowd and fell to the ground. Once Montgomery recovered, he stood up and fired into the crowd without orders given to do so. One by one the other soldiers discharged their muskets. When the smoke cleared Crispus Attucks, James Caldwell, and Samuel Gray lied dead in the street with Samuel Maverick mortally wounded, dying the next day and Patrick Carr dying two weeks later. Among the five who ultimately died at the hand of Captain Preston’s men, six more were wounded. The crowd soon dispersed, and an investigation ensued.

Captain Preston and the seven other soldiers soon turned themselves in to stand trial. The soldiers were represented by future President John Adams, who after gathering witness testimony, explained to the jury that the soldiers were defending themselves from the unruly mob. Six of the eight soldiers were acquitted of any charge of murder, while Kilroy and Montgomery were found guilty of manslaughter but were given reduced sentences under benefit of clergy, branded on the thumb, and released.

The Boston Massacre is one of several pivotal events leading to the Revolutionary War, and ultimately, the signing of the Declaration of Independence.

Boston National Historical Park

Last updated: March 2, 2020